Wayne State Works with Wanjiru Kamuyu

By: Megan Drabant

Students of the Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance were very privileged to work with the amazingly talented Wanjiru Kamuyu through the opportunity of a Maggie Allesee Choreographic Residency

Wanjiru Kamuyu


Kamuyu is a native of Kenya and a M.F. A. (dance choreography and performance) graduate of Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. As a performer, Kamuyu has toured both nationally and internationally with the world-renowned choreographer Jawole Willa Jo Zollar (Urban Bush Women). As an original cast member, Kamuyu has performed in Julie Taymor’s Broadway musical, The Lion King in Paris, and following this she became an original cast member, serving as Resident Choreographer, Dance Captain and Swing of Bill T. Jones’ Tony Award winning Broadway musical FELA! at the Royal National Theatre, London.  Kamuyu just came off the road with FELA! (Dance Captain and Swing) in the show’s first European and US National Tours.

Along with being a talented dancer, teacher, and choreographer, Kamuyu is a beautiful person with a passion of sharing her love and wisdom of dance. During her residency at Wayne State, Kamuyu auditioned and re-staged an original piece on a cast of 12 dancers with 6 swings. This piece is titled when paradise shatters at it’s seams, then what? and is based around personal experiences of when one’s world falls apart and how one overcomes and stands on the other side victoriously. Though the piece was created from a personal experience of Kamuyu’s, each dancer involved in the piece brings their own personal story to the table in order to truly bring the dance to life.

The reason this residency was so different from any other experience at Wayne State was because to go to that life shattering place one must embrace a visual, verbal, and physical rehearsal process. Vulnerability was key through out the rehearsal process as to fully find the raw emotions that are necessary for the soul of the piece. Kamuyu always made the environment safe and guided the dancers through the process with a genuine caring nature. “I came into the process without any expectations. I trusted my instincts and went where they led me. I was very concerned with making sure the dancers were always safe emotionally and would not walk out of the room at any point in a fragile state that could be difficult to navigate through,” said Kamuyu.

As for the dancers, many felt that the entire experience of the residency helped them work towards the resolution of their life shattering experiences. Senior Katie Chartrand explained, “This experience forced me to tap into my vulnerability and allow myself to feel. Though it was a terrifying process, I found comfort in the trust of Wanjiru and my fellow dancers while taking the plunge into the unknown. I am very thankful to have met and worked with such an amazingly genuine human being and know that wherever she goes she will bring light to many lives.” The rehearsal process provided the opportunity for the dancers to find a safe place to explore their emotions. “Wanjiru’s piece forced me to become openly vulnerable and she allowed the space, in which we worked in, to be a sacred place with my peers. This was an unforgettable experience and I cherished every moment with her and the other dancers,” said junior James Vessell.

Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

when paradise shatters at it’s seams, then what? is an amazing piece that takes both the performers and the audience on an emotional journey that becomes personalized to each individual involved. In retrospection of the residency Kamuyu stated, “This was a very special residency because it afforded me the opportunity to bring back to life a work that is very close to my heart.  The dancers brought such great justice and integrity to the work.  I have full confidence in each and every one of the dancers to perform the work with grace and honesty.”

Come see when paradise shatters at it’s seams, then what? performed along with many other great works this weekend and next weekend at The Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance December Departmental Concert. There will be four evening performances at 7:30pm (Friday, Nov. 30 and Thursday through Saturday, Dec. 6-8) and one matinee at 3pm (Sunday, Dec. 2). All performances are held in the Maggie Allesee Studio Theatre, Room 3317 on the third floor of the Old Main building, 4841 Cass Avenue in Detroit. Ticket prices are: $12 for adults; $6 for students (with ID) and seniors; and $15 at the door. Advance tickets may be purchased through the Theatre Box Office – 4743 Cass Ave at Hancock, open 2:00pm to 6:00pm Tuesday – Saturday, online at http://wsushows.com, or by calling 313-577-2972.

