Dancers prep for shows at Towsley Auditorium
ROBERT CONRADI THE WASHTENAW VOICE
Gavin Pydyn, 22, a business communications major from Ann Arbor, performs a solo dance during rehearsals.
Megan Holt points to the surgical scar on her leg, a result of someone in a Jeep Cherokee driving over her last year. And she talks about her unusual — and entertaining — rehab routine.
Seven months after the accident, Holt is practicing her stage routine.
“I dance with a hula hoop containing flashing lights,” said Holt, 27, a dance and pre-nursing student from Brighton. “WCC’s dance program helps with my physical rehabilitation. It’s great stress relief. I learn discipline and time management for my rehabilitation exercises.”
Holt and other students prepare for their last two performances of the semester at WCC’s Towsley Auditorium. And the word is getting out about some very special acts.
“You better get your butt in a seat, especially to catch Kevin Sano’s show opener,” said Jasmine Young, 21, of Ann Arbor.
“I’m opening with a Michael Jackson-esque routine,” said Sano, 21, an Ann Arbor resident studying graphic design who admits he’s a little nervous. “I’ll wear a microphone to vocalize a beat while dancing.”
Students perform under the tutelage of WCC dance instructor Noonie Anderson, who is adamant about preparing them for the highly competitive dance profession.
“My students learn what it takes to produce their own show and succeed,” she said. “These last two performances represent two years worth of student development.”
Jasmine Young appreciates Anderson’s approach. “Her Advanced Choreography class opened my eyes and taught me how to succeed in this business,” said Young.
Young will perform to an instrumental piece titled, “Breathe Me,” with fellow student Jazmine Slater, 21, studying photography and dance.
Gavin Pydyn, 22, from Ypsilanti, is at WCC for dance classes and a business degree.
“I’m practicing my hip-hop and modern dance performance for the show,” said Pydyn. “After I graduate, I hope to start a dance company using my business degree.”
PatchWerk dance company founder Willie Baker, 27, of Ypsilanti, will have 17 students join him for a performance. Baker is a WCC graduate, but still takes dance classes.
“I incorporate pop, R&B and rap for this performance, so get ready,” Baker said.
WCC dance students present “Choreographer’s Showcase” on April 13 and “Spring Swing” on April 20 at WCC’s Towsley Auditorium. Both shows start at 7 p.m.
So don’t let a reckless driver in a Jeep keep you from attending these final two shows. Megan Holt didn’t.
ROBERT CONRADI THE WASHTENAW VOICE
Students in advanced performance, DAN 200, practice for two upcoming shows in April.
ROBERT CONRADI THE WASHTENAW VOICE
Dance instructor Noonie Anderson admonishes student Gavin Pydyn, 22, of Ann Arbor to ‘focus!’
Dance 4 Unity show captivates, engages Towsley crowd
AMANDA BOWMAN THE WASHTENAW VOICE
The dancers from the piece ‘At Night,’ during the Dawn Of the Divas performance on Feb. 10. The dance was choreographed by Tony Frazier.
Dance 4 Unity club members dazzled the Towsley Auditorium recently with its “Dawn of the Divas” production that featured one blockbuster performance after another.
The free exhibition on Feb. 10, included 19 original dance routines from Washtenaw Community College’s student performance network. Audience members cheered as solo performers to 30-member dance teams alternately stole the stage.
Southern Hip Hop class electrified the crowd with two teams battling during a dance competition. Performers stirred up the audience with insightful dialogue and precise movement.
WCC program adviser Laurice “Noonie” Anderson, of the Performing Arts Department, ensured that every Dance 4 Unity routine was a showstopper. It’s not fair to single out one routine.
WCC liberal arts student Jon Miller, 23, of Ypsilanti, captivated his audience with a one-man dance titled, “Solo.”
Using a hip-hop-techno style music, Miller moved in harmonic balance with his audience. Miller ended his dance portraying a classic struggle under a tremendous weight to the lyrics, “Can’t take it … Can’t take it.”
“The Dance 4 Unity program teaches us the ins and outs of the theatre business. It gives us an audience and an avenue to create,” Miller said. “We learn how to promote our craft. And Noonie is amazing! She is so supportive of everybody.”
