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Audience Location:

Riverbank Park (11:00AM EST)
University of Michigan-Flint, French Hall (1PM EST)

Date and Time:

June 24, 2017:
11:00am-12:30pm EST (Parade at the Park)
1:00-2 1:00-2:00pm (Free Dance Performance at University of Michigan-Flint)

Water Locale:

Flint River

Flint River


Adesola Akinleye is the artistic director of DancingStrong. She trained at Arts Educational School, London and The Rambert Academy. She began her professional career as a dancer with the Dance Theatre of Harlem. Since then she has danced with companies in North America and Europe. Adesola teaches dance and receives choreographic commissions internationally working in university setting, K-12/Foundation to Secondary/High School systems and private dance academies, as well as in community based projects. Adesola holds a PhD from Canterbury Christ Church University Social and Applied Science, Sports and Exercise Science Department and a Masters of Arts with Distinction in Work Based Learning – Dance in Education and Community from Middlesex University.

Karen Mills Jennings is the Chair of the Dance Division at the Flint School of Performing Arts and is the founding Artistic Director of the Flint Youth Ballet. Mrs. Jennings danced principal roles with Ballet Michigan and has been on the dance faculty for the Flint School of Performing Arts since 1980. As the Outreach Coordinator Mrs. Jennings facilitates programming for community partners both off and on site at the FSPA. Mrs. Jennings has worked closely with Director of the FSPA Davin Torre, in the development of FSPA’s teaching approach Beyond Boundaries, which utilizes non-judgmental teaching techniques that encourage and support the goals and learning styles of all students. Community Engagement has been her priority.

Shawn Lent moves this world as a manager and social practice artist, with experience from a field in Bosnia to a children’s hospital in revolutionary Egypt. Shawn currently serves as Program Director for Chicago Dancemakers Forum, Alliance Building Lead for Createquity, and project lead for SUNY Purchase and Dance Peace, which is catalyzing an integration initiative through dance and music for Syrian refugees in Chicago. Previously, she was the national coordinator for EducationUSA Egypt with AMIDEAST and U.S. Department of State, U.S. Fulbright Scholar, UN Alliance of Civilizations International Fellow, instructor at Cairo Contemporary Dance Center, Commencement Speaker for Millikin University, and panelist/presenter at the University of Maryland, Universal Exposition Milan, Hope College and TEDx Shibin El Kom. Shawn holds a Masters in Arts Management from Columbia College Chicago, and a Post-Graduate Certificate in Youth Arts Development from Goldsmith’s College.

History of Site and Related Water Issues:

GWD-Flint is focused on local empowerment and de-victimization for Flint, Michigan residents who are living through the water crisis. The project is intended to inspire a local ecology of collaboration, environmental knowledge, and activation of public spaces through dance.

COLLABORATION: Peace is an embodied practice. Dance is a way forward for children and families living in a volatile world. GWD-Flint aims to build positive relationships across diverse groups of residents living near the Flint River. The project aims to provide a way for all to share ownership of the parks and water. Creative movement is a particularly powerful tool for breaking down barriers, engendering empathy, and resilience, going beyond verbal dialogue.

KNOWLEDGE: GWD brings needed attention to water issues around our planet. Close to 1,000 surveys from our 2013 performance were gathered from four continents, and tabulated by the University of Minnesota’s Center for Survey Research. The surveys showed that 75% of the respondents reported that the performance increased their interest in water issues and 78% answered positively that the dance event inspired them to take action regarding water issues. Dance is a powerful way of increasing awareness in the global community.

ACTIVATION: Public spaces, like those in Flint, are often under-utilized. According to a bipartisan nationwide poll of kids ages 13-18, “80% said it was uncomfortable to be outdoors” and preferring screen time instead. On the positive side, “91% percent said that if a friend encouraged them to spend more time outdoors they would listen.” In addition, a study published in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine, “only 51% of children went outside to walk or play once a day with either parent. Only 24% of dads said they had parent-child outdoor playtime each day.” Time together. Outdoors. As families and neighbors. Moving. That is one foundational concept of our project. Dance engages the body, mind and spirit, releasing endorphins. Providing a natural and inviting entry point, community dances are fairly accessible for all ages and levels of dance experience (from novice to professional).

