It seems as if many artists – even the starving ones – want a piece of the pie. Be it Mike Baldwin’s “Will Work for Food” cartoon series or the Cunninlynguists’s sublime underground rap album Will Rap for Food. Six seniors in the School of Music, Theater and Dance will perform their senior thesis concert “Will Dance for Food” tonight, tomorrow and Saturday at the Betty Pease Studio Theater, located inside the Dance Building next to the CCRB at 8 p.m.

Drew Philp
Six Dance senior perform a scene from their collaborative thesis project, “Will Dance For Food.” (ALEX DZIADOSZ/Daily)

The public performance is a requirement for the bachelor’s of fine arts in dance degree. “We each had to choreograph a solo, and we also choreographed a group work,” concert participant Natalie Griffith said. In addition to dance elements, the dancers used a range of different multimedia components in some of the solos, which feature projection videos, photographs and music created by University students.

While planning their concert, Anna Bratton said she and her fellow dancers began to think of their graduation and agreed the future of a dancer is unstable at best.

“Dancers don’t make any money. We joked that we might have to dance just to get food. And that was it! We decided to call the show ‘Will Dance for Food,’ ” she said.

But for these dancers, a snappy title wasn’t enough. “We got the idea to make it a service-oriented show,” Griffith said. They decided to take their dance concert out of the realm of pure aesthetics and turn it into a socially conscious art form. “We thought we could take food donations,” Bratton said.

The performance and the six young women behind it have partnered with the Ann Arbor Food Gatherers, a food rescue program founded by Zingerman’s Delicatessen in 1988 that supplies food to soup kitchens, daycares and other institutions. But instead of a monetary donation, the dancers instead chose to donate another commodity that’s even more precious to the Food Gatherers: food itself.

“We’re asking the audience members to bring canned goods or nonperishable food to donate,” Griffith said. The dancers have used their publicity to solicit food donations from faculty, students, friends and family this week, and hope their food drive will culminate in a crowning moment at the show this weekend.

While all the dancers in the show are involved in the community, they’ve never partnered with a local organization to bring art and service together until now, so the Food Gatherers were eager to work with them.

“They seemed really excited about this,” Bratton said. “They dropped off three big barrels for us to fill up with food. And I hope we can fill them, and maybe more.”

The dancers have chosen to use the event to solicit food donations, but the show itself isn’t concerned with food or eating. “It’s a really diverse show,” Griffith said. “There are hip-hop elements, jazz, modern dance, ballet movements and lots of variety in music styles.”

Each dancer will perform a themed solo piece. “My solo is inspired by the Yoruba culture in West Africa,” Bratton said. “It doesn’t really mimic the movement of the Yoruba people but it uses their ideas on art and life.”

Nicole Jamieson’s solo blends themes of personal experience and weather to create a piece in small sections with titles like “Severe Thunderstorm” and “Partially Cloudy With a Chance of Rain.”

The dancers believe activist art is especially relevant to the world today. “Art for art’s sake is one thing,” Jamieson said, “but art that betters the world and the community is even better.”

Will Dance for Food
Today, tomorrow and Saturday at 8 p.m.


At the Betty Pease Studio Theater

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