Dance and Music are Essential to Humanity | Detroit Performs

– [DJ] In this episodeof “Detroit Performs, ” a professionalcontemporary dance company, the beginnings of Detroit'shistoric orchestra hall, and a Detroit playgets a Broadway nod.

It's all ahead in thisedition of “Detroit Performs.

” – [Announcer] Fundingfor “Detroit Performs” is provided by the Fred A.

and Barbara M.

ErbFamily Foundation.

The Kresge Foundation.

The A.

Paul and CarolC.

Schaap Foundation.

The Michigan Council forArts & Cultural Affairs.

The National Endowmentfor the Arts.

The DeRoy TestamentaryFoundation.

And by contributionsto your PBS station from viewers like you.

Thank you.

(energetic music) – Hello and welcometo “Detroit Performs”.

I am your host, DJ Oliver, and today I'm coming to you from my living roomas we stay home to make sure eachother is safe out there during thiscoronavirus pandemic.

We here at “DetroitPerforms” are thrilled that you are joining us forthe next half hour, as we aim to pleaseyou with some beautiful arts and culture righthere in Metro Detroit.

Hopefully we'll be ableto do it in person soon.

But kicking things off in”Detroit Performs'” 10th season is DDCdances, a professionalcontemporary dance company that has been around since 1980.

Take a look as they rehearsethe show “Stomping Ground”.

(mellow music) – [Amy] The traditionalforms of modern dance continue to speak toan ever-changing world.

– The essence of dance, for me, is about humanity.

And there's so much in thisworld today to express.

– DDC is a group ofperforming artists that bring modern dancethroughout Detroit and the greater Detroit area, and also we provideoutreach education programs throughout Michigan.

– DDCdances began in 1980.

We were founded at WayneState University, actually.

The founding members werePaula Kramer, Anita Sumer, and Suellen Dar and myself.

We focused on a techniquethat was developed and designed by DorisHumphrey and Jose Limon, pioneers of modern dance.

And really, the genretoday still really works, because it's based on howhuman beings like to move in space and time.

So that's what we likedabout working in that way, and so obviously after40 years it's developed into something alittle bit different, because those two, Humphrey and Limon, wanted future generationsto develop their technique.

– I started out inballet growing up, and in college I firstdiscovered modern dance and really fell in love with it, just because of theexpressivity, the freedom, yet its connectednessand roots to ballet and to a strict technique.

It just reallyallows for expression and a lot of creativityin terms of music choices, choreographic choices, choreographic sites.

– [Barbara] I really like tolook not just for technique, but for performance skills, who they are as people and what they communicatethrough their body.

We work a lot throughimprovisation.

So when I'm making choreography, it's the idea of abreath and gravity.

It's all natural elementsthat surround us.

So we work on improvthat's based on ideas that interest me as a choreographer.

There are dances in ourupcoming concert that deal with climate change, thatdeal with mental health, that deal with extinction.

So all of these things areimportant to society today and we're expressing how we feel about these issuesthrough movement.

– So there's a lot thatgoes back and forth.

As a dancer, you're notjust simply a dancer.

You're a choreographer, you're innovating with the artistic director, which is a really beautiful part of this company.

– She comes in, putsa bench down in black, and she'll sit downand be forward, and lights andmusic go together.

Today we are doing a techfor each of the pieces, so you'll be watchingus create the lighting.

And then once thelighting's created, then we will run the piece, like a dress rehearsal.

Getting the right lightingdesign to enhance the dance and to really be apartner of the dance.

So stage lighting isreally very important.

It becomes a marriagebetween the dance, dancers, and the space.

Well, the first piece onthe program were excerpts from a whole eveningwork that we did at Jam Handy last fall, and it's called “Rock On.

” And I've always wantedto create a concert based on rock music.

So there's some smallexcerpts from that, so you'll seedancers performing to some of the classic rock music that we all know and love.

One of my young dancers, anemerging artist, Liz LeClaire, she choreographed a new solo.

I really like to giveyoung emerging artists an opportunity toshow their work.

So her work is actuallybased on mental health.

It's really interesting, the way she communicatesthose ideas.

There's a piece that Ichoreographed 30 years ago.

It's called “Journey's End, ” and that's based onenvironmental change.

And 30 years ago we were talkingabout environmental change, and this piece isstill pertinent today.

It happens to be performedto the music of the Beatles.

The last work iscalled “Absence.

” It's a brand-newpremiere for me, and it deals withthe idea of loss, what has been lost or gonemay never exist again.

And the dancers allwrote their own stories.