AMANDA BOWMAN THE WASHTENAW VOICE
A few of the dancers from the Southern Hip Hop performance go back and forth dancing at the Dawn Of the Divas Show, Thursday Feb. 10, 2011. The dance was choreographed by Willie Baker.
Ypsilanti resident Kyle Wilson Jr., 27, sat in the audience to watch his sister perform with her group, the YHS Step Team.
“The WCC and Ypsilanti High School programs give students an avenue to express themselves,” Wilson said. “And it teaches the power of teamwork.”
Anderson explained what Dance 4 Unity represents for her students.
“It’s about creativity and having the opportunity for free expression,” she said. “I’m so proud of the program’s diversity and everyone’s ability to work together. Dance 4 Unity helps students develop critical thinking skills essential for the rest of their life.”
Founded in 2003, Dance 4 Unity provides a free dance club for students of all ages. Students run classes to develop self-expression. With live theatre shows to stage, it gives students a forum to organize and learn with professional direction from the college’s performing arts department.
For information regarding the next performance by the Dance 4 Unity club, contact Anderson at email@example.com
, or phone (734) 973-3378.
Local acts to get star treatment playing Towsley
BENJAMIN MICHAEL SOLIS
Ann Arbor DJs Jaws That Bite and Stevie Tee will kick off a two-month-long concert series featuring up-and-coming local talent when they take the stage Thursday night at Towsley Auditorium.
The series is a production of Student Activities that has come to fruition after a suggestion by Washtenaw Community College President Larry Whitworth, who thought it would be a good way to promote local talent and at the same time give WCC students several evenings of great — and free — entertainment.
Rachel Barsch, events coordinator for Studen Development and Activities, is organizing the series, which already is playing to rave reviews by local talent.
For Canton natives Mike Sabatini (Jaws That Bite) and Steven Tomlinson (Stevie Tee), the gig is a generous help in hard musical times.
“Playing any gig is great, especially one that is offering money,” Tomlinson, 24, said with a laugh. “I’m really thrilled that it’s through the school.”
Although both artists are fairly well-known throughout the Washtenaw community, Sabatini and Tomlinson said that the ability to broaden their fan bases is always a beautiful thing.
“It’s an honor to be able to play in front of a group of people and a school that have never heard my music before,” said Sabatini, 24.
And Tomlinson agreed, explaining that no other college in the area has been as generous.
“I played at Eastern Michigan University’s Amplify the Arts (Amp) Festival for the past two years,” he said. “Both times I didn’t get paid, did not receive ample time to set up my equipment, and the school’s attention to the local acts was basically non-existent.”
Recalling last year’s Amp Festival, Tomlinson explained that the college hired a band from Northern Michigan and gave them what he called “the juiciest spot.”
“They got paid a lot of money, and no one really got into them,” Tomlinson said. “Now we’re going to play a school that is supposed to be smaller and they are offering us very generous set lengths.
“Even decent local artists that play large gigs don’t get that kind of treatment, and here we’re getting it better from a community college.”
Which is exactly what Whitworth had in mind, Barsch said.
“Part of our mission is to engage our students with a well-rounded series of activities and cultural events, and we’re thrilled to be able to showcase young area artists to what we know will be an appreciative WCC audience,” Barsch said. “This is the first of what we hope will be an annual series of concert and entertainment events for our students and employees.”
For more information about upcoming concert events, contact Student Development and Activities at 973-3500.
Proposed ML makeover would be heartbreaking
I have been a student of classes in the Morris Lawrence Building for a decade. I am a performing arts student in the dance department, which is a viable environment. Its enrollment is constantly increasing.
I am concerned about the planned action to make a huge expenditure to try to create the space to double book the Atrium and the Towsley Auditorium. Does the need come up for booking more than three or four times per year? Is there any proof that this would actually raise revenue? Historically, the Board of Trustees has supported the Department of Performing Arts. I do not believe the performing arts people were consulted about this issue.
The repercussion for this “fix” will result in the loss of offices for several full-time faculty. All the teachers have worked hard to build this wonderful department so that students Washtenaw Community College can express themselves as individuals and artists of the highest caliber.
