The art of dance has taken Michelle Contrino literally around the world and, at present, has landed her a role as a faculty member at Southeast Missouri State University. She joined the faculty at Southeast on Nov. 1, 2009 to replace a faculty member who left for another position on the east coast. Michelle now serves as the artistic director of outstanding balance contemporary dance ensemble.
Although Michelle is new to Southeast, she is hardly new to the world of performance and dance; in fact, she is a seasoned performer, choreographer and director of jazz, tap, and ballet and modern and musical theatre. Michelle graduated from Arizona State University in 1991 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Dance and traveled abroad for nine years, working as a dancer for various luxury cruise lines.
“I absolutely loved the experience!” she says. “I worked for seven different cruise lines, performing hundreds of Broadway and Las Vegas Revue shows. I traveled to places such as Tokyo, Vladivostok, St. Petersburg, Barcelona, St. Tropez, Paris, Copenhagen and Reykjavik. My favorite ports were Venice, Saigon, Bali and the island of Komodo in Indonesia. I grew not only as a performer but also as a person, befriending and working with people from many different countries around the world and experiencing a myriad of world cultures.”
Michelle and her husband, Jay, subsequently lived in Nashville, Tenn. for three years, where she was on faculty at the School of Nashville Ballet and a member of Epiphany Modern Dance Company. Michelle earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in Dance Performance and Choreography from Texas Woman’s University in 2006, graduating as a member of Phi Kappa Phi Honors Society and the National Dean's List.
From 2004-2009, Michelle was on faculty at Texas Woman’s University, the University of North Texas, North Central Texas College and Tarrant County College. She is an active member of the National Dance Education Organization (NDEO) and Congress on Research in Dance (CORD). Michelle’s research and performance interests include jazz history and improvisation, especially the integration of live jazz music and dance.
This summer, Michelle will be traveling to Italy to serve on faculty at a summer dance workshop.
“This will be my third year teaching and choreographing at the Tuscan Summer Dance Intensive in Tuscany, Italy,” Michelle says. “The workshop is a three-week intensive of jazz, tap, ballet and modern dance techniques combined into a month-long immersion in Italian art, history, cuisine and culture. Students live in summer apartments in the town of Castiglioncello, supplemented by trips to Rome, Pisa, Florence and three days in Umbria at the Perugia Jazz Festival.”
“The most rewarding part of my profession is watching the learning process transform students into open-minded, empathetic and proactive members of society,” she says. “I teach because I hope to contribute to this process in positive ways.”
Michelle says her secret to success is love: having love in her life and loving what she does.
“I have a husband, father, in-laws and friends who believe in me and support me in all my endeavors. Dance has afforded me an education and a life I could have never imagined. As a performer, choreographer and educator, it is my joy to share with others the passion, enjoyment and success I have found in the world of dance,” she says.
Michelle offered the following advice to future Southeast students.
“Open your mind and widen your sight lines, ask questions, hone skills for growth and responsibility, be kind, gracious and thankful and enjoy this wonderful journey called college!”
Originally from Kansas City, Mo., Michelle and her husband live in the Cape Girardeau area. She says they have two “pseudo-children,” Paolo and Fredo, who are 2 ½ year-old maltese and poodle puppies.