Engage 100+ local students, seniors, parents, toddlers, and artists in a day-long celebration of dance, of each other, and of water.
Draw 400+ audience members through various activities.
Celebrate and animate stories of local residents and of the park and river.
Strengthen the network and visibility of Flint’s dance artists nationally and internationally.
Increase capacities of at least 3 local practitioners.
Offer experiences where participants can grow in somatic awareness, social identity salience, spontaneity, greater extent of physical expression, positive mood/lessening of anxiety, sense of security, release of inhibitions, reduction of defensiveness and prejudice, and physical trust and interaction.
Provide movement experiences that are relevant, fun and engaging for families and residents of diverse ages and backgrounds.
Enhance familiarity, ownership and sharing of River Bank Park among diverse residents.
Activate everyday participation in River Bank Park as a place of important community exchange, creative learning and civic engagement across generations.
Promote creative exercise, fitness, and physical activity in Flint.


  • “Undercurrents”: Composer: Lizz Wright, Music: Song for Mia
  • “Stand Firm”: Music: Critical by Tunde Olaniran and Glory by Kayloo
  • “Ablution: A Washing Away”: Music: Fur Alina by Arvo Pärt
  • “With the Tides of Life”: Music: Siren’s Call by Derek Fiechter and Lullaby of the Siren by Audiomachine

The Performance:

  • 11:00am-12:30pm GLOBAL WATER DANCES PARADE
    All Flint residents and families are invited to participate in a community “flash mob” parade starting 11am at Riverbank Park with a brief workshop, then traveling to University of Michigan-Flint. All ages and abilities welcome in the dance parade. No dance experience re led by Shawn Lent, Global Dance arranged by Emma Davis

  • 1:00-2:00pm FREE DANCE PERFORMANCE at University of Michigan-Flint’s French Hall
    • “Undercurrents”
      Choreographers: Dr. Adesola Akinleye and Dancers
      Composer: Lizz Wright
      Music: Song for Mia
      Performers: Flint School of Performing Arts-Flint Youth Ballet

    • “Stand Firm”
      Choreographer: Alisyn Hurd
      Music: Critical by Tunde Olaniran and Glory by Kayloo
      Performers: Flint School of Performing Arts-Flint Youth Ballet

    • “Ablution: A Washing Away”
      Choreographers: Emma Davis & Beth Freiman
      Music: Fur Alina by Arvo Pärt
      Performers: Elizabeth Bowen, Ashlynn Feige, Patricia Kennedy, Hannah Nettleton, Ashinique Soney-Wesaw, and Chelsey Zappella
      In the wake of the Flint Water Crisis this dance is a simple exploration of the universal ritual of bathing often taken for granted.

    • “With the Tides of Life”
      Choreographers: Ashlynn Feige and Hannah Nettleton
      Music: Siren’s Call by Derek Fiechter and Lullaby of the Siren by Audiomachine
      Performers: Elizabeth Bowen, Ashlynn Feige, Patricia Kennedy, Hannah Nettleton, Alexandria Perrie, Ashinique Soney-Wesaw, and Chelsey Zappella
      The oscillating movements of tides imitate the courses that our lives take. Changes to water can affect both its natural and magical qualities. Similarly, changes in our lives affect us in both of these ways.

Lead Project Collaborators:

  • Adesola Akinleye
  • Emma Davis
  • Beth Freiman
  • Alisyn & Jared Hurd (Vertical Ambition Dance Company)
  • Karen Mills Jennings
  • Shawn Lent
  • Doug Mueller

Emma Davis

Environmental Impact:

Global Water Dances – Flint, MI is partnering with the Flint River Watershed Coalition, Flint River Watershed Coalition, and Odyssey House for workshops leading up to GWD and participation in the festival.

Directions to the Site of Performance:

Riverbank Park Downtown Flint
University of Michigan-Flint, French Hall theater, maps

Email for more information:

How can I get involved?

  • Volunteer as a dance lead or marshall
  • Participate as in the dance (all ages and experience levels welcome)
  • Donate water or snacks
  • See the show!
  • Sponsor Global Water Dances – Flint, MI with a donation

Local Website:

Other resources and links:

  • In Partnership with Community Resources:
    • Flint Pride
    • Flint River Corridor Alliance
    • Flint River Watershed Coalition
    • Flint School of Performing Arts-Flint Youth Ballet
    • Flint School of Performing Arts- Youth Dance Ensemble
    • Hasselbring Senior Center
    • UM-Flint Department of Theatre and Dance
    • UM-Flint Student Dance Organization
  • Funding provided by:
    • Awesome Foundation – Ann Arbor
    • Puffin Foundation West
    • Individual Sponsors
  • University of Michigan-Flint

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