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  • Steve Sucato

FOSTERING THE CREATIVE PROCESS: dance PROject Residency at Miller South offers Students Diverse Perspectives on Choreographing

GroundWorks' Joan Meggitt and Morgan Ashley with Miller South students.

By Steve Sucato

GroundWorks DanceTheater returned to Akron’s Miller South School for the Visual and Performing Arts from January 15 to March 8, 2024, for a dance PROject residency. 

One of GroundWorks DanceTheater’s core education programs, dance PROject provides high-quality, contemporary dance training and education for students with prior dance experience. 

“It is really a collaboration between GroundWorks and the cooperating faculty at each school or facility,” says Joan Meggitt, GroundWorks’ Director of Education & Community Engagement.

The one to three-day-a-week residency, which involved the full complement of GroundWorks’ seven teaching artists, was to aid Miller South’s 6th, 7th, and 8th-grade dance students in their creative process of making dance works for the school’s culminating May 2024 concert. A grant from the Martha Holden Jennings Foundation supported it. 

Millet South students. Photo by Joan Meggitt.

“We went into their dance composition classes twice a week, and they showed us what they were working on,” says Meggitt. “We talked about their concerns, made recommendations, and kept a detailed log of all the feedback we provided to the students. Each GroundWorks teaching artist assigned to a particular class had access to that log to see what had been done previously with the students and what the recommended next steps were.”

Meggitt and GroundWorks Teaching Artist Morgan Ashley also rehearsed Miller South’s dance ensemble once a week. 

Miller South dance educator Ashley Watts says the residency integrated smoothly into her existing curriculum. 

“GroundWorks demonstrated flexibility in accommodating our class schedule, effectively maximizing our instructional time,” says Watts. “Historically, choreography projects pose challenges for delivering timely feedback to each dancer. This collaboration significantly assisted me as an educator in providing the dancers with the necessary support for their work.”

In the students’ 42-minute composition classes, Meggitt says she and the other teaching artists examined the students’ work and workshopped the creative process with them.

“If a student said, ‘I don’t know how to develop this motif’ or ‘I’m kind of stuck,’ the teaching artist would have an opportunity to provide guidance, such as examining tempo, transitions, and overall structure,” says Meggitt. 

Millet South students. Photo by Joan Meggitt.

The students would also have regular showings of their works in progress during which they received feedback from GroundWorks’ teaching artists and their fellow students.

“The involvement of the Groundworks partnership greatly benefited the Miller South dancers by offering diverse perspectives to aid in problem-solving,” says Watts. “This collaboration facilitated the establishment of connections with professional dancers, fostering a sense of worth among the students as the company members displayed authentic interest in their creative endeavors.”

Watts says that after the residency, Miller South’s students expressed their deep gratitude for the feedback provided by the GroundWorks dancers and a desire for additional opportunities to engage with them

“Providing opportunities for the GroundWorks dancers to share personal life lessons and experiences with my students proved valuable in helping them recognize the diverse paths that can stem from early dance training,” says Watts. “GroundWorks demonstrated professionalism and provided valuable assistance, showing genuine care for both the students and the project as a whole.”

For GroundWorks’ part, Meggitt says that as a College and Careers of Akron partner and having worked with Miller South in the past, many knowns allowed the two organizations to maximize the dance PROject residency. "The students were hard-working and curious,” says Meggitt. “Mrs. Watts is an excellent educator, and she laid the foundation for us to come in and hit the ground running.”

For more information on GroundWorks DanceTheater’s education and outreach programs, visit


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