I am launching a new project with partners in Flint, MI and we really need your help.

Global Water Dances (GWD) illuminates water issues through the art of dance and takes place in over 80 cities on six continents on the same day. Global Water Dances has had a vibrant history for seven years. We have staged three worldwide events in 2011, 2013, and 2015, with a fourth event planned next year. One day, every two years, cities from around the world participate in the Global Water Dances event. From Beijing, China to Zadar, Croatia, choreographers take on local water issues through workshops, dance activism and dialogue.

On June 24, 2017, the Flint, Michigan community will come together for their first-ever site of Global Water Dances. This event is a celebration of togetherness and de-victimization through dance in several sites throughout the city. As a project, it showcases the strength of Flint’s artists as agents of change and activators of positive momentum. GWD-Flint aims to build positive relationships across diverse groups of residents living near the Flint River. The project aims to provide a way for all to share ownership of the parks and water. Project details, goals and budget can be found below. We have some support from foundations but are limited because, as part of a global endeavor, our fiscal sponsor is not based in Michigan. We need to raise $3-5,000 from individuals in order for the event to be fully possible.

Donations can be made through the link on the bottom right of the page HERE and are tax-deductible through our fiscal sponsor The Laban/Bartenieff Institute for Movement Studies. Please write “Global Water Dances – Flint, MI” in the special instructions to ensure your gift goes to this site specifically.


Flint water crisis inspires portion of UM-Flint Spring Dance Concert, by faculty member Emma Davis.

Flint water crisis inspires portion of UM-Flint Spring Dance Concert, by faculty member Emma Davis.


Section I. RITUAL is an opening ceremony specific to Flint River Bank Park’s ADA-accessible amphitheatre. To create this ritual performance, Adesola Akinleye and her team will facilitate conversations and movement workshops with Flint mothers who are who are currently residents at Odyssey House about the work of women and its connection to water, the women’s role of simultaneously protecting children from harmful water and providing healthy water. There will be 5 sessions of 75 minutes each over three weeks. These workshops will be fully complete experiences for the women: they are not just service the choreography of the dance that will follow. Adesola will then work with dancers from FIM to devise and rehearse a 10-12 minute dance work in response to the women’s stories.

Section II. GLOBAL DANCE presents choreography done simultaneously by all GWD performers worldwide to the same piece of music, connecting participants and audience globally. Participants in Flint will include individuals and families from Headstart, Odyssey House, senior centers, and Vista volunteers. The sequence will be taught and guided during spring workshops led by the advanced students at Flint Institute of Music – Flint School of the Performing Arts’ dance division under the direction of Karen Mills Jennings and guest artists including Shawn Lent. In addition, on the day of the event, there will be Open Studio sessions throughout the city by partner organizations and dance schools to learn and rehearse the sequence. The sequence will be performed by community participants following the previously described RITUAL performance at Flint River Bank Park.

Section III. LOCAL DANCE is an afternoon, free dance concert featuring local choreographers Emma Davis, Alisyn & Jared Hurd (Vertical Ambition Dance Company and intermediate students at Flint Institute of Music addressing the river and recovery efforts.

Section IV. PARTICIPATORY DANCES invites audiences to travel back down to the river at the conclusion for a co-created movement sequence and group improvisation facilitated by Shawn Lent in River Bank Park, illuminated by the “A Body of Water” sculptural installation by artist + activist, Desiree Duell. The evening will flow into a family-friendly dance party.


GWD-Flint is focused on local empowerment and de-victimization for Flint, Michigan residents who are living through the water crisis. The project is intended to inspire a local ecology of collaboration, environmental knowledge, and activation of public spaces through dance.

COLLABORATION: Peace is an embodied practice. Dance is a way forward for children and families living in a volatile world. GWD-Flint aims to build positive relationships across diverse groups of residents living near the Flint River. The project aims to provide a way for all to share ownership of the parks and water. Creative movement is a particularly powerful tool for breaking down barriers, engendering empathy, and resilience, going beyond verbal dialogue.

KNOWLEDGE: GWD brings needed attention to water issues around our planet. Close to 1,000 surveys from our 2013 performance were gathered from four continents, and tabulated by the University of Minnesota’s Center for Survey Research. The surveys showed that 75% of the respondents reported that the performance increased their interest in water issues and 78% answered positively that the dance event inspired them to take action regarding water issues. Dance is a powerful way of increasing awareness in the global community.

