Spotlight: Teaching dance a sports outlet for Wade

In the past few years ballroom dancer/instructor Jennifer Wade has seen the sport rise from obscurity with the success of ABC's "Dancing with the Stars."
(Photo by Scott Soderberg, U-M Photo Services)

The show, which pairs celebrities and professional dancers who compete with one another, has attracted millions of viewers on prime time television and substantially elevated public interest in ballroom dancing. "It has given dancing lots of visibility," says Wade, an administrative assistant at the Office of Institutional Equity (OIE). "Since (the show) started, I think it has helped increase participation in the classes a lot."

In 1990, while working at the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, Wade took an interest in dancing when a graduate student asked her to get involved with the U-M ballroom dance club. Wade, who lives in Ypsilanti, first learned to dance when she joined the club and she quickly improved her skill level. "Everyone goes through the stumbles and stepping on feet," Wade says, "but anybody can learn to dance."

After a few years Wade became a volunteer teacher with the rapidly expanding dance club. "When I started, the meetings had 50 people crammed in a little room in CCRB," Wade says. "There were easily a couple hundred people at the last event I went to."

Wade, along with her partner Dorian Deaver, teaches ballroom dance classes at Liberty Athletic Center, the Ann Arbor Community Education and Recreation Department, as well as at Deaver's dance studio Dazz Dance in Ann Arbor. "We get everyone from teenagers to retirees, and sometimes people who get dragged by their partner," Wade says.

In addition to teaching, Wade also danced competitively for 10 years. "The competitions can be stressful, and some people are friendlier than others," Wade says. "It is still an expression of music and how much you have learned, so it's fun."

Wade began her position as an administrative assistant with the OIE in 2004. She has worked at the University since 1990, but it was not until she began her current position that her work so closely matched her interests. "I have always enjoyed working in a university setting with an atmosphere of constant learning," Wade says. "I enjoy the diversity of this university, and the mission of (OIE)."

OIE works towards promoting an environment of equality, diversity and opportunity within the University. At OIE Wade assists Anthony Walesby, associate vice provost for academic and faculty affairs and senior director of OIE. "We help create and maintain a working and learning environment that is welcoming, supportive and free from discrimination and harassment in our University community," Wade says.

Wade also enjoys her job because of the people she works with. "If you work somewhere and you are friends with everyone, you can't beat that," Wade says.

Along the same lines, the social aspect of ballroom dancing is one of the primary reasons Wade has remained involved with the sport. "It is very social and you meet a lot of great people," Wade says. "Watching them learn how to dance and enjoy themselves is truly satisfying."

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