So that was like a jumpingoff point for the work.

They all created movementbased on the idea that they had writtenon their story, and then we improvisedwith it and then I take it and I mold it and I changeit and I structure it to express the full pieceand what we want to say in terms of thatparticular idea.

Each of the individualdancers in the company bring their own voiceto the movement.

So whatever that means to them, they create gestures, perhaps, or entire movement phrasesthat deal with their story.

– The wonderful thing aboutit is that often times there are manyinterpretations to it.

So it doesn't have tohave a certain, like, one specific meaning, as is the case in manydifferent forms of modern art.

It's really inspiring todance with my colleagues.

They all have their strengths, and we're allunique in our ways, but we come togetherand, you know, are stronger asa group, I think.

– I'm really proudof the company, because I think wehave a variety of ways to communicate the art form.

Our heart and soul reallygoes into our productions, our classes, our workshops, everything we dowith the community has meant so much to us, and we are hopingit has meant a lot to the people that we serve.

– You can learn moreabout DDCdances, as well as all theartists that we feature, on DetroitPerforms.


Detroit's historicOrchestra Hall was built in the summer of 1919, andin the first six episodes of this season of”Detroit Performs, ” we'll be taking you throughthe life of Orchestra Hall, from before itsconstruction through its survival over theyears to the present.

Let's start at the beginning.

(haunting music) – A great city can't be a greatcity without great culture.

And in any great city, thoseiconic physical pillars of the community area bit of a compass for those who live here andthose who come to visit.

– Orchestra Hall is one ofmany stages here in Detroit, but it's probably thegem of all those stages.

– When I first walked inthe door of Orchestra Hall for the very first time, when our then concertmaster was playing solo, as she used to do everyMonday on the stage, it took my breath away.

– It's a fantastichistorical, cultural asset.

The orchestra's great, butit's the whole environment.

It's the ambience, it's everything.

– There's been amember of my family in the Detroit Symphonyfor half a century.

As a kid, I always feltlike I was being transported kind of to another worldwhen I would come here.

There's a certainmagic that's involved when you knowyou're in a building where great peoplehave stood before you.

– When we play the music ofRachmaninoff, for example, you know, to think thathe once sat at a piano on this stage and gave arecital, it's amazing to me.

And to think that LouieArmstrong performedon this stage.

– [Adrienne] There's avibration that comes with that, and it's just such afulfilling experience as an audience member and asan artist on stage as well.

– There's a reason thatpeople come to Orchestra Hall, and it's not justabout the music.

It's about thesense of community.

– In some ways, thisbuilding is a looking glass for what this city used to be, what it became, and what itstill could be in the future.

Cultural history, economichistory, political history, our history with race in thiscountry and in this city, all of that has flowedthrough this building.

– This hall has cometo symbolize survival.

Survival of the culture, ofmusic and the arts in Detroit.

Survival of theorchestra itself.

And survival of the building, which was, of course, set to be destroyed, and yet here we arein one of the most glorious buildingsfor hearing music.

– [Narrator] The storyof Orchestra Hall is the story of Detroit.

It's been celebrated, and sometimes forgotten.

It's been marveledat, and left to decay.

But in spite ofthe many challenges it has faced in 100 years, it still stands today as a testament to theresilience of a city, its people, and their hall.

– I think OrchestraHall is made special because Detroit issuch a unique city.

The citizens make the historyand they make the building and make the moment, and there's just a thing that this city has that's just, I've always loved this city.

Even when it was goingthrough its rough times and it's barren, there's an energy here.

– It is a much-storiedorchestra hall.

Each person has a uniqueexperience at Orchestra Hall.

And the more those come tobe heard and thought about, the more that the storiesof Orchestra Hall increase.

– I've been fortunateenough to attend concerts in some of the besthalls in America and in Europe, and there'sno place that I would rather listen to musicthan Orchestra Hall.

I think it's the acoustics, it's the intimacy of the hall.

– I've heard WyntonMarsalis literally push the microphone awayand wander around the hall, and just tell thewhole audience, “This is the bestspace to play.

” – It's like, when youstep out on the stage, there's a sound therethat's its own character.

And soon as you hita note, you go, bah.

And I go bah, but the rest ofthe sound goes, baah, right? And it resonatesthrough the room.

And then you go, “Oh.

” – Orchestra Halldoesn't make a sound.

It's the sound of OrchestraHall that people speak about, but it's the silenceof Orchestra Hall in which that sound opens.

– A lot of hallssoak up the sound.

This hall actuallyhelps create and allows the soundto grow, to linger.