ACTIVATION: Public spaces, like those in Flint, are often under-utilized. According to a bipartisan nationwide poll of kids ages 13-18, “80% said it was uncomfortable to be outdoors” and preferring screen time instead. On the positive side, “91% percent said that if a friend encouraged them to spend more time outdoors they would listen.” In addition, a study published in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine, “only 51% of children went outside to walk or play once a day with either parent. Only 24% of dads said they had parent-child outdoor playtime each day.” Time together. Outdoors. As families and neighbors. Moving. That is one foundational concept of our project. Dance engages the body, mind and spirit, releasing endorphins. Providing a natural and inviting entry point, community dances are fairly accessible for all ages and levels of dance experience (from novice to professional).


  • Engage 100+ local students, seniors, parents, toddlers, and artists in a day-long celebration of dance, of each other, and of water.
  • Draw 400+ audience members through various activities.
  • Celebrate and animate stories of local residents and of the park and river.
  • Strengthen the network and visibility of Flint’s dance artists nationally and internationally.
  • Increase capacities of at least 3 local practitioners.
  • Offer experiences where participants can grow in somatic awareness, social identity salience, spontaneity, greater extent of physical expression, positive mood/lessening of anxiety, sense of security, release of inhibitions, reduction of defensiveness and prejudice, and physical trust and interaction.
  • Provide movement experiences that are relevant, fun and engaging for families and residents of diverse ages and backgrounds.
  • Enhance familiarity, ownership and sharing of River Bank Park among diverse residents.
  • Activate everyday participation in River Bank Park as a place of important community exchange, creative learning and civic engagement across generations.
  • Promote creative exercise, fitness, and physical activity in Flint.


Adesola Akinleye is the artistic director of DancingStrong. She trained at Arts Educational School, London and The Rambert Academy. She began her professional career as a dancer with the Dance Theatre of Harlem. Since then she has danced with companies in North America and Europe. Adesola teaches dance and receives choreographic commissions internationally working in university setting, K-12/Foundation to Secondary/High School systems and private dance academies, as well as in community based projects. Adesola holds a PhD from Canterbury Christ Church University Social and Applied Science, Sports and Exercise Science Department and a Masters of Arts with Distinction in Work Based Learning – Dance in Education and Community from Middlesex University.

Karen Mills Jennings is the Chair of the Dance Division at the Flint School of Performing Arts and is the founding Artistic Director of the Flint Youth Ballet. Mrs. Jennings danced principal roles with Ballet Michigan and has been on the dance faculty for the Flint School of Performing Arts since 1980. As the Outreach Coordinator Mrs. Jennings facilitates programming for community partners both off and on site at the FSPA. Mrs. Jennings has worked closely with Director of the FSPA Davin Torre, in the development of FSPA’s teaching approach Beyond Boundaries, which utilizes non-judgmental teaching techniques that encourage and support the goals and learning styles of all students. Community Engagement has been her priority.

Shawn Lent moves this world as a manager and social practice artist, with experience from a field in Bosnia to a children’s hospital in revolutionary Egypt. Shawn currently serves as Program Director for Chicago Dancemakers Forum, Alliance Building Lead for Createquity, and project lead for SUNY Purchase and Dance Peace, which is catalyzing an integration initiative through dance and music for Syrian refugees in Chicago. Previously, she was the national coordinator for EducationUSA Egypt with AMIDEAST and U.S. Department of State, U.S. Fulbright Scholar, UN Alliance of Civilizations International Fellow, instructor at Cairo Contemporary Dance Center, Commencement Speaker for Millikin University, and panelist/presenter at the University of Maryland, Universal Exposition Milan, Hope College and TEDx Shibin El Kom. Shawn holds a Masters in Arts Management from Columbia College Chicago, and a Post-Graduate Certificate in Youth Arts Development from Goldsmith’s College.

Global Water Dances is a fiscally-sponsored project of The Laban/Bartenieff Institute of Movement Studies (LIMS), a non-profit educational organization with a global network of movement professionals. 


TOTAL COST $21,000*

Space River Bank Park site rental $500 $250 per day x 2
Space Theatre venue rental $3,000 UM-Flint
People Power Local Coordinator $2,000 $400 per month X 5 months
People Power Choreographer/Artist $2,000 $500 per artist x 4 artists
People Power Dancers $2,000 $100 x 20
People Power Project Director $1,250  
Supporting Roles Filmmaker(s)/Documentation $1,500  
Supporting Roles Tech Crew $2,000 $500 x 4
Supporting Roles Musician Fees $1,200 3 x 4 days @ $100 per day
Stuff Rentals $2,000 Equipment and Seating
Stuff Costumes/T-shirts $1,000 $10 x 100
Stuff Marketing/PR/Promotion $500 printing, signage
Stuff Water and snacks $750 for all participants
Stuff Workshop & Event Supplies $300  
Transportation Artist Travel $1,000 4-10 trips @ $50-250
TOTAL   $21,000