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Around Campus


A Conversation with Sherry Jerome Wilkinson

by Jess J. Salisbury

Eastern Michigan University dance professor Sherry Jerome Wilkinson is certainly en pointe. She is certified by American Ballet Teatre, one of the oldest and most prestigious ballet companies in the world, to teach its National Training Curriculum. Wilkinson is the only ABT- certified college professor in Michigan, but that’s not all she’s brought to EMU’s artistic community. Between annual collaborations with the University Symphony Orchestra to bring full ballet productions to EMU and her personalized, passionate instruction, Wilkinson helps keep the heart of art beating strong.

Eastern: Tell me a bit about your teaching career at EMU.

Wilkinson: I took the job 16 years ago. Our students have to study every dance form—ballet and modern are our pillars—but the beter ballet dancer you are, the beter dancer you are overall. It’s your foundation dance form. So I have tried in every way possible to make the ballet portion as good as it could possibly be, to bring lots of information to my classes, to constantly be learning myself, to learn different teaching techniques and methods to reach everybody, to get them the best technical and artistic base. And I love the students here. We have really great students. I’ve had the opportunity to perform, I was on the stage, and now my job is to give others the opportunity to perform on stage.

Eastern: What got you interested in dance?

Wilkinson: I started dancing when I was five, and I just really liked it. I didn’t care for sports at all, so I was not interested in doing soccer or baseball or soſtball or whatever. And I’m from Phoenix. Dance was something that was done inside, which was a lot cooler than playing sports outside. I was also really drawn to ballet, which is my specialty, because I liked the discipline involved. I liked the way the skills were stair-stepped into it. I loved the feeling you get from being graceful and beautiful in ballet. Tere is an ethereal feeling that permeates ballet. And I loved the costumes. Who wouldn’t want to wear a tutu?

Eastern: Describe one of the most challenging aspects of being a dancer.

Wilkinson: It is difficult to make a living as a dancer or as an artist in any field. Te opportunities are very few and far between. Te economy makes it challenging for companies to survive and to get funding so they can pay their dancers and their artists. You compete with so many people for so few opportunities. It’s a tough environment. Here in America, we don’t really appreciate our artists as we should; therefore, funding doesn’t flow to artistic organizations as it should.

Eastern: What would you say is the most rewarding part of the dance profession?

Wilkinson: It’s being able to do what you have a passion to do. Anybody who’s in music or dance or any type of art, we do it because we love it. We don’t do it because it’s the smart or logical thing to do. I’ve done a million pliés in my life, but still, every day when I wake up, I want to do a plié.

Eastern: You mentioned that our culture doesn’t appreciate the fine arts as much as we should. What can we do to preserve the arts?

14 Eastern | SPRING 2015

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