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Take 5 with Greg Patterson

Thursday, August 11, 2011
Take 5 with Greg Patterson
By Katie Land, news editor

Composed of a diverse array of faculty, staff and administrators, the Oakland University community is unique, creative, and dedicated. As part of a continuing effort to explore the various roles and lives of our Golden Grizzlies, the News @ OU website presents a new interview series. We invite you to share these stories and “Take 5” with OU. 

“Take 5 with Gregory Patterson”
Greg Patterson is the director of Oakland University's dance program, and an associate professor of dance. Although Greg didn't join the OU community officially until 1991, he was involved on campus, teaching dance courses part time. As a certified Pilates instructor, Greg is able to teach a number of conditioning and strength courses in addition to courses in jazz and modern dance technique, dance conditioning, dance for musical theater, dance history and dance production. On campus, Greg is involved in a variety of productions and often works to choreograph concerts. He is the founder of the Patterson Rhythm Pace Dance Company, who celebrated its debut performance in New York last year.

1) What is the most challenging aspect of your role?

This is my fourth year as the program director for dance, and it can certainly be a challenge. Before I became director, I knew a lot of the program operations that the role required, but it is still different to actually do it. It takes a lot of time to accomplish everything. The real challenge is to maintain a good program while introducing new and distinct features that will make Oakland competitive to other schools. I cherish the opportunity to be here, in this role, able to implement my vision for the program. But it is certainly not easy.

2) What do you enjoy most about teaching at a university?

I love watching students come in as freshmen and grow and realize their potential. I love to see where students are capable of going in four years. Some are very motivated, others are hesitant or unsure of their direction. I believe that teaching is vital. It is wonderful and interesting to see how students change and become more or less serious about dance and the role it will play in their lives. For the students who really want to have a dancing career, it is really tough. They have to be serious, ready to dance for six hours a day, plus work in rehearsals in the evenings. As professors, we also take on the role of mentor, and see our students every day. All of our dance instructors really spend a lot of time with individual students, and we get to know them personally, and see what they are capable of as dancers. I love to see our students achieve.

3) Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Ohio, where I was a competitive diver since I was 11. I dove all through high school and college. I knew I liked dance, but my diving schedule didn't leave room to try any other activities. In my junior year of college, I had to take a phys ed class, and chose modern dance. I suppose you could say that course changed my life.

4) Do you have a favorite book or genre of literature?

I love biographies. Two of my favorites are about Greg Louganis and Doris Travis. Greg Louganis is the Olympic diver who hit his head on the board during the games, but went on to win two more gold medals. He overcame some serious odds when he continued diving after hitting his head. He is now an author and HIV awareness advocate. His story is wonderful, just wonderful. I actually was able to meet him a number of years ago, when he came to OU for a book signing.

The other life I enjoy reading about is Doris Eaton Travis, the last of the Ziegfeld Follies girls. She was a wonderful dancer and remarkable performer, who lived to be 106 years old. She actually received an honorary degree from Oakland University, and became an OU donor. She set up an endowment, the Travis Professorship, which recognizes MTD professors and helps them in their careers. I was lucky enough to be selected for one.

5) What advice would you offer a young dancer?

I think it is important for young dancers to decide early on if they want to take dance seriously as a career or not. It is so important to start on the right foot, it changes the way you are trained. If you can decide what you want, whether to keep dance as a pastime or a career, you will be more successful. To be a professional dancer, it takes passion, time, focus and discipline.