The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

GV dance program brings high-energy performance to Oakland Dance Festival

GVL/ Elizabeth Schanz

Grand Valley State University’s Dance Program attended the Oakland Dance Festival (ODF) on Nov. 18 to take classes and reach out to young dancers who may want to dance in college. Students also performed a piece choreographed by guest choreographer DJ Smart

Dance Company, DAN 275, is a class offered at GVSU for dance majors. The course often includes off-campus performances, professional workshop experiences and guest artist-choreographed projects. ODF is typically the Dance Company’s first performance of the year. 

“The atmosphere (of ODF) is always so encouraging and lively,” said Julian McKenzie, a senior dance major who performed with the Dance Company. “It’s a great way to start out the performance season.”

ODF was a weekend for dancers to explore different dance styles and network with other dancers and choreographers. Colleges and universities across Michigan gathered at Farmington High School including University of Michigan, Eastern Michigan University, Wayne State University, Western Michigan University and more performed and gave information to pre-college attendees.  The festival offered audition opportunities for non-college students for admission and scholarships to dance intensives and colleges. 

Additionally, professional companies including Detroit Dance Collective, ConteXture Dance Detroit, Suttle Dance, CPR: Inhale Movement and other organizations performed at a professional showcase on Friday, Nov. 17. Many companies in attendance held classes which college students found significant in the networking experience of the event.

“It (ODF) is an amazing opportunity to get your name and face out to more dancers,” McKenzie said. 

For the GVSU dance majors, they were able to take masterclasses and workshops from a variety of professional and an array of college professors. The classes were in a variety of styles that include contemporary, ballet, improvisation, street styles, hip-hop, pilates, yoga and more.

McKenzie had attended ODF in fall 2021 to perform guest artist Marlayna Locklear’s piece “Ritual” was excited to return to ODF this year to debut Smart’s choreography that was taught during his residency in September.  

Smart is a versatile dancer who has performed and choreographed alongside many artists, such as The Jacksons, Twenty-One Pilots and Cher. He has also performed on “So You Think You Can Dance” and “America’s Got Talent.” 

Smart wanted the students in Dance Company to not only learn the dance’s choreography but also receive insight into the dance industry. 

“DJ Smart’s residency was very intense,” McKenzie said. “He’s very passionate about the art of dance and had high demands for us throughout every rehearsal and class he led.” 

McKenzie said that the choreography Smart brought to Dance Company was different from the past pieces they had performed. The song they performed was a remix of “Firefly” by Eltonnick featuring Zaki Ibrahim and fell under the genre of Afro-House.

“(Smart’s passion) pushed all of us to work very hard throughout the week in order to meet his expectations and carry out his vision for the piece he set,” McKenzie said. 

Dance Company had high morale over the weekend, as many students attended ODF for the first time and were excited about the festival’s opportunities and showcases. McKenzie said that the song choice and dance Smart choreographed added to the excitement and energy everyone felt. 

“The piece is more upbeat and fun, so rehearsing had a huge hand in building this morale and energy leading up to the performance,” McKenzie said.

Dance Company will be performing Smart’s choreography again at the GVSU Fall Dance Concert on Dec. 2 and 3, which will be free and open to the public.

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