UM-Flint Graduate Student Creates Riverbank Park Dance Project

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UM-Flint graduate student and lecturer Emma Davis
UM-Flint graduate student and lecturer Emma Davis

A University of Michigan-Flint graduate student is creating a site-specific production to showcase Riverbank Park and the art of dance.

Emma Davis, a graduate student in liberal studies and a dance lecturer at UM-Flint, is leading the effort known as the Riverbank Park Dance Project.

"We are using dance and performance arts to create this production that informs the community about the history of the park and also highlights community memories and stories," said Davis, who plans on hiring about 30 dancers, musicians, and actors to perform in the September productions at the park.

As part of the larger project, Davis has held several community story sessions, which have gathered community members' memories of the modernist downtown Flint park, built in the mid to late 1970s.

She has also held multiple workshops, in which participants toured the park, learned its history, and created their own art, like a poem or short dance sequence.

The September productions will include discussions with the audience about the park.

The productions will incorporate a blend of different dance styles, including the methods of Anna Halprin, a pioneer of postmodern dance, who was married to landscape architect Lawrence Halprin. His firm designed the park.

Davis received a 2015 Arts of Citizenship public scholarship grant from the University of Michigan Rackham Graduate School to help with the project. She also received a Share Art Flint grant from the Greater Flints Art Council. The Flint River Corridor Alliance, the Flint Downtown Development Authority, and UM-Flint's Department of Theatre and Dance, are helping to promote the events.

The University of Michigan grants help graduate students "develop the skills needed to address complex social issues though collaborative, mutually-beneficial projects that serve the public good", according to the Arts of Citizenship website.

Davis is holding auditions on Saturday, July 18  for the fall production, which is slated to be held Sept. 25-27.

There will be a story circle, Thursday, July 23, from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. at Buckham Gallery in Flint, at 134 1/2 W. 2nd Street, Flint, MI 48502.

"Story circles help guide performance themes while providing community members an opportunity to be a part of the devising process, and provides space to reflect on important moments that now exist only in our memories," Davis said.

The goal is to create an appreciation for different dance techniques and for the unique qualities of Riverbank Park.

"It's just honestly a really unique space I haven't seen in any other kind of city, this concrete park in the heart of downtown and along the banks of the river," she said.

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