Detroit Dance City Festival brings students and pros together

Andrea Daniel
Special to the Detroit News

Local dancer Joori Jung mixes her two loves — Detroit and dance — when her ArtLab J dance studio presents the Detroit Dance City Festival this weekend.

The festival, in its second year, brings together local and out of state dancers — professionals and students — in a celebration of all things dance with more than 20 all-day workshops, classes, and afternoon and evening performances in downtown Detroit.

There are also free activities outdoors at Paradise Valley/Harmonie Park from 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m. and an after party from9-11 p.m. for the community.

“I love Detroit,” says Jung, founder and artistic director of ArtLab J over the phone. “But there is still a bad perception about it. Detroit has so much potential and opportunity, but people don’t know it. So my goal is to bring more people to Detroit through dance and change their mindset.”

Jung, a native of Seoul, South Korea, moved to Detroit from New York two years ago to open a dance studio. In her attempt to get to know the city and surrounding communities, she noticed something missing: opportunities for dancers to regularly showcase their work.

She initially wanted to create a space for herself and local artists to workshop and showcase their completed or works in progress. What started as a bi-monthly showcase at her Eastern Market ArtLab J studio expanded into the first Detroit Dance City Festival. More than 1,000 participants attended last year, coming from as far away as New York.

“After the festival, everybody said it was really great,” Jung remembers. “They said they didn’t know what to expect of the city, but when they got here, they felt really good, and they wanted to come back. That’s what’s important to me.”

DDCF’s 23 faculty members, who are all donating their time, include Jung and such local professionals as former Radio City Rockette Denise Caston and Tracy Pearson, a 2014 Kresge Fellow and dance instructor at Marygrove College in Detroit.

Pearson, who teaches a class on Modern dance Sunday, says she looks forward to watching all the other artists.

“This is my first year participating,” says the Detroit native. “And it’s one of the only times that all of the dance artists in the city have the opportunity to come together and perform and show works.”

The dancer will also showcase two pieces, the female self-exploration “Portrait,” an ensemble piece for six female dancers on Friday, and solo piece “Beauty in Life” on Sunday.

Pearson says the two pieces she is showcasing are the beginnings of the dance company she hopes to form.

Professionals coming from out of state include Carolyn Dorfman of Carolyn Dorfman Dance Company from New York and ballet dancer Sheena Annalise, founder of the all-female Arch Contemporary Dance Co., also from New York. Annalise is a returning faculty member.

“Our company tours around the country all year long,” Annalise says by phone from New York. “We definitely look forward to coming to Detroit because Detroit is such a growing community.”

Annalise leads a class in contemporary ballet Friday morning. Her four-woman piece inspired by the Arizona desert, “Fury, Written in Sand,” with an original composition by acoustic bassist Igor Kogan, will be performed Friday evening.

Andrea Daniel is a Detroit-based freelance reporter.

Detroit Dance City Festival



9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.

■Detroit Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts

350 Madison, Detroit

■The Carr Center

311 E. Grand River, Detroit

Price $15-$90


■1515 Broadway

1-1:30 p.m.

Tickets $5

■YMCA Boll Theater

6 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Tickets $30-90

Festival Passes $65-$135

(313) 683-2192