For more information please visit http://www.dance.wayne.edu/


Dance Theatre of Harlem Encourages the Youth of Detroit with a Powerful Dance Intensive

By: Megan Drabant

The dyeing of shoes, organization of leotards, and perfecting of buns all preceded the first day of Dance Theatre of Harlem’s Detroit Summer Intensive. On June 25th, students who auditioned and were accepted into the program entered the doors of the Detroit Opera House (DOH) with excitement and anticipation of what would be encountered in next three weeks of the intensive. With placement classes concluding the morning of orientation, the 59 students, who range from local Detroiters to students from at least eight other states and Canada, were organized into levels of technique such as Onyx, Bronze, and Amethyst.

Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH) Summer Intensive challenges students to explore ballet and the allied arts by providing classes in ballet technique, pointe, modern, African, contemporary, jazz, improvisation, creative movement, and nutrition. With five classes a day, students are pushed in an intensive setting to become the best dancers they can be and present what they learn in a culmination performance. “Every class is very serious and everyone focuses on working hard and staying concentrated. The teachers inspire us to strive for success and to find your own individuality within the technique,” said Onyx level student Malika Mowinski.

With faculty consisting of former DTH members and affiliates, the education being received is straight from the heart of Harlem. DTH Detroit Program Artistic Director Kareen Camargo approaches class with the feeling of being “accessible to every student” while pushing them to work hard and have fun at the same time. “I want the students to feel like they are giving 110% rather than feeling like they should have done more. Every class is an opportunity to learn something new, with no regrets leaving class.”

The culminating performance for the intensive is this Friday, July 13th at 6:00pm at the Detroit Opera House, 1526 Broadway, Detroit, MI 48226. This show is free and open to the public and will include performances of ballet, jazz, modern, African, and a lecture demonstration. “Along with witnessing the growth of ballet technique, one will see how the students have found a joy for dancing and an interest in other disciplines of dance,” said Camargo. For more information regarding the performance please call Kim Smith at 313-237-3251.

It is evident that this program is beneficial for the students in attendance, but there are more positive attributes beneath the surface for the support of artistic endeavors in Detroit and abroad. By hosting the DTH Summer Intensive pilot program in Detroit, a unique partnership is in the foundation stages between DTH and DOH. We will see the results of this partnership in the Dance Theatre of Harlem’s touring performance at the DOH in February of 2013. Detroit is fortunate to be on the list of locations for the upcoming performance season, since this is the company’s first touring season in nine years since its closure in 2004. For more information regarding Dance Theatre of Harlem’s upcoming performances check out http://dancetheatreofharlem.org/ or http://www.michiganopera.org/ for specifics on the Detroit performance.



Michigan Dance Project shares the Stories of “SoulMates” for the Last Time in Ypsilanti, MI

For many, the term “soul mate” maintains a very distinct, unique meaning. It can relate to true love or best friends, but either way the connotation is very personal to the individual who uses the term. The Michigan Dance Project, being a professional contemporary based company presents a high-energy, emotionally driven experience about the meaning of this term in the original dance production “SoulMates,choreographed by founder and director Kathy King and assistant creative director Travis Staton-Marrero, while being sponsored by C & B Machinery of Livonia and Huntington National Bank.

Photographer: Ken Hornak


What makes SoulMates so unique is that it combines contemporary and hip hop dance, while being accompanied by an exciting blend of music to take the audience on a journey in understanding the many concepts of a “soul mate.” The seven Michigan Dance Project company members and seven apprentices emote real life feelings through out the constantly shifting styles of movement while maintaining quirky nuances for a wholly developed show. “SoulMates is a fantastic opportunity for anyone to experience a unique night of entertainment while also supporting many local performing artists,” explains King. Though the story lines of the different pieces are not necessarily meant to continue into one another, they stand strong enough on their own as representation of situations that one may encounter in his or her life with any type of “soul mate.”


