ABOVE: Dancers pictured are Anna Audia of Highland and Adamkiewicz of Hartland.
A local group, the Dance Project, is swinging into schools all around the area and teaching students the techniques and steps behind swing dancing.
Local Jamie Nicholson created the Dance Project almost five years ago after she attended her daughter’s first high school dance.
“I saw all these students in a big mob that were bumping and grinding and the thing that was heartbreaking was to see kids that I knew coming in really excited about coming to their first dance as a freshman, and then to see their whole confidence change,” Nicholson said. “It was upsetting to me to see that they had no choice but to go into this mob of students.”
Eight months later, Nicholson decided to hold her first dance which would feature professional dance instructors that would teach students how to swing dance.
The focus of the project is to teach kids how to swing dance to popular music in a safe environment while encouraging self-respect for one another. A snowball, a phrase coined by the group, is a technique that gets everyone in the crowd dancing.
“A snowball is where one couple starts the dance and the DJ will call a switch and it just snowballs until everyone is dancing,” Noah Koehler said.
Nicholson chose swing dancing because of its simple steps. But the group also brings instructors in to teach students other styles of dance like hip-hop, the Viennese waltz and Michael Jackson’s famous Thriller dance.
Five years later after their first dance in November 2007, the Dance Project has taught over 3,000 students how to swing dance and has represented over 75 schools in four different counties.
“One thing I like about the Dance Project is that it’s an inclusive outlet. It’s a wholesome physical outlet that is good for the youth but it’s also a socially inclusive environment,” Ellen Koehler, whose two sons Noah and Ben attend the dances, said. “The tone is set so that self respect is encouraged, it’s almost a premise of the whole environment, and it’s really impacting kids lives.”
Dances have been held at schools like Hartland and Brighton High Schools among many others.
Nicholson says her goal is to have Dance Project dances held at schools each time so the program can “draw kids in from different schools.”
The Dance Project’s upcoming dance, The Queen of Hearts Dance, will feature a sit-down dinner and live band. Students will also have the opportunity to learn the Viennese waltz.
The Queen of Hearts formal dinner and dance will be held March 16 from 5 – 10 p.m. at the Beacon Hill Golf Club and Banquet Center in Commerce Twp.
Tickets are $20 and must be purchased by March 9. Students grade seven and up are invited to attend.
For dress code guidelines, ticket purchase or more information, visit www.TheDanceProject.info. Proceeds benefit The DanceProject, a local non-profit group with a mission of “changing the culture by promoting positive dancing” to area schools.
For more information on the Dance Project or upcoming events, contact Jamie Nicholson at 248-210-9409 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.