The nation’s first dance major, established at UW–Madison in 1926, pioneered a tradition rooting art in purposeful movement. Margaret H’Doubler 1910, MA1924, the UW’s first dance instructor, believed dance was both an art and a science. In her teaching, she emphasized that understanding the complexity of the human body was a critical element of any performance.
Inspired by her book, Dance: A Creative Art Experience, professor of dance Chris Walker decided to combine his career as an artist with teaching and arrived at UW–Madison in 2006 as a visiting artist. As the founding artistic director of the First Wave program and director of the UW’s Division of Arts, Walker now fosters not only creative expression but critical engagement using dance and the arts across campus.
After the dance department’s annual Moonshine showcase in 2022, which was choreographed by Walker and featured portions of First Wave alum Danez Smith ’12’s poem, “summer, somewhere,” students had the opportunity to take part in the Moonshine Masterclass — a demonstration of West African, Afro-Caribbean, and hip-hop dance forms.
The inaugural Arts Crawl, presented in partnership with the 15th annual Line Breaks Festival in April 2022, sought to engage students and community members in an exploration of “unique responses to common human experiences” through artistic expression. Artistic expression in this case ran the gamut, with demonstrations of glassblowing, sewing, weaving, and, of course, dance.
To close out the weekend’s artsy festivities, Smith returned to UW–Madison and the Line Breaks Festival to stage performances of their choreo-poem at the Overture Center. Throughout last spring’s Moonshine performance, Arts Crawl, and Line Breaks Festival, dance showcased how purposeful movement transcends the physical.
Scroll down to see images of dance events held throughout the Moonshine Masterclass, Arts Crawl, and Line Breaks Festival. Image credits: Bryce Richter/UW–Madison and Brian Huynh.
Danez Smith (center) performs with First Wave scholars during "summer, somewhere" at the Overture Center.
Professor Michelle Ramos leads a course in modern jazz dance, which welcomed visitors during the Arts Crawl.
Dancer Stacy Letrice (left) of Jukeboxx Dance demonstrates for a class during the Moonshine Masterclass.
Letrice, Chicago dance artist Amansu Eason (right) and LA-based producer/dancer HitmakerChinx (center) perform during Moonshine.
Eason performs during Moonshine.