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

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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/

 

Meg Paul, Program Director, Complexions Detroit Summer Intensive

dp: Detroit is one lucky city! This is Complexions’ first summer intensive outside of NYC. How did that happen?

dp: And it looks like the program is a big success! Lots of students!

dp: So it sounds like it bodes well for a repeat next year?

dp: Dancers today need to train and become proficient in a wide variety of styles. How do you feel this generation of students is managing to balance all of these demands while still building basic technique?

dp: And how do you and the other teachers feel overall about the level of training of students coming in to the program?

dp: Is there one big change you can single out, in a perfect world, that we can make as dance educators today to improve the overall dance scene?

dp: Overall influence of the television dance scene on theatre/concert dance: positive or negative? I happened to see an interview with Dwight Rhoden after an episode of SYTYCD and the interviewer was not aware of the existence of the Company. How do we leverage the popularity of dance on TV into more overall support?

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