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UMS Night School: Bodies in Motion – Session 1 Recap

Editor’s note: This post is a part of a series of by U-M student Sarah Squillante, who’s covering our free UMS Night School: Bodies in Motion series. Learn along side with them.

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Lisa Beard (Left) and Rochelle Igrison (Right) are both enthusiastic to expand their dance knowledge.

UMS Night School isn’t designed to be a dance class, but the first session got people moving just enough to start to think differently about movement. Community members of all ages and backgrounds stood in a semi-circle in the chilly University of Michigan Alumni Center on Monday night, introducing themselves not just with names but an accompanying gestures.

Clare Croft, assistant professor of dance at the University of Michigan who’ll lead Night School this season, asked what the exercise made everyone think of and what images came to mind when they heard the word “dance.”

One attendee noticed that when the participants were asked to omit their names from the introduction, the gestures were a lot easier to understand and remember, and another suggested that movements can “characterize people and carry meaning.”

Jim Leija, director of education and community engagement with UMS, welcomed participants and said that Night School is an opportunity to “improve our comfort level with dance and make room for a reflective moment.” He emphasized that the program would not be a lecture series, but rather an interactive experience. The first session didn’t disappoint. Participants stretched out their arms in various ways and explored the ways in which even simple movement – like rubbing hands together – can be executed in many ways. Many were eager to suggest topics that they hoped to address in the coming weeks, like why we prefer certain performances over others and how dance evokes political messages.

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Pat Bantle (Right) is a return night-school student. “I love dance,” she said. “I came last year and I enjoyed it very much.”

Some of the participants seemed excited to engage with a medium that they already love. Lisa Beard drove all the way from Oak Park to participate. “I just turned 50 and I promised myself I’d do things I’d never done before,” she said. A longtime patron of the arts, Beard is excited to meet new people. Rochelle Igrison explained that she’s been to all of the UMS dance performances thus far. “I may not have a dancer’s body, but I can still be a patron of the arts,” she said. “I just love dance.”

Others were more explicit in what they hoped Night School would do for their engagement with the arts. Art, a frequent UMS concert goer, said he was eager to expand his dance vocabulary in order to engage in conversations after performances. “I want to be able to talk about it,” he said.

Croft showed a series of videos that touched on a breadth of dance styles and considerations, from Martha Graham’s Lamentations to a video from the 2008 Beijing Olympics. She suggested, in her parting thoughts, that participants use the sessions not only to “define what dance is, but what it does.”

Next week’s Night School, “Moving Pictures,” will welcome a U-M professor of Movement Science and a professor of Art and Design. It will again be held at the U-M Alumni Center at 200 Fletcher Street. Interested in even more dance engagement? Pick up an adventure card to learn all about the dance activities we’re offering this year and for a chance to win a backstage meet and greet!

Download Sesssion 1 Resources, including key concepts, videos, and vocabulary from the first session [Word Document assembled by Marcus White, MFA Candidate – Dance, University of Michigan]: Bodies in Motion Session 1 Key Themes, Players, and Definitions

For a complete list of 2013-2014 dance performances, visit Share questions, comments, or suggestions in the comments below.