Anteaters in the Arts: Michelle Caumiant Zehnder

Michelle Caumiant Zehnder, B.A. Dance, ’76, in the dance studio at OASIS Senior Center of Newport Beach / Photo by David Baker

Michelle Caumiant Zehnder, B.A. Dance, ’76, continues to inspire students with clever choreography and carefully crafted lesson plans. Zehnder has taught ballet and jazz for the past nine years at the OASIS Senior Center of Newport Beach, for students ages 50 and up. Zehnder states that “it is a joyful experience to be able to dance and see the enthusiastic faces of my students, who feel pleased to take a class.”

Zehnder credits professors at UCI in the ’70s, James Penrod, Janice Plastino, and Antony Tudor, for awakening her love of dance. She enjoys choreographing for classmates and being inspired by their pieces. Zehnder recalls surprising moments at UCI, such as when a T.A. suggested thinking of being in church to feel calm and thus achieve balance on pointe. She remembers that Plastino nurtured individuality, Tudor graciously imparted his experience in the dance world, and Penrod encouraged kindness by example.

Having taught all ages, Zehnder says that seniors seem to appreciate dance the most. Both instructors and students are thrilled to be able to dance, albeit without double pirouettes! 

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