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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

Guest artist pushes GV dance program students towards professionalism

Courtesy/ GV MTD

Last week, DJ Smart was in residency with Grand Valley State University’s dance program students to teach classes and to set a piece for the program’s fall concert. Smart is well known for his work as an actor, dancer, choreographer and teacher. 

Smart’s residency gave students the opportunity to learn not only movement and dance techniques but also from his experiences and stories from the professional world. During his time at GVSU, Smart aimed to create an environment that mirrored what it is like to work as a professional dancer.

GVSU dance students said the expectations were very high, the movement was physically challenging and the process stretched them mentally. Students who were part of Smart’s creative process worked with the choreographer Monday through Friday 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. to finish the approximately six-minute piece. 

“He has been creating a brand new dance for the GVSU Dance Company tentatively called ‘Afterglow,’” said Edgar Page, Assistant Professor of Dance and guest artist coordinator. “This energetic Afro-Jazz work speaks to how our individual light not only remains but shines so bright despite adversity.” 

Smart’s background is versatile. He graduated from the University of the Arts, located in Philadelphia, Pa., with a BFA in Ballet Performance. Additionally, he has trained and worked across many styles of dance including but not limited to jazz, tap, modern, Indian dance and Capoeira. His movement background influences his movement and teaching styles. 

In addition to setting the piece, Smart taught dance students movement technique classes so that more students in the program could learn from him during his time at the university.

“DJ Smart has been incredible and generous with our students, teaching modern and jazz dance classes, offering embodied perspectives on the multiple dance industries he currently moves within, while pushing our students to work at a level they can expect in the fast-paced professional world of dance,” Page said.

Smart has worked in both the concert and commercial dance world. In the past, Smart has performed alongside The Jacksons, Twenty-One Pilots, Cher and Tinashe. He also appeared on “Dancing with the Stars” and “America’s Got Talent.” During his residency at GVSU, Smart shared stories about working with these artists and what he learned from professional experiences.

Smart told students his biggest takeaway from previous rehearsals and performances is to be ready for anything. He said that often a dancer’s ability to be well-adjusted when things go wrong in rehearsal and on stage can be what gets them a job. He said a dancer’s ability to be professional is knowing details in the choreography, all of the other dancers’s parts in a work and a good attitude, which are very important if students are hoping to perform professionally. 

“He has been vulnerable and transparent, sharing stories of his continued success in the dance industry, but also stories about the moments when there were more opportunities to learn how to do better next time,” Page said.

The dance choreographed by DJ Smart, among others, will be performed at the Fall Dance Concert on Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. and Dec. 3 at 2 p.m. The concert will be free and open to the public at the Louis Armstrong Theatre in the Haas Center for Performing Arts.

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About the Contributor
Elizabeth Schanz
Elizabeth Schanz is the Lanthorn's Editor in Chief for the 2023-2024 school year. She previously worked as Arts and Entertainment editor, News editor and a staff writer for the news section throughout her three years at the Lanthorn. Elizabeth is a multimedia journalism and dance major with a minor in history. In her free time she likes to paint, go out for sushi and loves hanging out with her dog Sadie and cat Claire. She is also part of the Fredrik Meijer Honors College and Momentum dance club.
Graduating Winter 2024
Major: Multimedia Journalism and Dance
Minor: History