Our working lab is the famous Morris Lawrence Building. This is where we practice to perform. How are we going to play the saxophone or do our dance numbers in miniscule cubicles assigned in the Liberal Arts Building?
This proposed change is a hazard and a humiliation for the students evolving as performing artists, working diligently with their professors. The proposed change is a destruction of a system that is working beautifully in exchange for a commercialized profiteer’s dream. Creating artists through this Performing Arts Department is a beacon, a bright light that sets WCC apart.
What about the idea of waiting until the recession is through to give the ML building a whole new makeover? I respect the memory of the person who this building was named for. Morris Lawrence is one of the greatest jazz musicians and served on the faculty as a most influential and creative driving force. He would be appalled to see the students’ access to professors eliminated.
We, the students, are the taxpayers. We do not want this disastrous change to occur to a most creative faculty and arts department.
I do not believe the proposed change will make the difference in incoming revenue. This decision, if made, will be heartbreaking for all the students and faculty.
Proposed $600,000 construction in ML building meets opposition
Whitworth’s impromptu visit quells angry feelings
ROBERT CONRADI WASHTENAW VOICE
A heart-to-heart meeting between President Larry Whitworth and members of the performing arts faculty has at least temporarily quelled emotions and talk of a “sit-in” type protest over the construction of a new entrance for Towsley Auditorium.
Washtenaw Community College board of trustees had heard the rumbling of dozens of students opposed to the construction. But for Whitworth, all that rumbling sounded like whining. And to him, it all came from one voice.
“I thought it was very curious that these students who were not affected at all are writing me on behalf of Noonie (Anderson’s) office,” said Whitworth. “That’s really all I see it as—personal self-interest. ‘This is close to me, this is very convenient, my room is next to my classroom. Blah, blah, blah. Don’t move me. Wah, wah, wah.’”
Anderson, a WCC performance arts professor in dance, is one of four Performance Arts Department faculty members whose offices would have to move if construction is approved. The proposed entry for Towsley Auditorium would exist where ML162 now resides, which is where their offices are.
The other faculty members whose offices will move in lieu of construction are performing arts department chair and professor in drama and theatre Tracy Komarmy Jaffe and professor in music performance John Lawrence. Professor in music studies Dr. Michael Naylor has an office in the technical and industrial building.
In an effort to ease tensions, Whitworth paid a visit to Anderson in her office. He sought her out. They had a long conversation about everything, and when it ended she was relieved.
“Emotions were high, the stakes felt very high for everyone,” said Jaffe. “But now that lines of communication have opened up, we can’t predict the outcome, but we feel a lot more positive about it.
ROBERT CONRADI WASHTENAW VOICE
“Now that the channels of communication have opened and the climate has changed.”
Whitworth explained to the faculty and some students who were with them that it was far too early in the process to even discuss details of the renovation, since it hadn’t yet even been approved by the board of trustees.
“The faculty thought it was a done deal,” Whitworth said. “We’re at the very front end of the process. We’re going to have a meeting. Our objectives are to have this work for the faculty, the students and the community. This is not about running a roughshod over the students and the faculty, but about how to reach an agreement with everyone.”
Anderson said Whitworth’s visit “really did give me hope and make me feel like some changes would be made. To me, that was a sign that he is concerned. I think he has a different realization of our concerns now. I think those are the important things. We were able to have a good dialogue.”
Before Whitworth’s visit, Jaffe worried that the college’s plan would have “profound negative effects on performing arts.”
The reason this new entrance was proposed in the first place was to address the problem of double-booking. As the ML building stands now, only one event may happen in the atrium or Towsley Auditorium at one time. Both Whitworth and associate vice president of facilities development and operations Damon Flowers cited this as a lost money-making opportunity.
“If there is an event in the lobby—which there often is—you can’t have an event in Towsley because you’d have to go through the event in the lobby,” said Flowers. “Essentially what happens is Towsley is underutilized. It cannot be booked the way the building’s designed.”
ROBERT CONRADI WASHTENAW VOICE
Construction on this project, if approved, is estimated to cost $600,000. Flowers said that money for this already exists in a capital fund; it would not take any money from scholarships or grants. Most of the money will go toward the new entrance, but a portion will be used to create an addition for storage.