– The hall is kind of anextension of our instrument.

You're never gonna have topush your sound to be heard.

The hall will do mostof the work for you.

– You can hear a pindrop in this hall from the very back seat.

It just fills the room.

– I'll never forget, actually, the first rehearsal I had, before I became music director, and hearing this soundcome off of this stage.

(sweeping orchestral music) I was not prepared for it.

I didn't know muchabout Orchestra Hall, and I was totally floored by it.

– Lena Horne is the onethat made the statement that she didn't needa microphone, thatkind of situation.

But I saw others, there wasa lot of people that didn't.

Sometimes the microphone, everything went out.

The sound left, and it continued.

Nobody knew any difference.

– I think we sometimesare amazed at Orchestra Hall's acoustics and how they could'veaccomplished that.

But I think it's justone of those things where the magic of thepeople coming together just made it happen.

– [Narrator] While it'shard to imagine today, there was a time when Detroit was a city stillsearching for an identity.

There was no MotorCity or Motown sound.

The automotive industrywas in its infancy, and early supporters of the arts struggled to convincetheir community that music was not only a benefit oflife in a thriving city, but a necessity.

While on record as the nation'sfourth-oldest orchestra, by 1911, the city'ssymphony seemed already too weak to survive, andhad closed its doors.

– There was a DetroitSymphony Orchestra before Orchestra Hall.

There had been an iterationof the Detroit Orchestra very early, far morethan 100 years ago, in the late 19th century.

That iteration died, andthe it was reborn in 1914 as what we think of, maybe, as our modern DetroitSymphony Orchestra.

– In 1914, 10 ladies of Detroit, gathering in the music roomof Miss Francis Sibley, started an orchestra again.

They each gave I think $100, and they got friends involved, and they provided aseries of concerts.

In that February, andthen seasons after that.

– Just having an orchestraafter having had it collapse was a victory for thecity, so it existed, but it is fair tosay, certainly, that it was not until OssipGabrilowitsch came here that we were a force on the, sort of the national scene.

We're talking about one ofthe world's great pianists who comes out ofthe long tradition, Russian-born conductor.

We won the lottery in some ways in that Gabrilowitsch comes here and is intrigued by thecity and by the orchestra.

– Gabrilowitschplayed and conducted for the 1918-1919 season, and they were performing their last concert atthe Arcadia Ballroom, which was just downWoodward Avenue here.

And the manager, Mr.

Harry Sifers, was standing offstage atthe end of the concert, and Gabrilowitschfinally, you know, the applause was just rapturous, and yelling and everything else.

And Gabrilowitsch walkedoff, and Harry Sifer said, “Maestro, listen to the reactionof this Detroit audience.

“Look at at it.

“Now, you must agreeto accept the offer “of our Board of Directors tobecome our next conductor.

” And Gabrilowitschsaid, very simply, “Well, you know theone condition underwhich I will return.

“There is no suitablehome for music in Detroit.

“So build me a concerthall, or I won't come back.

” – [Narrator] In theearly summer of 1919, the symphony's board ofdirectors were at a crossroads.

They had escaped extinction, and found a world-classconductor to lead them, but to keep him, they needed aworld-class venue to play in, and had only a matter ofmonths in which to build it.

(energetic music) – Now let's check outsome upcoming events coming to you virtuallyfrom around the D.

(energetic music) Next up, “Birthday Candles”had its world debut at Detroit Public Theater, to such rave reviews that Broadway came calling.

But due to theCOVID-19 situation, theshow was postponed.

“One Detroit's” ChristyMcDonald caught up with Detroit Public Theateras well as the director of “Birthday Candles”to find out what impact COVID-19 was having onthe theater community as well as what happenswhen Broadway opens back up with “Birthday Candles.

” Take a look.

– Have I wasted my life? – You're 17, Goose.

– In the career of my soul, how many times haveI turned from wonder? How many moments of gracehave I left unnoticed? How much love haveI left unsaid? – All right, joining me now, the three producingartistic directors of the Detroit Public Theater.

Sarah Winkler, SarahClare Corporandy, and Courtney Burkett.

Ladies, it's great to see you.

– It's great.

– Thank you for having us.

– So good to see you.

– Hello.

You must all be missingyour crew, your theater, your actors, Courtney, whathas this been like so far? – I think we've missedthe artists a lot, but we've reallymissed the audience.

It's really hard to nothave the opportunity to invite people in andgather and tell these stories and have theseprofound experiences that people have in the theater, this kind of explorationof our shared humanity is what we try to really do, and just to know that wecan't do that right now and we don't know exactly when we're gonna be ableto do that again.

