Michelle (Chell) Parkins was recently named the inaugural Arnhold Director in Dance Education with UW–Madison’s Dance Department, a position she will start on Aug. 1.
This new position was made possible by a gift from dance advocate, educator, and founder of the Dance Education Laboratory Jody Gottfried Arnhold (BA 1965) and her husband John Arnhold. Their support was matched by the School of Education’s Impact 2030 initiative.
“Chell brings a wealth of experience working in dance education in New York, Tennessee, and Texas,” says Andrea Harris, an associate professor and chair of the Dance Department. “She will be an innovator and fierce advocate for dance in Wisconsin public schools. We see this as a truly transformational hire, for our department, community, and state.”
Parkins currently is a doctoral candidate completing her term as site coordinator for the Dance Education Program at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her research focuses on the experiences of Latinx-identifying teachers and students engaged in culturally relevant and sustaining dance education programs. She recently served as a scholar-in-residence and consultant to the community engagement director at Ballet Hispánico, where she assisted in the development of the company’s community engagement curriculum.
Before her move to New York City, Parkins resided in Tennessee, where she was a dance and movement consultant for the Tennessee Arts Academy, the executive director of the Tennessee Association of Dance, a full time lecturer in dance at Middle Tennessee State University, and a fine arts subject matter expert for the Tennessee Department of Education.
As Parkins begins work with the School of Education, her priorities will include being an advocate for dance education statewide and regionally; designing and implementing a dance education curriculum in the School of Education; teaching courses, networking, and collaborating with school districts; creating partnerships and pathways for future dance teachers; and leading K-12 dance programming locally and beyond.
Parkins has bachelor’s degrees in dance and acting from Washington University in St. Louis and an MFA in dance from the University of Texas at Austin. She is expected to receive an EdD in dance education from Teachers College, Columbia University, in December 2022 or May 2023.
“I am thrilled to be joining the prestigious dance faculty at UW–Madison at a pivotal time in our nation, particularly regarding the drastically evolving needs of our public school youth recovering from trauma induced by the pandemic, disembodied learning, and prolonged isolation,” says Parkins. “I hope to follow in the innovative footsteps of Margaret H’Doubler, who returned from her studies at Teachers College, Columbia University, to create the first university dance major at UW–Madison in 1926, carving a path for dance education in public schools. My vision involves creating new and building on existing partnerships between the UW–Madison Dance Department and public schools, mentoring university students entering the field of dance education, and advocating for equitable access to dance education for every child across the state.”