Neither Whitworth nor Flowers think it’s necessary for the performing arts offices to be in the ML building. Both cited that for most colleges and universities, this correlation is rare.
“The instructional spaces will be improved. And there are hardly any other faculty that have their office right next to their classroom,” said Whitworth. “I don’t see that as a big issue. It’s certainly nothing to encourage students to write letters to the board about and I thought that was really unprofessional.”
Flowers agreed, suggesting professors were “using students as political activists.”
But with the lines of communication open between her department and the administration, Jaffe is hopeful.
“I believe the President, the Board and the Performing Arts Department wants what is best for the College, our students, and our programs,” she said. “We are working with the administration to arrive at a solution that will satisfactorily take care of the needs of both groups.”
Elizabeth Ross and Nicole Bednarski contributed to this story.
Vandals strike Towsley Auditorium
A fire extinguisher is good for putting out a fire, but it’s bad for electronics — as evidenced by extensive damage done recently to lighting, sound and video equipment in Washtenaw Community College’s Towsley Auditorium.
Three fire extinguishers were sprayed on the auditorium’s stage and in the equipment booth, according to Ron Schebil, who retired March 12 as director of safety and security at WCC.
“This was a deliberate and malicious act of vandalism,” said Joshua Pardon, director of media services. He declined to give a specific amount, but estimated damage to be “tens of thousands of dollars.” That amount includes having the booth professionally cleaned.
Towsley, located in the Morris Lawrence building, is running on back-up equipment until new equipment arrives. Pardon said the back-up equipment is functional, but they’re still “operating with diminished capacity.” He expects to be fully back up and running sometime during the summer.
“I think that probably 80 to 85 percent of the events we do on any given day, you won’t notice a difference,” Pardon said, noting that the back-up equipment can’t handle complicated sound or lighting.
The end of the school year is the auditorium’s busiest time, but Pardon said his employees were able to adapt and make the best of the situation since the vandalism occurred on Feb.15.
The case was being investigated by the Washtenaw County sheriff’s department.
WCC’s got talent: students line up to show their stuff, good or bad
MICHAEL WESTHOFF WASHTENAW VOICE
Ten minutes before the close of Washtenaw Community College’s annual talent show auditions, students and staff were dancing and frolicking on Towsley Auditorium’s stage working off energy and riding on a high of a slew of generally impressive auditions.
For the previous few hours, Towsley’s stage was home to anyone who wanted to perform. Audience members watched as hip hop and b-boy dancers popped, locked and sashayed all over the stage; a cappella singers hit notes that gave onlookers the chills; and others performed prose and poetry readings.
“The acts this year seem more prepared than last year,” said Rachel Barsch, Student Activities events coordinator. “I’m glad to see students putting in a lot of effort this year.”
About 27 acts tried out for the talent show, but Barsch said only 20 or so will make the cut for the 2½-hour talent show on Nov. 11. From auditions to their fifteen minutes of fame on Towsley’s stage, students have a month to whip their routines into shape. But there’s more to these students’ talent than meets the eye.
Kevin Leistner, 32, walked up to the stage in a rumpled, tan suit without a note card or a microphone when he auditioned. It was story time for Leistner and his audience, and no props were necessary to make his tale stand out.
Leistner recited Alvin Schwartz’s “The Hearse Song,” eyes glowing and hands gesturing to amplify worms crawling in and out and visions of eyes turning into dust. Even at the auditions, his grave storytelling entrapped the audience in the spooky, morbid prose.
Leistner has been working with school and community theatres for more than 20 years, and he wanted to share Schwartz’s morbid tales to an audience who, he feels, is no longer in touch with the author’s work.
“Most people, now-a-days, don’t know who he is,” Leistner said. “And he just has such wonderful graphically gruesome pieces. I just love his work.”
And Leistner admits he has always had a “sick taste in media.”
“I love horror movies and Edgar Allen Poe, just the macabre and creepy,” he said. “There’s just something about it – it’s so disturbing you have to like it.”
