By TAYLOR ROBINSON
For the last 34 years, Washtenaw Community College’s performing arts students and alumni took the stage at the Ann Arbor Art Fair. However, this year with the usual stage being under construction, the group set up camp elsewhere – in front of U-M’s Library on central campus.
On Thursday, July 16, the sunny weather and the booming speakers drew a crowd for the performers. Long-time WCC instructors Noonie Anderson and Gayle Martin spent the brief spring/summer semester working with the students and their choreography.
With performances ranging from solo singing acts, to hip-hop, to ballet, the bystanders at the art fair got a taste of the variety of talent WCC students have to offer.
“We have an extreme spectrum of talent at Washtenaw Community College,” Anderson said addressing the art fair’s crowd.
In agreement was 22-year-old Trevon Callahan, current dance student at WCC. Callahan’s been dancing with WCC for the last five years and danced for the art fair the last two. Enjoying choreographing his own performances, he specializes in modern and lyrical dance.
“It went real, real good I think,” Callahan said. “We had a big crowd and we all love to dance. It’s nice to see other people care about other forms of art go on, and definitely dance.”
One of the most unique aspects of the WCC performing arts attending the annual art fair is that not only do current students participate but so do alumni.
Ryan McGriff, 26-year-old WCC alumnus and current U-M student, is one of the founders of Washtenaw County’s newest dance company, Divercity. At Divercity, dancers of all talent levels work together to create a piece.
“We have a lot of talent levels. We have people that have done ballet for like 18 years, people who have been poppin’, hip-hop and modern, and then people who have never danced before,” McGriff said. “It’s not a hierarchy you see at most dance companies where the people who have been dancing for a long time dance apart. It’s everybody. So if you’re there working and I’ll make the piece around you so that we can perform it.”
While one alumnus is just beginning the adventure of directing a dance studio, 31-year-old and 2011 WCC graduate Willie Baker started the company PatchWerk in Washtenaw County in 2008. Although Baker will no longer be director of PatchWerk because of an opportunity to further his dance career in Atlanta, he still plans on being part of the program by offering tutorials and livestreaming.
“There I plan to teach and get my name out there as ‘Willie Baker as a choreographer,’” Baker said. “And whatever happens, happens, but I also plan on starting another chapter of PatchWerk – PatchWerk Atlanta.”
Whether the students were in their first year of dancing, their last semester or a graduate, they were brought together at the art fair and have two things in common – a Washtenaw Community College foundation and a love for dance.