UMS Night School: Bodies in Motion: University Musical Society (UMS)

Organization Name: University Musical Society (UMS)

Department Submitting Recipe: Education & Community Engagement

City: Ann Arbor

Program Name: UMS Night School: Bodies in Motion

Time of Program: Evening, 7:00-8:30

Program Length: 90 minutes

Goal: We hope to break down barriers that keep people from attending dance performances. Our goal is to help increase people’s comfort level with dance by offering social and participatory learning opportunities that allow those who are curious to learn more about dance in a personally meaningful way. As a multidisciplinary presenter, we also seek to leverage novice participants' comfort with other performance genres (classical music, jazz, theater, etc.) to increase their comfort level with dance.

Time of Year Offered: Over a 9 week period (in 13/14 during the winter half of the season), in conjunction with performances

Program Description:

The curriculum for these 90-minute “classes” combine conversation, interactive exercises, and “lectures” with genre experts to draw participants into the themes behind each performance. Sessions are designed to both deepen knowledge of the performing arts and connect audience members with similar interests to each other. This series of UMS Night School focused on how movement gives us ways to think about watching dance—and other performances. The class is "hosted" by a faculty member from the dance department; the host is a consistent presence and facilitator for the nine-week series. The host invites "expert" guests to visit the class as appropriate. The sessions are structured such that the first 30 minutes are spent discussing the performance that participants have just attended (usually the prior weekend) and the last hour is used to prepare for the next performance. Each class begins with a movement exercise. The first movement exercise usually involves recitation of names along with a gesture (to build community and get people warmed up); the second exercise is a movement response to the performance participants have recently attended. The course utilized dance performances, a theater performance, an orchestral performance, and dance-on-camera as source material. Specific effort is spent on creating a sense of belonging and community; each member receives a plastic lanyard name tag after their first registration; attendance is taken before each class; class members are contacted by email after each session with follow up material and reminded of the next class; a nominal ticket discount is offered for associated performances. The atmosphere is casual, conversational, and interactive; participants sit in a semi-circle and there is an adjacent space for movement exercises. The expectation is set early on that Night School is participatory in nature (rather than a lecture style, passive listening experience). The series culminates in a graduation night where special guests are invited back, and learners are asked to synthesize their insights from the entire series. We give away "perfect attendance" awards (usually a gift certificate for a local restaurant) (and typically only 2 or 3 people achieve perfect attendance, so it should be a really nice reward!). For graduation we provide catering, light snacks, wine, and soft drinks, and create space for socializing and networking. Along with Night School, we created a "UMS Adventure Card" that allowed participants to receive stamps for participating other dance-related activities outside of Night School (such as the UMS You Can Dance program). For every four stamps received, participants received an entry into a raffle to meet a dance artist in the coming season.

Number of Participants: Typically 25-40 participants for each session; over the course of the program in 13/14 we had 104 unique participants, and 58% attended more than one session.

Target Audience: Adults of any educational level.

Private/Public Public

Nature of Audience Engagement: Audience members are asked to participate in movement exercises in each session; they are also asked to attend performances and discuss them during the session. They also have the opportunity to listen to experts and to explore online resources after each session on umslobby.org

Location: We host the program at the UM Alumni Center, a large open conference style space with a hard wood floor and multimedia capabilities built-in.

How Many Staff: 2 staff members manage registration and logistics; the Director of Education leads off each session with announcements; a faculty host leads each session. The staff work closely with the faculty host to secure guest speakers and plans curriculum in the months leading up to the series and during the series. For this series, we worked with two students: one dance graduate student who took notes and occasionally co-hosted sessions and one undergraduate student who documented and recapped the series on umslobby.org.

