It is time to celebrate 25 years of DDD alumni and their accomplishments in dance and beyond! We would love for DDD alumni to share what they have been doing since graduation and how DDD has impacted their lives. The DDD family, past and present, appreciate all of the time, energy and efforts MISS JILLIAN and MR. ROB have given and continue to give to their students.
This is the first article of hopefully many. If you are interested in being featured, please comment below.
Thank you to all alumni who contribute to Dancing and Beyond. Alumni are listed alphabetically as the only rule.
Erica Bigelow, Class of 2013
Erica attended Saginaw Valley State University her freshman year of college and was on the Dance team. Her focus shifted as she decided to attend Protege Academy for Cosmetology in Mt. Pleasant. Erica was the first student to sign up at Protege and the first one to graduate from Protege! Now, you can find her working in a small salon in Elwell.
Erica says, “I might not be dancing anymore, but dancing has helped me in so many ways. It has shaped and molded me into the person I am. I have great time management skills because of Miss Jillian’s famous quote, ‘If you are not 15 mins early, you are late!’ (lol). I’m very glad to have been part of something that has been so great!”
Kelsey Dennis, Class of 2014
Kelsey will be a senior this fall at Alma College where she is majoring in Dance and Athletic Training (AT) with a focus in Physical Therapy. She will be attending graduate school for her Doctorate of Physical Therapy degree after graduation.
This summer Kelsey worked multiple camps on Alma College campus, including STEM, ASPIRE and the summer Dance Intensive. She has also been working for Inspiration Main Street Dance Company in Stanton choreographing for their competition team. This fall she will be the president of the dance honorary of Pi Delta Chi and the Student Athletic Training Association (SATA). She will also be the house manager of her sorority Phi Sigma Sigma.
This year at Alma College she will be co-directing two shows with DDD alumni, Laura Lowe, for their dance major. For her Athletic Training major, she will be conducting research mixing her two passions together, AT and dance.
Kelsey says, “My education at DDD pushed me to be the best version of myself and to strive for my dreams. DDD helped shape me into a student who can balance and juggle multiple things at once. I am grateful for my experiences at DDD as I feel prepared and confident in everything I do.”
Andi Jo Ellison, Class of 2015
Andie Jo will be a junior this year at Bowling Green State University in Ohio where she is studying Applied Health Science with a minor in Chemistry. This summer Andie Jo participated in a fully paid intense six week medical school program in Birmingham, Alabama in her pursuit of a medical degree.
Andie Jo’s dance education at DDD pushed her to further her dance career in college. She has had several invitations to perform in pieces during the fall and spring showcases with the dance company at BGSU. She has also been fortunate enough to choreograph 2 pieces, one in Spring 2016, and one in Spring 2017. During her sophomore year, Andie Jo decided she wanted to explore the more “athletic and team-oriented” side of dance, as opposed to the artistry side by trying out and becoming a member of the BGSU Dance Team. This commitment has allowed Andie Jo to keep dance a part of her life without having to pursue a degree/life-long career in dance.
Andie Jo says, “I am thankful that DDD has specifically prepared me for tryout experiences as I have had to audition to be a part of EVERYTHING that I have done and am currently doing.”
JoElla Fitzpatrick, Class of 2017
JoElla will be a freshman at Wayne State University where she plans to pursue a major in Dance. Aside from her involvement with DDD, she is a company member of Third Coast Dance Company. During her senior year of high school, JoElla dual enrolled at Alma College taking ballet, jazz and musical theater.
JoElla says, “DDD has shaped me into an adaptable, hard working, yet lighthearted dancer that I am today. My instructors at DDD have pushed me to have a strong work ethic, but to always be kind and courteous to my fellow dance colleagues. Because of these qualities and my training at DDD, I’ve had opportunities to dance around the country ranging from intensives in California, to conventions in Chicago, all the way up to performing on Lake Michigan. I will forever be thankful for my DDD family for working so hard to make me the person and dancer that I am today. Because of the connections and opportunities I have had through DDD and Third Coast, I am truly blessed.”
Laura Lowe, Class of 2014
Laura Lowe is entering her senior year at Alma College with majors in Professional Accounting and Dance. She has been performing with the Alma College Dance Company and Alma College Kiltie Dancers since her freshman year.
Besides being a student at Alma College, Laura teaches classes and choreographs competition pieces for DuHadway Dance Dimensions throughout the school year. In the summer, Laura teaches Cecchetti Method classes, sends students for exams, and continues her own Cecchetti teacher certification.
Laura says, “DDD taught me how to be a versatile dancer and to be able to mold into whatever the choreographer needs me to do. I have been fortunate to perform in several guest artist pieces, as well as be the featured dancer in pointe, modern, and tap pieces. DDD taught me how to be a leader in my classes by always having a positive attitude and strong work ethic. Those qualities have given me numerous opportunities at Alma College in academics and dance and I will always be thankful to Jill for instilling these qualities in me as a dancer.”
Rachel Pawson, Class of 2013
Rachel began her dancing career at Oakland University. Originally, Rachel was a member of the Oakland Dance Theatre during her freshman year before being asked to join Oakland’s Repertory Dance Company during her second semester of her freshman year. This invitation was a prestigious honor, as the Repertory Dance Company is for upperclassmen only.
During her sophomore year, Rachel was invited to be a substitute dancer for Eisenhower Dance Company, giving her the opportunity to dance in the professional arena. She studied abroad in Berlin, Germany for three weeks dancing at a free lance school. Rachel was then asked to become an apprentice with the company for the next season resulting in her junior year of college touring all over the United States performing as a professional dancer. She continued dancing with the company into her senior year and was asked to tour overseas with the company. In June and July 2017, Rachel danced in Israel and Poland. Beginning this fall, Rachel is returning to DDD as an instructor.
Rachel says, “The experiences I have had at Oakland University and with Eisenhower Dance Company have forever changed my life and I am so grateful to be able to share my experiences and new outlook on being a professional dancer and choreographer with all of the dancers here at DDD! I want dancers to realize they can go to school, dance professionally, and teach at a studio if this is something one really wants to do. I did it and I am doing it!”
Abby Postema, Class of 2016
Abby will be entering her sophomore year at Eastern Michigan University with a major in Arts and Entertainment Management and minors in Marketing and Dance.
Along with taking classes for her dance minor, Abby has had opportunities to audition and take classes from many guest artists. This past year, Abby was cast in a rendition of A Midsummer’s Night Dream and selected to attend a conference for the American College Dance Association.
Abby says, “These experiences have made me so thankful for all of the opportunities I had at DDD because I know how to take them on with confidence and respect for the teacher/choreographer.”
Shelby Tilmann, Class of 2013
Shelby graduated from Grand Valley State University last December (2016), where she studied Dance, with an emphasis in Education. Shelby trained, performed, and took academic classes with the GV dance company all throughout college. In doing so, she also had opportunities to perform in community events, take class with guest artists, and perform guest artist pieces.
Shelby was also a member of the nonprofit Momentum dance club during her first two years of college. While going to college, she taught and choreographed at The Dance Asylum in Saugatuck, Michigan. After graduation, Shelby was offered a full time associate instructor position, as well as the head coach position of the competition team at The Dance Center in Traverse City. Shelby’s new job has given her the chance to continue her own training. Recently, Shelby attended CNADM (Chicago National Association of Dance Masters) in Chicago, which consisted of taking master classes, making connections, and learning new teaching styles.
Shelby says, “DDD has certainly helped me throughout my dance and teaching career. DDD will always be a home to me.”
To read Dancing and Beyond (Part 7), click here.