Dance education

Parkins will be the first Arnhold Director in Dance Education

June 30, 2022

By Kari Dickinson

Michelle (Chell) Parkins was recently named Arnhold’s inaugural Director of Dance Education with UW-Madison’s dance departmenta position she will begin on August 1.


This new position was made possible by the gift of a dance advocate, educator and founder of the Dance education laboratory Jody Gottfried Arnhold (BA 1965) and her husband John Arnhold. Their support was matched by that of the School of Education Impact 2030 initiative.

“Chell brings a wealth of experience working in dance education in New York, Tennessee and Texas,” says Andrea Harris, associate professor and director of the dance department. “She will be an innovator and a strong advocate for dance in Wisconsin public schools. We see this as a truly transformative hire, for our department, our community, and our state.

Parkins is currently a PhD candidate completing her term as Site Coordinator for the Dance education program at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her research focuses on the experiences of Latinx-identifying teachers and students engaged in culturally relevant and sustainable dance education programs. She recently served as Scholar-in-Residence and consultant to the director of community engagement at Hispanic Balletwhere she helped develop the company’s community engagement program.

Prior to her move to New York, Parkins resided in Tennessee, where she was a dance and movement consultant for the Tennessee Arts Academy, executive director of the Tennessee Association of Dance, full-time lecturer in dance at Middle Tennessee State University, and a fine arts expert for the Tennessee Department of Education.

As Parkins begins working with the School of Education, her priorities will include being a statewide and regional advocate for dance education; design and implement a dance education program at the School of Education; teaching classes, networking and collaborating with school districts; create partnerships and bridges for future dance teachers; and lead K-12 dance programming locally and beyond.

Chell Parkins dancingParkins has a bachelor’s degree in dance and theater from Washington University in St. Louis and a master’s degree in dance from the University of Texas at Austin. She is expected to receive an EdD in Dance Education from Teachers College, Columbia University in December 2022 or May 2023.

“I am thrilled to join the prestigious dance faculty at UW-Madison at a pivotal time for our country, especially regarding the dramatically changing needs of our public school youth recovering from trauma. pandemic-induced, disembodied learning and prolonged isolation,” Parkin says. “I hope to follow in the pioneering footsteps of Margaret H’Doubler, who returned from her studies at Teachers College, Columbia University, to establish the first varsity dance faculty at UW-Madison in 1926, paving the way for the teaching dance in public schools.. My vision is to create new partnerships and build on existing partnerships between the UW-Madison Dance Department and public schools, to mentor university students entering the field of dance education and to advocate for equitable access to dance education for every child in the state.