The Detroit dance community is unique and innovative in its ranges and styles, consisting of many dance forms and disciplines from the concert world to street dance. Detroit even has its very own original style: Jit!
Detroit is home to beautiful, traditional concert venues like Music Hall, the Opera House, and the Detroit Film Theatre at the Detroit Institute of Arts and more non-traditional locations like the outdoor stages during summer in Campus Martius, Eastern Market and parks around the downtown area. Detroit is full of creative and exciting dance companies, studios with drop-in classes for adults, and annual dance and arts festivals.
Take Root, a Detroit-based modern dance company, strives to impact the lives of others and provide equal opportunities through the art of movement and music. Take Root’s multi-disciplinary approach to concepts and movement allows for their accessibility to all ages and backgrounds. They investigate the process of human connections, allowing their unique voice to directly reach audiences. Take Root has offered weekly Dance for Parkinson’s Disease and Arts Education Impact Outreach Programs in a multitude of locations, lecture/demonstrations for hospitals, outpatient programs and school assemblies. Pre-Pandemic, Take Root’s season included national and local performances as well as a tour of Berlin, Germany. The company is finally back to rehearsing in-person at Oakland University where they are creating a social distance interactive outdoor performance for Spring 2021.
ArtLab J, a multi-faceted dance juggernaut in Detroit, has three branches of operation from Dance, to “Lab,” to Education. These branches function to advance the dance arts and connect people. ArtLab J unites people across divides of race, age, sex, class, gender, religion, status, and experience to form a professional dance company while also offering rigorous training that transforms young, emerging dancers into well-rounded artists. They also produce performance series for artists to present their work in front of a live audience.
The street dance community in Detroit is vibrant, as well. Hardcore Detroit and Motor City Street Dance Academy have been at the forefront of performance and community engagement. Hardcore Detroit is a dance collective as well as a cultural aesthetic with its own line of apparel. Founder, Haleem Rasul, is very versed in Detroit’s own style called Jit. “After exploring dance in other communities, I gained more appreciation for Detroit’s own innovations”, says Rasul, and by March 2009 he tracked down the Jitterbugs, the group recognized for developing the Detroit Jit in the 1970’s. After compiling exclusive interviews with them and other pioneers, he released a DVD illustrating the history of the jit through oral narratives, images, and never-before-seen footage. His mission is to continue expanding creative heights for Detroit’s own unique movements and to continue to inspire other curators to lead future projects centered on cultural engagement/reciprocity, education, performance, tournaments, documentation, archiving, and various beneficial opportunities that will continue to uphold the legacy of the dances born in Detroit as true art forms. Motor City Street Dance Academy (MCSDA) works to enhance the lives of Detroiters through hip-hop, physical activity, and healthy living. Their purpose is grounded to uplift the disenfranchised communities in Detroit, much like the way the pioneers of hip-hop did decades ago. They work actively to mentor the youth and provide a safe space for them to express themselves. Their vision is driven by a promise to create accessible hip hop arts programming that holds youth voice priority by offering classes in Breakdance, Hip Hip, Graffiti Art, Yoga, DJing, and Beat Production. They’ve offered monthly and yearly events such as Cypher Night, annual competitions, and pop-up performances.
Dance Festivals are also alive and well in Detroit such as the Sidewalk Festival and Detroit Dance City Festival (DDCF). The Sidewalk Festival celebrates and uplifts the pedestrian experience in Detroit. “We accomplish this by collaborating with artists across many mediums to create an immersive and interactive experience which turns alleys, streets, and sidewalks into stages. Dance has always been a major part of this festival. Our Founder Ryan Myers-Johnson began the festival from her perspective as a dancer, wanting to bring movement artists out of blackbox theatres and into the streets for all Detroiters to enjoy.”, says Sophie Stockum, Parks and Greenspace Manager of Sidewalk Festival. This year the Sidewalk Festival decided to serve their community from a distance and launched an Online Artist Residency for people to engage with from home. They partnered with Kresge Arts in Detroit to create a distanced pop-up performance series called NOW:FUTURE--bringing concerts to neighborhoods for folks to enjoy from their front porches and yards. Detroit Dance City Festival (DDCF) is an annual community building event that celebrates dance in its various forms and disciplines. DDCF includes performances, master classes, and networking opportunities all held in Detroit at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA). Their mission is to educate diverse audiences about the impact of dance, provide opportunities for artists to share their work, and create an artistic network linking Michigan, the greater US, and the world! DDCF brings the work of renowned local, national, and international performing artists, choreographers, and companies to the stage and also hosts a variety of Master Classes taught by leading practitioners of diverse styles of dance, and a Kids Dance Camp for younger dancers. Since partnering with Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA), DDCF’s programs have expanded to include outdoor events and performances, free and open to all. DDCF also has festival exchange program opportunities with other international festivals.
Detroit’s vibrant dance scene has a spot for everyone in it in a creative, and historic city. No matter your background or style, Detroit welcomes all people together. We hope to dance with you soon!