On the night of Nov. 2, the University of Michigan held “Dance for Democracy,” a virtual event where bands performed pieces aiming to encourage viewers to dance and vote. The YouTube live event included pre-recorded performances from Nova Zaii with Kulture Grenade, Kektus, Sabbatical Bob and Inner City ––with some of the artists being faculty and students at the School of Music, Theater & Dance. 

The Dance for Democracy event began with Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson encouraging viewers to get out and vote.

“I’m so glad you’ve got your dance shoes on because tonight is a night to celebrate,” Benson said. “Early voting has been happening like never before and we’re seeing a surge in new voters. This means our electorate is engaged and our democracy is strong.” 

Lead organizer Michael Gould, a music professor in the residential college, said he planned the event to encourage students to vote regardless of their party affiliation. 

“It’s basically to bring together all flavors whether you’re red, blue, purple, and choose to have a nonpartisan event that celebrates all the work that went into getting out the vote and making sure students are engaged in voting this election cycle,” Gould said.

Voting is especially important right now, Gould said, as many people are feeling the stress and anxiety of the election.

“Being obsessed with the news and reading the paper in January, it was getting more and more tense, and one day I just stood up, and I just said, ‘I just want to dance,’” Gould said. “So I came up with Dance for Democracy as a much more appropriate name across the whole campus. So it was just basically me being a little frustrated and just wanting to dance it off.” 

Music, Theatre & Dance sophomore Simone Clotile sang in Kektus, a band that performed for the event. 

“I think it’s a really important event,” Clotile said. “I really love the fact that there are so many people from different age ranges who are advocating voting. We’re really pushing for democracy; just kind of finding a way to unite us all in this very chaotic time.”

After Benson’s message emphasizing the value of voting, Nova Zaii with Kulture Grande began to play some jazz –– encouraging viewers to get up and dance. Around 9:40 p.m., U-M men’s basketball coach Juwan Howard appeared on screen to stress the importance of voting. 

“I ask my players to take their responsibility seriously,” Howard said. “I want to ask all of you to do the same. Have you voted? If so, excellent. If not, tomorrow’s our nation’s big dance, make sure you do your part, get yourself to the polls and vote.” 

The rest of the bands continued to play among the intermittent messages from U-M deans, coaches and students who all stressed the same thing: voting matters. 

Gould said the event is proof that different types of people can come together and enjoy a night of musical performances while also raising awareness on the importance of exercising civic duties. 

“It’s nice to have something that’s positive that’s not leaning one way or the other,” Gould said. “It’s an event that just meant to have fun, and kind of celebrate the fact that the next day we’re all gonna get out there and vote. Or if you have, we can be happy and dance.” 

Daily News Contributor Madeleine Bauer can be reached at madbauer@umich.edu

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