Junior Kenthia Farmer remembers falling in love with the world of theater and dance before she could stand. Her parents are paid to dance at events, and her father once strutted his stuff on the 1980s TV show “Dance Fever.”
But Farmer never saw herself getting involved with a campus production company until one day during her sophomore year when the idea came up while messing around with friends.
“It all started when I was joking around with my friends,” Farmer said. “I don’t remember exactly what we were talking about, but I came up with the idea of starting my own performing arts organization. At first I didn’t think it was realistic, but then last April I just went for it.”
And thus, in 2013, Rhythm Nation, a production group that puts on original skit-like dance performances set to professional and student-produced music, was born. Since then, with Farmer as president, the organization has put on various semi-annual shows, won an International Dance Challenge-sponsored competition last November, and performed at halftime of a UM women’s basketball game.
Rhythm Nation has become a valuable addition to the Wellness Center’s diverse club sports program.
“Rhythm Nation is one of four dance clubs under the Wellness Center,” said the group’s adviser, Connie Nickel. “On top of our dance clubs, we have various martial arts, we have scuba club and other unique options. We try to give students a wide range of options.”
Though the club isn’t even a year old and already has an impressive list of accomplishments, Farmer continues to work hard to organize weekend practices and performances every semester as well as numerous club activities.
“Kenthia is the core of the club,” Rhythm Nation dancer Sonny Huynh said. “She organizes pretty much every event from scratch, and she dedicates a lot of her time doing behind-the-scenes work including paperwork and connecting with other organizations. Also, she makes most of the choreography that we do. Not sure what we’d do without her.”
Farmer has been developing her work ethic, an impressive talent for creating choreography and strong dancing skills, since she was little.
“Dancing has always been a part of my life,” she said. “Both of my parents are dancers. I’ve danced since I was young, and I took advanced dance classes in middle school and high school.”
In grade and high school, Farmer worked both backstage and onstage in an annual Black History Month production at a church in Memphis, her hometown.
“I’ve been a dancer in the show, I’ve helped with props and set design and I’ve had lead and supporting roles,” Farmer said. “The skills I developed helped me learn how to organize a show and teach people how to dance and perform.”
The church productions inspired her to make Rhythm Nation’s performances as innovative as possible.
“I want Rhythm Nation to use as much original music and choreography as possible, just like the shows at the church did,” Farmer said. “I look at groups like STOMP and the Blue Man Group. We want to be different, original and creative like them.”
Auditions for Rhythm Nation are held once a semester, but impromptu tryouts take place as needed. Farmer said all interested students are welcome to join Rhythm Nation, regardless of their talent level. She said she tries to inspire the club’s 20 members to step outside of their comfort zones and master multiple areas of performance.
“Kenthia encourages club members to embrace their style of dance theater, and music, but also to open up their minds to new styles as well,” club secretary Shellby Johnson said. “We’re open to all areas of performing arts, and we like our members to enjoy multiple levels of production.”
Farmer and her group are currently working on a show for UM’s Tunnel of Oppression program, and they also have an original music video in the works. Farmer has lofty goals for the club.
“I definitely want Rhythm Nation to be one of the biggest production clubs on campus,” she said. “When people think of the growing presence of performing arts on campus, I want them to think of us.”
For more information:
Club dues are $10 per semester. To get involved with Rhythm Nation, email Farmer at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a message to the club’s Facebook page.