Did you know that Western Michigan University’s (WMU) dance department is one of the largest in the Midwest and its graduates go on to professional careers as dancers, choreographers, educators, and much more?
Like many other educational experiences this year at the university, the department has faced its challenges during COVID-19—especially since its primary form of teaching and expression is physical and guidelines to limit the spread of the virus greatly affect its presentation. “This has been a year unlike any other for the WMU Department of Dance. We have been dancing together since early September with each week bringing new challenges to overcome. I am continually inspired by the patience and flexibility of our students as we navigate this year, and by the faculty who go above-and-beyond to not only teach dance, but to support our students as they navigate these stressful times,” said Megan Slayter, chair and associate professor of dance at WMU.”
Now, Here’s Where You and Your Abs Come in…
Unlike traditional students who can throw on a pair of jeans to go to class, being a dance major bears additional cost burdens of stage rental, costumes, dance shoes, dancewear, access to physical therapy, and specialized cleaning of space because of the pandemic. And that doesn’t even include the additional Dance Department needs for tuition scholarships, summer conference support to the dance majors, and support for choreographic commissions for the dancers to hone their craft.
Funding for the program not only comes from student tuition, but is reliant upon revenue brought in from the many performances the department delivers each year, such as its highly attended Dancing with WMU/Kazoo Stars event as well as other fundraisers which have been halted due to limitations placed upon in-person gatherings. So the need is now greater than ever before according to Megan and that is where WMU Partners in Dance comes in. “This local group is steadfastly committed to the preservation of the WMU Dance Department and other community celebrations of dance in ways such as the presentation of the annual Community Dance Advocacy Award, December Art Hop performance by the Western Dance Project, and many more. Each year, funds raised by Partners in Dance go to support many of those items described above,” Megan explained.
This year, Partners in Dance challenged itself for ways to replace lost revenue. And much like the art of dance, they had to get creative in light of the pandemic. “Dance is active and fun. We wanted to find a fundraising activity to reflect that, but be easy for people to get involved in from the safety of their own space. We think we found just that with Plank 4 PID,” said Allyson Lowis, chair of the Partners in Dance fundraising committee.
What is Plank 4 PID?
From November 22 to 29, 2020, the group is asking individuals and groups to join their fun Facebook event and post videos or pictures of themselves planking—the isometric core strength exercise that involves maintaining a position similar to a push-up for a maximum possible time based on personal ability—using the hashtag Plank4PID. “To help raise money to support this cause, participant ‘plankers’ are asked to get pledges for their planks from friends, neighbors, family, and anyone they know and donate them directly to Partners in Dance. They can request their donations from their supporters per second, per minute, or even for creativity. For example, one dollar for every five seconds held,” said Allyson. All raised funds for this cause can then be passed directly onto the organization through the Partners in Dance webpage on the WMU Alumni Association’s website at https://secure.wmualumni.org/s/give?funds=P396.
Megan is thankful for the support and sees it as an extension of the program, “We are a dance family here at WMU. We support each other with grace and compassion, and we are literally able to turn and pivot to address the challenges of each new day. We are dancers. We are artists. We are Broncos!”
To get in on the planking action, video yourself planking and post it to the Facebook event between November 22 and November 29, 2020. Remember to use #Plank4PID.