Oakland University's Ali Woerner Named Top Winner of the County Executive's Elite 40 Under 40 Class

Woerner, an assistant professor of dance, beat out two other finalists in a public vote to determine the winner.

Following a public vote, Oakland University’s own Ali Woerner has been named the overall winner of the 2016 Oakland County Executive’s Elite 40 under 40 class. The class spotlights outstanding professionals under the age of 40 who live or work in Oakland County and have made a positive difference in their field and community. 

Woerner, an assistant professor of dance, beat out two other finalists and was announced as this year’s winner at County Executive L. Brooks Patterson’s State of the County address on Feb. 10. As the top winner of this year’s class, Woerner will be invited to attend Oakland County events and meet with County Executive L. Brooks Patterson and other leaders.

Woerner, 38, has taught at Oakland for the past six years and is co-founder and co-director of the highly innovative, nonprofit, professional modern dance company,Take Root. Since its inception in 2013, the company has been invited to teach master classes and perform in South Korea, Germany, Costa Rica and throughout the United States. Woerner, a former Radio City Music Hall Rockette, has been recognized for offering a dance class for people with Parkinson’s disease. The class has more than 40 participants, who come from Oakland County and surrounding areas. Woerner has also led demonstration classes at Oakland County hospitals and at the Rochester Older Persons’ Commission.

Distinguished Professor Jackie Wiggins, chair of OU’s Department of Music, Theatre and Dance, describes Woerner as “the consummate artist and teacher.” Colleagues describe her as a dynamic performer and teacher who works with the utmost in artistic integrity, approaching movement with a uniqueness that has been recognized as distinctive, innovative, intelligent and powerful. Her dance company, co-founded with Oakland University colleague associate professor Thayer Jonutz, commands attention with its intricate partnering, thought-provoking details and unrestricted vision. Take Root’s kinesthetic connections to one another and to their audiences create thoughtful and visceral works of art, from the smallest gesture to the most explosive charges of movement.

OU alumna Jeannette (Smither) Brown was also among the three finalists in this year’s 40 Under 40 class, which featured 11 individuals with ties to the university. She is co-founder and chief operations officer of Dutton Farm, a Rochester-based non-profit that serves individuals with mental, physical and emotional impairments in Oakland County.