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.

Complexions Contemporary Ballet Detroit Summer Intensive Informance

by Julie Gervais

The one and only. Desmond Richardson teaching in the Complexions WSU Summer Intensive. Photo (c) Meg Paul

The one and only. Desmond Richardson teaching in the Complexions WSU Summer Intensive. Photo (c) Meg Paul

One week. One artistic team: high art, high-wattage, and highly committed. One hundred and twenty-seven supercharged young dancers. This was the week that Complexions came to Detroit.

A combination of good timing and longstanding professional relationships made Detroit the lucky city to be the first to host a Complexions summer intensive outside of NYC. Program Director Meg Paul, who serves as Ballet Lecturer and Company Director of the Maggie Allesee Department of Dance at Wayne State University, helped get the ball rolling. And boy did it roll! The students showed up, in the best sense: ready to work, open to new ideas, and eager to bend their bodies and their brains around the slightly challenging demands of some straight –up Complexions repertory. No modifications, thank you very much.

Desmond Richardson, Co-Artistic Director of Complexions, taught the students along with Sarita Allen, Artist-in-Residence with the Company; Jae Man Joo, Ballet Master; and Christina Dooling & Clifford Williams, both Company dancers.

Friday afternoon, the students presented their week’s work in two scheduled informances in the Maggie Allesee Studio Theatre at WSU. Mr. Richardson introduced each session and spoke of the joy of discovery that flavored the week, and of the boundaries that can be broken when no one has anything to prove to anyone except oneself.

It was a remarkable tribute to the power of showing up. Four levels, grouped after an initial Sunday placement class, dug in on Monday to several of Complexions’ works and pushed themselves to move in ways and at speeds that, it’s fair to say, they probably haven’t experienced before.

The youngest group was first on the program, and they all stepped out with true ear-to-ear grins, not the pasted-on kind. They were completely clear: whatever happened next, they would enjoy every moment. And they did, and so did we. Sections of several ballets – Mercy, Moon Over Jupiter, Rise, and the brand-new Testament – appeared, often several times, as repeated by multiple groups and sub-groups from the various levels. Seeing the same material worked by a range of student ages and abilities is a glimpse into process, a kind of time-lapse view of dancer training. A shoulder ripple is seen as a slight shudder, a larger wave, or a full spasm traveling the entire body. An arc of the torso is at hip level, or dips lower to the knee, or is thrown with daring abandon almost to brush the floor. On professional dancers, these gradations are mostly (and rightly) invisible, and while the joys of watching professional work are many, student performances offer the viewer the chance to come along, just a little, on the journey taken by dancers-in-training, with all their triumphs and their struggles.

Students in the Complexions WSU Intensive: Raquel Mar (L) and KC Shonk (R). Photo (c) Meg Paul

Students in the Complexions WSU Intensive: Raquel Mar (L) and KC Shonk (R). Photo (c) Meg Paul

There was improvisation too, introduced by Jae Man Joo, who calmly announced that he had no idea what was about to happen. No breaks of focus or concentration showed as the young dancers explored paths sometimes all their own, sometimes intertwined with each other, and sometimes involving the first-row audience members. Perhaps the largest goose bumps of the afternoon were caused by a small girl during the improv section. Tiniest by far of all the students, she found herself in wordless conversation of gesture with none other than Maggie Allesee, Detroit’s guardian angel of dance. It would be tough to script a more touching moment.

Soloist Joseph Badalamenti deserves special mention for the electricity generated by his ravenous appetite for movement. Some dancers burn into the retina, in a good way. It will be fun to follow the progress of Joseph and the rest of Detroit’s talented dance students as they make their way.