Tuesday, 03 August 2021 17:03

Don't Stop Dancing: Atelier Dance Company

Written by  Michaela Stock
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Atelier Dance Company. Atelier Dance Company. Courtesy Photo

It’s a story dancers live over and over again: They fall in love with dance at a young age (through the obligatory three-year-old ballet class everyone takes, of course) and train throughout their entire childhood, only to part ways with their passion to choose a profession.

“I knew I couldn’t be the only one out there who danced all their lives and loved dancing,” said Arye Shannon-Carmichael. “It filled my passion and creativity, but I chose a different career path.”

Shannon-Carmichael still longed for the artistic fulfilment dance in a company setting provided, even after choosing to be a dance teacher in West Michigan charter and public schools. She founded Atelier Dance Company in January 2020 to bridge the gap for non-professional adult dancers, like herself, to recapture their love of dance. 

“I had been on the search for a space to fill my artistic void for many, many years. When you’re teaching, you’re not really creating and performing. It’s all about the kids, that’s what teaching is.”

Shannon-Carmichael ran into a similar problem while attending adult dance classes in the area. 

“There are adult dance classes through different studios, but really the end game with those is a fun and new exercise, or a recital. That’s great, but I wanted to transition into something that was a little higher level,” she said.

“On the flipside, I chose a different career path. I am not a professional dancer. So, I wanted space in between that. Less than a professional career in dance, but more than just your basic, weekly adult dance class.”

Atelier Dance Company came to life mere months before the onset of COVID-19. As a fresh entrepreneur, Shannon-Carmichael faced all the typical challenges of starting a business with the added pressure from the pandemic. 

At first, she wasn’t sure it was possible to proceed. “We dance in a space with each other. We dance with people, our bodies are our instruments. Up until now, the majority of the dance world was in the studio. I had to make a decision.”

Fueled by the healing power of art, Shannon-Carmichael decided to proceed with Atelier Dance Company, and she began to find other ways to rehearse — while applying for her LLC and learning how business taxes work.

“During this absolutely crazy pandemic, I knew I needed an artistic outlet more than ever, and I’m sure other people did as well,” she said. “Launching the company was the first time I’d ever done something like this. Becoming more or less an independent entrepreneur, I’d never done that before to this extent, so that was exciting.”

Shannon-Carmichael’s transition to
online rehearsals took quite a bit of experimentation before landing on the right fit, however. “I had dabbled with Zoom online classes, but the music lagged and the freeze, it was just not something I really wanted to handle.”

She decided to have each dancer learn the choreography through videos instead of in real time.

“We had to understand that this video platform, when you’re not in another space with somebody, is only going to take you so far. Your musicality, your formations, even little movements, it’s hard to catch everything just from film,” Shannon-Carmichael said.

“By the time spring came around, when we could go outside and dance safely masked up, we had our bare-bones basic choreography, and we took it to the next level together. The end result, I think, is going to be fantastic.”

The season premiere will be showcased on August 7 at Vander Mill in Grand Rapids as a dance on film. Each piece was performed outside in Grand Rapids and inspired by nature. 

As Atelier Dance Company’s first event, Shannon-Carmichael wants the world to know about her mission to bring the world of dance back to adults in West Michigan. 

“There are so many people who still don’t know we exist. I cannot tell you how many times we’re out rehearsing in Grand Rapids and random people ask what we’re doing,” Shannon-Carmichael said. 

“I just want to be able to get the word out there, that there is a space for dancers like us. I know there’s more and I would love for them, if they want and need to find a space for their creativity like we all did, that they know it’s an option.”

Atelier Dance Company will be holding auditions in late summer to early fall for their next season, and Shannon-Carmichael encourages everyone to try out for the company.

“My experience in the Grand Rapids arts scene is that we’re very supportive of each other. There’s enough creativity and space to go around for everyone to participate,” Shannon-Carmichael said.

“This is for everyone. Art is for everyone.”

[Emanate] Nature
Vander Mill
505 Ball Ave. NE, Grand Rapids
Aug. 7, 6 p.m.

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