Detroit Arts Revival

A new dance festival unifies the city’s growing arts scene.   

ARTLAB J DANCE (top) in Joori Jung’s Rite of Spring; The Umbrella Co. (below) in Brooklyn Spoke;both from the 2013 DDCF.

Two years ago, finances required Joori Jung to choose between moving back to her native South Korea or someplace in the U.S. other than Manhattan. When her fiancé invited her to take a tour of downtown Detroit, she was surprised there weren’t any people walking on the streets. “It felt so cold, as if Detroit and I were in the same boat,” Jung says. “That’s when I decided I wanted to come here and bring a warm energy through dance. I want to see it become a bright city again.”

Jung moved to Detroit to teach, dance and choreograph, continuing a career that began with stops at Seoul Dance Theatre in South Korea, and Time Lapse Dance and Amanda Selwyn Dance Theatre in New York City. During her first year, she founded ARTLAB J, a nonprofit that provides a space for literary and performing arts and has a goal of boosting Detroit’s dance community.

Last year, through that organization, she launched the Detroit Dance City Festival (DDCF), which involved three days of dance classes for all ages and abilities, as well as performances from 40 local and national dance companies—ultimately reaching 100 students and 600 audience members. Its participants included “So You Think You Can Dance” hip-hop duo D*Day and 2012 Dance Teacher Award–winner Liz Schmidt.

The festival is expanding this year to include a new international exchange with South Korea’s Gwang Jin International Summer Dance Festival. One choreographer from DDCF will be selected to present their work as part of the 2015 Gwang Jin festival and vice versa. “It’s an exciting opportunity for Michigan-based artists to connect and work with artists from around the world, furthering Detroit Dance City Festival’s mission to make Detroit a cultural destination,” Jung says.

DDCF runs August 22–24 and will offer pre-professional and professional dance workshops in a wide range of styles, including modern, hip hop, jazz, African, improv, contemporary and ballet. Every day there will be three performances from local and national dance companies, plus an after party. The lineup will include companies from Michigan, California, New York, New Jersey, Georgia, Iowa and Illinois.

Kasi Seguin, who helped organize the festival last year, says it brings in dancers from other parts of the state and country and showcases the city. “Detroit has a terrible reputation,” she says, “and we want to change people’s perspectives, one dancer at a time.” DT

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Hannah Maria Hayes is a frequent contributor to Dance Teacher.

Photos courtesy of Detroit Dance City Festival

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