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The University Theatre Dance Company dance hall echoes and shakes with the combined sounds of frantic footfalls, pop music and words of both encouragement and disciplined instruction from the director’s mouth.
At the center of the Central Michigan University dance company is Heather Trommer-Beardslee, artistic director of the program since 2011. Heather believes that the driving motivation behind the UTDC is the pursuit of “structured learning” experiences for its dancers.
“It’s about being curious, learning with the students and helping to guide structured learning,” Trommer-Beardslee said. “It’s increased awareness of how a professional dance company works, and it’s about learning choreography that’s sometimes out of our comfort zone. It’s stretching literally and figuratively. It’s how we increase our awareness and motivation as performers.”
The program, which consists of about 40 people, is very diverse; the dancers come from different background, have different goals and a variety of experience levels.
CMU senior Samantha Messina, beginning her fifth year with the company and her 17th year of dance education, appreciates the program for its focus on freedom and innovation, as well as the level of accessibility it maintains for people who haven’t had as much experience practicing professional dance.
“It’s more open, rather than structured,” Messina said. “There’s more freedom, which I like. It’s very beneficial, especially for someone who really wasn’t into dancing before.”
Sophomore Alex Mcintire is in his second year of dance after first getting a taste of theatre in his senior year of high school. Mcintire agrees with Messina, saying the program is “110 percent beneficial.”
“I came in here not knowing a whole lot about anything, but you learn from the student choreographers,” he said. “You learn from Heather. All the teachers here just really know their stuff.”
The program is also versatile in how it engages with students with different levels of interest in dance. The company works just as well with lifelong students as it does with those discovering their passion for dance for the first time.
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