The sixth annual Artist in Rhythm (AIR) Conference, taking place from April 20 to 22, is the result of a collective effort between the Kendall Campus Dance program, the MDC Jubilation Dance Ensemble and students.
Designed to be both a performative, scholarly and workshop-intensive conference, the three day-event has various classes ranging from the theories and philosophies of dance to the exploration of cultural dance genre’s like Afro-Haitian as well as classics like contemporary ballet.
At the forefront of the effort is professor Michelle Grant-Murray. She is the artistic director for the Jubilation Dance Ensemble, the College’s official dance company, and a professor in the dance program at Kendall Campus.
Along with a team of eight students, Murray has been planning the sixth annual AIR conference for a year. For Murray, the students are an integral part of making the conference happen.
“I’m just one faculty member… it’s a lot. I have to have the students and faculty at MDC,” Murray said.
Students have been responsible for planning every component of the conference, from high school outreach, social media, creating press releases, scheduling rehearsals, reaching out to performers and more.
The conference will feature performances each night from a combination of the students, participants and instructors. There will also be a special performance in honor of Louines Louinis, a local Haitian dance legend who founded the Louines Louinis Haitian Dance Theatre and company.
Tickets are $30 for all three days.
“It’s a very educational space and also a very safe space for people to come in and learn,” said Melissa Cobblah, the treasurer of the ensemble as well as a key student-organizer and performer in the conference. “So we make it very accessible for someone that maybe can’t afford to attend a $150 conference.”
Another major component of the conference is the scholarly lecture demonstrations and panel discussions, which deconstruct the theory of dance as well as allow participants to explore career opportunities within the field, like utilizing dance for physical therapy.
“There’s a lot of theory that actually goes into it…understanding where [dance] has come from, where it is now and where it’s going in the future,” Murray said.
For Cobblah that aspect of the conference is the most important.
“It’s not only about learning a dance step,” Cobblah said. “But actually learning about what is behind the dance step, what is the meaning of the dance step and how you can apply that to your life regardless of whether you want to be a dancer or not.”
The conference also acts as a recruitment for young dancers and offers professional development for Miami-Dade County Public School teachers. For Murray, educating students on the wide variety of opportunities available in the dance field is important.
“They think you can only be a backup dancer for Beyoncé, and I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that; that’s wonderful. But there is so much more you can do in the dance world,” Murray said. “Dance is so encompassing. It’s not just learning the steps. It carries the culture of entire groups of people.”
Overall, the conference hopes to educate and raise awareness amongst the community of what dance really is and how dance can be used as a vehicle for diverse cultural expression, which is why this year’s theme is “Anchored in Strength and Diversity: Forging Destinies.”
“How do we use that diversity to anchor ourselves and hold on and then move forward in that diversity,” Murray said. “Especially in this political climate that we’re in.”
For more information or to register, visit tickets.completeticketsolutions.com/MDC/Online/