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Meet Your Neighbors: Melli Hoppe

Meet Melli Hoppe! Melli received a BA in dance from Columbia College in Chicago and a MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts from Goddard College in Vermont. She is a teaching Artist with Arts for Learning Indiana. She was the Artistic Director of Susurrus Performance Group in Indianapolis from 1993-2013 and taught stage movement and site-specific theatre at Butler University from 2002-2012. Melli recently moved back to her hometown, Michigan City, Indiana, where she is focusing on performance and ecology through a dance residency with 3rd grade students at Pine Elementary and through her involvement with a community festival, sponsored by Save the Dunes, which will take place at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in September 2016. 

What brought you to the dunes? I was born in Michigan City and spent almost every summer day on the beach or sailing when I was growing up. Even though I lived in Indianapolis for 25 years, the dunes have always been my spiritual home. They not only have been a place for holidays, celebrations and family gatherings, they center and rejuvenate me.

How long have you lived here? I grew up here, moved to Indianapolis in 1988 and moved back here three years ago.

What is your favorite thing to do in the area? Walk on the beach or in Moon Valley.

Tell us a secret about the dunes. A lot of people outside of Michigan City or Long Beach do not know about Moon Valley. This is a dune behind Sheridan Beach and Long Beach. Parts of it were mined for glass. It includes dunes, woods, marshes, and prairies. Even the parts of that were mined are slowly recovering and now are home to oak trees, wildflowers and grasses.

Give us your top three “hidden treasures” (restaurant, shop, trail, beach, event…really anything!)

  1. Stockwell Woods: A beautiful nature preserve within Moon Valley in Long Beach owned and managed by Save the Dunes.

  2. Trattoria Tonelli: This is probably not very hidden, but it is a fantastic Italian restaurant in downtown Michigan City.

  3. South Shore Dance Alliance: This is a dance company in Griffith Indiana that is an example of the amazing artistic talent coming out of Northwest Indiana.

What would you like to teach people about the dunes? Lake Michigan and the Indiana dunes have been a place for artistic inspiration for generations. In 1917, a group of artists and dunes activists created a pageant that drew national attention to saving the dunes from industrial development. I have read that approximately one thousand actors, dancers, choruses and orchestras were recruited to perform for an audience of 40,000 people. It was the largest outdoor pageant ever to be presented in the United States and was originally titled “Saving the Dunes Pageant.”

Anything else? Save the Dunes is producing a festival, “The Dunes Blowout: A Festival of Performance and Ecology.” This event is intended to honor the 1917 Dunes Pageant and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, and Indiana’s bicentennial.  It will take place at West Beach in the National Lakeshore on September 24th and 25th. It will showcase performers from Central and Northwest Indiana including: No Exit (Indianapolis), Indiana Ballet Theatre (Merrillville), South Shore Dance Alliance (Griffith), Wirt-Emerson Jazz Band (Gary), and students from Pine Fine Arts Magnet Elementary (Michigan City).

Poster created by Mark Coleman

Poster created by Mark Coleman

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