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Decades of Motion

BU People: Micki Taylor-Pinney shares passion for dance with students

Micki Taylor-Pinney, coordinator of dance, has been showing students the joys of movement for 21 years. Photo by Vernon Doucette

For some, dance is a way to relieve stress at the gym. For others, it’s a way of life. Micki Taylor-Pinney, a dancer since childhood, has been sharing the world of dance with students for 21 years as coordinator of dance in the Department of Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance. “I grew up constantly moving to music,” she says.

As the director of BU’s dance program, Taylor-Pinney works closely with the BU Dance Theatre Group, the University’s first dance company, which was founded in 1970. Students in the group attend a weekly dance class, perform once a semester, and receive faculty critiques of their work. With a current membership of about 70, including dance minors and dance enthusiasts, the group has grown steadily since Taylor-Pinney’s arrival.

“I think, especially in a large university, having a place to hang out with people who love the same thing as you is so important,” says Taylor-Pinney. “It provides a real sense of community that’s all-inclusive and open to all levels. Students want that level of faculty participation.”

Striving to impart her passion for dance to a wider audience, Taylor-Pinney also produces the department’s annual Dance Showcase, and plays an integral part in BU’s Summer Outreach Program, which gives local high school students a chance to train with professional dancers, create a 45-minute performance, and go on tour to community centers and camps in the Boston area.

Despite all her creative outlets, Taylor-Pinney counts teaching as the best part of her job. “I really enjoy my contact with students,” she says. “A lot of students feel I’ve gotten to know them better than perhaps some of their other contacts at the University because classes are smaller and I work with student compositions on a more personal level.”

During her tenure at BU, Taylor-Pinney has seen trends in dance come and go, from the demise of international folk dance shortly after she joined the University in 1985 to the rise of ethnic dance forms.

“Belly dancing is currently the most popular,” she says. “Belly dancing is empowering. It’s about women and culture — a combination of body, mind, and spirit that’s so popular right now.” Capoiera, an Afro-Brazilian dance that is based in martial arts, is also in demand. Taylor-Pinney plans what new dance classes to offer, so she keeps her eye on what dance forms are most favored by students.

“Movies always have a big impact,” she says. “A ballroom movie comes out and there’s a surge in ballroom dancing interest.”

Whether students have been watching too much Mad Hot Ballroom or simply hope to perfect their salsa moves, “enrollment for dance classes is through the roof right now,” says Taylor-Pinney. “There are over 1,200 students enrolled in over 35 dance courses.”

Not all of her former students go on to careers in dance, but Taylor-Pinney is proud of them all, from the alum who just received tenure at a university in Utah to the dancers performing in New York companies.

“I once had a student, a vice president of advertising for her company, say she felt that her dance training prepared her for her job as much as her academic classes — that coming up with a concept and producing it has a direct correlation to what she’s doing professionally,” Taylor-Pinney says.

Catherine Santore can be reached at csantore@bu.edu.