MICHAEL WESTHOFF WASHTENAW VOICE
A whirl of a twirl
Dressed in a pink and black polka-dot getup and twirling a baton in one hand, Kayla Dillon, 18, later admitted she was basically twirling blind onstage to her act’s upbeat big-band music. But a pasted-on smile never left her face.
Even with lights glaring her vision, Dillon gracefully tossed and caught a baton between her legs, and later cart-wheeled with a baton suspended in midair. Yes, she caught that one, too.
“I practice three times a week . . . for about 3½ hours, maybe four,” Dillon said.
Dillon began baton twirling when she was 12. Her mother saw an ad about baton twirling, and she hoped it would help improve her daughter’s self-esteem and weight problems.
“The better I got, the more self-confident I got. It’s like a work out, so I started to lose weight . . . about 45 pounds,” Dillon said. “It boosted my self-esteem. It was the one thing in high school that kept me going.”
Now she teaches twirling classes to 12-year-old girls.
“Not only do I teach them how to twirl and the techniques, but I teach them how to build their self-confidence as a team,” Dillon said. “So they’re learning team-building skills, how to be kind, how to be nice, good sportsmanship. It’s really nice to see when they’re changing and being better people.”
MICHAEL WESTHOFF WASHTENAW VOICE
Hip hop in memoriam
Willie Baker, 25, grew up in a community where guys didn’t know how to dance. At home, he had been dancing his whole life.
“I kind of hid it,” Baker said. “But when I finally got the courage to be in a talent show, and I was in the show, a lot of people were like ‘you’re a really good dancer. I didn’t know you could dance.’ And that motivated me to start showing more people my talent.”
His older sister, Chrissy Satterfield, was good at dancing. She was murdered when Baker was 13. From then on, dancing had a whole new meaning.
“She taught me to dance hip hop, and I always watched her growing up,” Baker said. “So it’s kind of a personal tribute to her every time I do perform. But it’s like dancing kind of went down the line in the family, and it was her favorite hobby to do. And it became mine, too.”
Dancing soon became part of his daily life. He formed dance groups in high school that performed across the Midwest. And, after he moved away from home, Baker always managed to get a dance group together. Even when he’s walking through WCC’s campus on to his next class, Baker said he’s dancing in his head, visualizing new dance routines.
Baker moved to Washtenaw County last year, and at the encouragement of a high school buddy, he and a few friends formed the dance group, PatchWerk.
“We all just kind of joined together,” Baker said. “That’s why we called it PatchWerk because we were all just thrown together like patches.”
PatchWerk won first place at the talent show last year for its routine that combined ballet and hip hop.
“I would tell people that if they have a talent, they should use it to the best of their ability and not let it go to waste. . . .,” Baker said. “If it’s where their heart is at, they should follow their heart.”
Mosaic brings lively, vibrant worship service to WCC
CHRIS ASADIAN THE WASHTENAW VOICE
Mosaic—the creation of something beautiful from myriad little pieces—has arrived at Washtenaw Community College in the Towsley Auditorium every Sunday morning, in the form of a new church.
The Oak Point Church of Novi is planting a new Christian church in the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti area. Services are at 11 a.m.
“We want to reach Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, and Washtenaw is right in between,” said Shannon Nielsen, Mosaic pastor. “This is what I’ve dreamed about the majority of my adult life—and in a college town like Ann Arbor.”
Nielsen and his wife, Jessica, had a vision to reach a college town that began when they were in school together at Alma College. He said the church plans to bring a very lively, fun and uplifting worship service with its up-tempo music similar to its services at Oak Pointe.
“If you think you have an idea of what church is—stiff, boring—I encourage you to come out,” said Marshall Mobley, Mosaic worship leader. “We try to push what people think is church is supposed to be and break the mold.”
It’s an appeal that spans generations.
“My dad went to Oak Pointe and loved it,” said Courtney Smith, 19, a WCC nursing student from Ypsilanti. “From what my dad says, it’s a place I need to check out.”
Located on Ten Mile Road just west of Wixom Road, Oak Pointe began in 1998 with 60 people and now is 2,000 strong. This isn’t the first church OPC has planted; in 2003, Bell Creek Church started in Livonia.
Oak Pointe’s goal is to plant seven churches in the Metro Detroit area.
For more, visit: http://mosaicA2.org