Program Cost: The total cost for all sessions, as described above, was around $x,xxx. But the series of sessions can cost between $3,000 and $8,000, depending on various factors. The host receives a substantial honorarium (minimally $1,000); guest speakers receive small honorariums ($100-$150); catering costs around $1,000; room rental can range from $1,000-$4,000; guest artists receive honoraria ($200-$300); survey incentives range from $100-$300; attendance awards range from $100-$200; materials range from $150-$200; evaluation cost roughly $1200. You could conceivably cut the fringe and do this inexpensively, but we believe it's important to pay your facilitators.

Marketing for Program: We publicize broadly in our print and online marketing tools (monthly calendars, postcards, brochures, email marketing, website; more targeted marketing is aimed at ticketbuyers for the associated performance. We did special marketing to audience members who attended other UMS genres, but not dance. We also did a broad marketing piece focused on "curiosity" as the motivating factor.

Cost for Program Participants: Free, open to the public. No registration required.

Attendance To Date: 104

Past Iterations: One year, focused on dance (two previous years have focused on music).

What works? LOSE THE PODIUM! Facilitation, Format, and Setting: The most appreciated and discussed aspect was the welcoming and respectful manner in which Night School participants were treated. This quote describes a participant reaction that was heard over and over again: “That type of generosity and the embracing (which everybody has talked about here) from everybody in the whole Night School - you can’t buy that. That’s just something that was, out of everything, and I thought the whole experience was great, that was the most beautiful thing about the whole experience-- that everybody made you feel valued, welcomed, and cherished, throughout the whole experience.” The UMS Night School host and the other presenters set a tone for participants to take risks together. Attendees felt like they were interacting with people, humans (not pre-packaged or pretentious experts). That created an environment where Night School participants didn’t feel like “students”, but everyone had opportunities to be in both the role of teacher and learner. In addition to the inclusive facilitation and accessible presentation of knowledge, the location and physical space were also factors in Night School’s success. Attendees liked the Alumni Center, probably because it provided enough space for all of the different Night School activities (large group presentation, small group discussion, movement), as well as good audiovisual resources (more than one large screen for videos, effective sound system). Each Night School session included a good balance of learning by listening, seeing, discussing and doing. After their first class, participants knew what to expect and were put at ease by the evening’s routine. Those who weren’t keen on the movement and exposure involved with the icebreaker endured it because they knew what was coming next and, after a while, they grew to appreciate what it offered. The components of the class –introduction, guest lecture, kinesthetic experience, video, small and large group discussions- were varied but contained within a consistent nightly routine. This allowed everyone to learn from each other, and from all of the resources, in a stimulating environment within a dependable structure. Also critical to success were the different learning modalities offered every evening. While taking advantage of the experts available at the University and through UMS, the class format also allowed for, and encouraged, people to learn from each other.

What doesn't work? The biggest challenge for Night School is building a shared vocabulary. We discovered that we use a lot of jargon in describing dance (and performance in general) and we needed to be more diligent about recording and defining jargon/vocabulary throughout the 9-weeks. Participants had natural and exciting responses to watching dance, but often felt stumped by how to put those reactions into words.

Performances Where Offered: We did not structure this program around each dance performance; we chose a focused time during the year when we could incorporate several dance performances along with other genres on our season, as well as incorporate dance activities in the community beyond UMS. We find that a tight, 6-9 week focus (rather than spread throughout the year) helps build community and momentum.

Past Research on Program: During our EDA grant, we administered an impact survey at the end of the program (designed with WolfBrown - www.intrinsicimpact.org). We hired an independent evaluator to observe and report on the program, as well as conduct a 2-hour focus group.

Continuing Program? Yes. The response was incredibly enthusiastic, and we're looking forward to continuing this program.

Resources & Links:

We are working out some technical difficulties related to this field. Check back by late October for any additional comments provided by this EDA grantee.
Please note that Supplemental Materials for many of the grantee projects are available via Google Drive, at this link:
https://drive.google.com/a/forthearts.org/?ddrp=1#folders/0B4BGrfT7MxUWcFd3eW9MaXZLek0