Professor Doris Dowell: A Story of Dance

The curtain rises, the lights flood the stage. The music begins and the dancers take their places. A typical dance recital that those in the world of performing know all too well. However, behind every performance, every step, every combination, is someone who put those steps together and found a way to tell a story through movement. Professor Doris Dowell is the one behind those movements, at least for the course she teaches: DANCE 104L1, Hip Hop, at Eastern Michigan University (EMU). She also has classes at studios in Milan and Saline, Michigan. 

Dowell started teaching dance in 2007, during her sophomore year in college. She began teaching dance classes at EMU in 2013. She grew up in the world of dance, taking classes from a young age and enrolled in her first class at the age of three. In the beginning, Dowell started with ballet, from three to the age of 12. She then moved to jazz and then picked up hip hop at 14. 

Dowell has clearly always loved dancing, but when she began applying for school, she struggled to choose between a path towards dance or towards psychology. 

“But eventually, my heart just told me that [my heart] was in dance and I was going to make it work,” said Dowell.

She attended Eastern Michigan University for dance performance, but eventually more towards teaching dance, the further she went into her schooling. Dowell’s high school dance coach played a big part in her career and pursuing it further after she graduated. 

“She was the one who made it seem like pursuing it [dance] as a career was a real possibility,” said Dowell.

As previously mentioned, Dowell teaches classes outside of Eastern Michigan University. She instructs those from ages three to 18, as well as every style, with the exception of tap. Dowell also hopes that her children will enjoy dance as much as she does and plans to enroll them in classes at some point. 

In terms of choreography, Dowell pulls inspiration from YouTube, as well as taking as many classes as she can. Los Angeles choreographer, Kyle Hanagami, is who Dowell seems to turn to in the world of YouTube, and draws inspiration from him. When it gets tiring to push out choreography each day, classes and videos help her overcome that creativity block. These ways also help her stay current in her movements, especially in a world where dance trends change in the blink of an eye. 

Teaching dance isn’t always fun and entertaining. In addition to creativity blocks, there are other struggles that come with being a dance instructor. Just as anything dealing with movement can be tiring, being a dance instructor is for sure. For Dowell, on Mondays and Wednesdays she goes from teaching a hip hop class at EMU to teaching at her studios from 3-9 pm, with no breaks between. With kids of a younger age, there is the struggle of the constant chatter that seems to come with children. Sometimes Dowell finds herself doing more classroom management instead of exploring how the body will move. 

Dowell encourages her students to have fun and even if they are first time dancers, they should focus on enjoying themselves instead of stressing if they don’t hit a move right. 

“At the bottom line, end of the day, just have fun with it. If things happen it’s fine, it’s just one performance and you’ll get over it” said Dowell.

Dance is an art form. However, as intimidating as it may seem, with the right instructor nothing is impossible in how your body can move and learn to move. Anybody can learn to dance, it’s just a matter of finding your groove and an instructor that you can click with.


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