Lansing’s dance community is about to get a little more diverse.
Glenn Douglas Packard is returning to the Lansing area after decades working in New York, California, Florida and Vegas. Since he left the Michigan farm where he grew up, he’s attended Alvin Ailey, danced and choreographed for Michael Jackson, Usher, Pink, Ricky Martin and Liza Minelli.
He’s even been asked to dance for the King of Morocco.
“I’ve traveled the world and been in almost every country as a dancer,” said Packard, who is opening The Institute of Dancers in the Lansing area to prepare young people to become commercial dancers.
When he was a 19, he almost lost his life and his leg in a accident at his family’s farm. He was told his leg would be amputated from the knee down. Fortunately, a doctor was able to save his leg, but he was told he’d never walk normally. It didn’t stop Packard.
“I always had this dream of being an entertainer and being a dancer,” said Packard. “I realized I was living my father’s dream and not my dream. I decided if I got through (the accident), I would do the one thing I always wanted.”
So when he recovered, he headed to Lansing Community College where he excelled as a dance student, according to Lisa Whiting Dobson. Fortunately for him, his teachers told him to move on. He auditioned for Alvin Ailey, a modern dance company, a major school for dance, and got a scholarship.
“I had my parents drive me in their pickup truck to New York City where I didn’t know one single person and drop me off on a street corner,” Packard said. “I stayed in New York City for ten years. It was my coming of age years.”
He performed in commercials, the MTV movie awards, and eventually won an Emmy nomination for best outstanding choreography in a television special for Michael Jackson’s 30th anniversary special.
Now, he wants to come home and inspire others who want to pursue the type of career he’s had.
“When I started dancing, I had no idea all this was out there,” he said. “Now it is time for me to put my name on something and inspire the next generation.”
Coming home to teach
He’s founding The Institute of Dance, which is renting space at Happendance. He said he’s ready to come home and be around his family and to give back to Michigan what the state gave to him.
“I always thought there was something special about a Michigan dancer,” Packard said. “Not only are we talented, but we’re humble. That’s attractive to a director and choreographer in this industry.”
The Institute of Dance will be a professional facility focusing on commercial dance. Each month, he’ll bring in choreographers, directors and agents from throughout the industry.
Dancers will go through a strict training Mondays and Wednesdays and rehearse on Saturdays.
“I’ll be looking for the 50 best dancers from throughout Michigan,” Packard said. “My focus is really the seven cities surrounding Lansing, but I’m also looking for talent from Flint, Ann Arbor, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Mt. Pleasant and Saginaw. You should be able to travel that far for good training. I know I did.”
Those that are part of the Institute will be eligible for commercial dance work throughout Michigan. Packard will help them get jobs in state gigs doing movies, award shows and commercials.
He plans to be a conduit for Michigan dancers to projects that he and other people do such as the Latin Grammys and films. Each year, students will be shooting music videos.
“I’m preparing them for film, commercials, television, even YouTube viral videos. I’m getting them ready for the music fields. Instead of doing a recital or a concert, we’ll be focusing more on dancers in front of the camera.”
He’ll be holding auditions June 20-22 in Rochester, Okemos and Grand Rapids. Each person auditioning will be taught a choreography tto perform before three people — Packard, YouTube celebrity Phil Wright and Michigan choreographer Alyssa Smith. Those who make it through the dance part of the audition will have a one-on-one interview with Packard.
“I want to know what kind of a dancer and a person they are before they are accepted into the Institute,” said Packard. “This is a great opportunity for the serious dancer in Michigan. If they’re wanting a career in dance, this is going to be the place they want to go. I’m always looking for the wow factor — they’ve got performance and skills and are ready to take on the world of dance.”
Variety of dance styles
The institute will have two different divisions — junior and senior — and will accommodate dancers ages 8 years old to 22. He said while he appreciates the technical side of dance when it comes to ballet and contemporary, he will also focus on such things as commercial, hip hop and street dance with the intention of giving dancers a wide range of movement to prepare them for commercial dance.
“I would always be able to do all styles of dance,” Packard said. “If they want me to die on point shoes, I could do that. If they want me to pirouette into a booty shake, I was ready to do that. I have this wide range of music, and I want to make sure that the training dancers get at the Institute is a variety of styles.”
Packard said he hopes the Institute of Dancers will become one of the leading facilities for talent to come out of Michigan. He will also be giving 10 scholarships to those in financial need.
“It’s crazy,” Packard said. “I left the state of Michigan as this boy with some dreams, and now I’m coming back with this experience to share with the next generation. I’m really excited about Pure Michigan, my heart has always been here, and I’m so looking forward to working alongside Michigan dancers.”
Institute of Dancers Auditions
Where: Oakland University, Dance Department, Varner Hall Room 207, 371 Varner Drive, Rochester.
When: June 20 3 p.m., June 21 3 p.m.’
Where: Happendance, 3448 Hagadorn Road, Okemos, Michigan
When: June 21, 3 p.m.;
Where Grand Rapids Ballet, 341 Ellsworth SW, Grand Rapids;
When: June 22, 3 p.m.;
See facebook.com/TheInstituteOfDancers for information and details on the auditions and professional program.
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