The Michigan Dance Project was founded in 2006 and is based out of Brighton, MI with the mission of providing professional training opportunities and greater career options for dancers statewide. To promote the professional experience, the company has toured to many different performance venues, but finds a returning comfort in the Riverside Arts Center in Ypsilanti, MI. This little black box theater will be the last host of the SoulMates production in the Michigan Dance Project’s performance season. “I live and work in the Washtenaw County community, which makes this performance very special to me,” says King.


SoulMates will be performed on Friday, May 18th and Saturday, May 19th at 8:00pm and Sunday, May 20th at 2:00pm. Tickets are $10 pre-sale and $12 at the door, with discounts available to groups of 10 or more. Since seating is limited, pre-purchased tickets are recommended and can be ordered through www.michigandanceproject.com, however tickets will be available at the door one hour prior to the show. Group orders should be directed to michigandanceproject@yahoo.com, along with any other questions or inquiries.

Written By: Megan Drabant

French Choreographer Julie Bour graces Wayne State University with her Fairy Tale

By: Megan Drabant

Once upon a time, there was a French choreographer who brought her European flair to a lucky school in the United States. That choreographer just so happens to be Julie Bour, artistic director of Compagnie Julie Bour, and the lucky school is our very own Maggie Allesee Department of Dance at Wayne State University (WSU). Bour graduated from the Conservatoire National de Paris and followed her career to work with a variety of renowned choreographers around the world including Angelin Preljocaj, Inbal Pinto and Cave Canem company. As assistant to the French choreographer Angelin Preljocaj, Bour has re-staged his repertory in New York City and Bordeaux, France. Also, she had the pleasure to work with director Julie Taymor on the Opera “Grendel”. She received a Bessie Award for “Best performer of the year” in New York City.

Bour does not feel restricted by a style, a history or a technique. As a choreographer, she is driven by the need to question, mix and share. By exploring the dynamics of contemporary culture through the prism of who she is now, on any particular day, she creates work which resonates in the cultural moment. The key to Bour’s creative process is to work consistently with dancers who are committed to movement invention and to develop a technique and language over time. Bour founded The Flying Mammoth with Loic Noisette in 2006 as a bridge between the different arts, cultures and countries they have encountered over the course of their careers. The unorthodoxy and internationality of both her professional and personal paths are strongly present in her choreographic process.

As the Fall 2011 Allesee Artist in Residence, Bour worked for a week with the talented dancers of WSU through teaching morning modern technique classes and then rehearsing in the evening with the dancers selected to be in her piece. The dancers found Bour’s choreographic process to be quite refreshing and different than any other residencies they have experienced before. Senior, Jordan Holland describes Bour’s movement to be “Deep, visceral, and organic; everything has intention.” The work is very detail oriented; yet Bour’s process of developing movement directly on the spot with the dancers is different for many of the WSU students.

In setting her new work entitled “Rouge,” Bour found inspiration in the classic tale of Little Red Ridding Hood. However, Bour’s rendition of the story is twisted with a modern spin of three different endings. The multiple endings relate to the concepts of defeating, being defeated, and indecision. All three endings can be witnessed at one time during the piece as the whimsical, yet contemporary music strings the story along. Bour pushes the dancers to be strong characters and precision movers with musically, pedestrian movement. Overall, Bour’s new version of Little Red Ridding Hood is pleasantly enthralling with an underlying parallel between real life and fairy tale.

Come see “Rouge” performed at the informance on Monday, October 31, at 12:30pm in the Maggie Allesee Studio Theatre, 3317 Old Main Building, 4841 Cass Detroit, MI 48201.

This is a free event and seating is limited so please arrive fifteen minutes early. Also, “Rouge” will be performed at the December Departmental Dance Concert on December 1-2 at 7:30pm and December 4 at 2:00pm and 7:00pm in the Maggie Allesee Studio Theatre, where other works choreographed by both students and faculty will be premiered.