There’s no better way to get to the heart of a city than through the people who live there. In our new feature, “Person of Interest” we ask local Ann Arborites, clearly in love with their city, to take us on a personal tour and tell us what makes it so special to them. This month, we chatted with Michelle Millard, a youth and adult dance instructor at Dance Theatre Studio.
Current: How long have you lived in Ann Arbor?
Michelle Millard: I moved here in 2002 from West Bloomfield to go to school at Eastern. I studied biology. It wasn’t only my strongest subject; it was fascinating to me. It was always a discovery each class to find out how we work inside. I almost went to pharmacy school. But, at the same time, John Durbin, the previous owner of Dance Theatre Studio, was looking for a full-time teacher. He took me under his wing, and before I knew it, there I was, dancing and teaching six days a week. It was my first full-time teaching experience and I knew that I was living my true passion.
Dance Theatre Studio is located on North University right by the Diag. Do you get a lot of college students?
Yes, it’s great how many students and adults from the university turn up for drop-ins and semester classes. When John (Durbin) opened the studio in 1978, it was actually for adults only. Only recently did we start the youth program. I love the diversity of the studio’s community. I think it’s very unique.
Where’s your favorite outdoor space?
This is super specific, but there is a tree that I particularly love. When you sit in the window of Espresso Royale on State Street, the first tree you see when you look at the Diag is this spectacular leaning pine. I’m not sure how it stays up. It must have strong roots, but there’s something just magical about it.
Do you have any favorite stores or coffee shops?
I love Verbena on State Street for clothes, and Thistle and Bess in Kerrytown for home furnishings and trinkets. Favorite coffee spots? Espresso Royale or Sweetwaters. I’m a sucker for their vanilla lattes.
What has been your best discovery since living in Ann Arbor?
My all-time favorite place to be, energy-wise, is the Power Center. My boyfriend and I go there for anything and everything. You just feel like you’re part of something big and important when you are there. UMS brings so many great performances. We’re so lucky to have it in our town! Last July, I saw the duet Amadou & Mariam there and was just astounded by the beauty of their sound and soul. Plus, Dance Theatre Studio hosts our annual Spring Recital in May. All youth students and the adult performance class get the opportunity to dance on that stage. It’s such an amazing thing to be a part of each year!
What do you miss most when you’ve been away?
Don’t think this is cheesy, but I’d say the sights and sounds. I can hear the Bell Tower through the studio’s window. I love the radio station 107.1FM, because they always play local artists and that’s how I find out about events in the community. There’s something sort of unidentifiable about the Ann Arbor feel, but it’s there.
If you could change one thing about the city, what would it be?
To have more dog-accessible areas downtown. We need a more central dog park, where community members could bring their dogs and meet people.
Anything special you’re looking forward to this month?
Valentine’s Day, of course! My boyfriend and I will probably go to a show at the Power Center. February 13 is Camille A. Brown and Dancers: Black Girl – A Linguistic Play. That sounded like it could be really fun and exciting!