We had a reallyexciting spring planned in Detroit Public Theater.

We know that we'regonna come through this and we will be able toinvite people back in, but it's hard to be without.

– Yeah, and Sarah Clare, I think people are just looking for any kindof shared experience online, using technology, listeningto people read their poetry, streaming music, what have you been kind of gravitating towards? – I've been reading plays solo, but it's always great to peekin and see what's out there, and I think it's agreat opportunity for a lot of artists that don'tget a lot of visibility to all have a platformto share their work.

And so that's beenfun to investigate across the nation andthe world, really.

– Yeah, and Sarah, has itbeen hard to not look ahead and say “Oh gosh, we coulddo that down the road, ” or start exploringsome new things too? – It has been, butat the same time, we've been lookingdown the road.

So we have a couple ofreally exciting ideas for when it is safeto gather again, that will hopefully takeinto account a new reality and a changed reality.

And we're really lookingforward to down the road our play “Birthday Candles”opening on Broadway in the fall.

– And that really waswhat the celebration was supposed to be thismonth, of “Birthday Candles.

” You had the world premierein the spring of 2018, the Detroit Public Theater did, and it was supposedto open on Broadway starring Debra Messing.

Courtney, let me start with you.

Talk to us a little bitabout “Birthday Candles” and everything thatkind of ramped up to what the performance wassupposed to be this spring.

– We commissioned Noah Haidle, he is a veryaccomplished playwright who's had multiple playsproduced off Broadway and across the country.

He was living in Detroit, and he became a fan of DetroitPublic Theater early on and joined ourboard of directors.

And so we commissionedhim to write a play.

We did a workshopand spent a few weeks with that great company andreally developed the play, and then we didthe world premiere at Detroit Public Theaterin our third season.

And Vivienne Beneschcame in and directed it, and it was just a reallybeautiful production.

– Lift my gaze towardsthe infinite, not so much.

Instead it's like, willI pass my physics test? Do people think I'm funny, or do they laugh out of pity? All the time a quiet voicein my mind whispering, “You're not good enough, you're not good enough.

” – You visit Ernestineat many of her birthdays throughout her life.

Every single human canfind something in this play that relates to theirfamily or themselves or some sort of personal, emotional triumph or tragedy thatthey've dealt with, and one of the treasures, I think, for us, was to watch ouraudience watch the show and the thought that thatplay was born in Detroit is even more special.

– Stay! Stay.

– Sarah, kind ofexplain for people the lightning in abottle, to be able to have a production like this andto then see it go forward.

– It is beyond anything wehad ever dreamed or imagined, and to have the director whodirected our production of it also be experiencingher Broadway premiere and to have it beNoah's Broadway premiere and our composer from DetroitPublic Theater's production is composing themusic for Broadway.

To watch all of thesebeautiful artists around the same piecehave the same experience is beyond anything.

– I'm not asking you totravel through this world.

I'm just asking you to the prom.

– Courtney, howwould you describe the arts and culture scenein Detroit right now? And obviously we're in a verystrange and bizarre time, not being able to connectwith live performance, whether it be music, whether it be plays.

– Yeah, it's tremendous.

I mean, I think we have a lotof really incredible artists who work here andwho wanna work here, and passionate audiences.

I think that there areinstitutions in this city that are giants and thenthere's tiny little companies and individual artists doingreally incredible work.

So we wanna expose theother theater artists who are here as well.

The city has embraced us, and we are really lucky to be in the positionthat we're in and wanna make surethat that is shared.

– I wish you so manybeautiful hours.

Risk your heart, find yourplace in the universe.

You do that for me.

– I promise.

– And that wraps it up for this edition of”Detroit Performs.

” As always, for morearts and culture, head to DetroitPerforms.

org, where you'll findfeatured videos, blogs, and information oncoming arts events.

Also check us out onFacebook and Twitter, and make sure you guys areout there staying safe.

And we'll do ourbest to bring you the best of Detroit's art scene.

Until next time, get outthere and show the world how Detroit performs, y'all.

I'm DJ Oliver.

Thanks for watching, guys.

– [Announcer] Fundingfor “Detroit Performs”is provided by the Fred A.

and BarbaraM.

Erb Family Foundation.

The Kresge Foundation.

The A.

Paul and CarolC.

Schaap Foundation.

The Michigan Council forArts & Cultural Affairs.

The National Endowmentfor the Arts.

The DeRoy TestamentaryFoundation.

And by contributionsto your PBS station from viewers like you.

Thank you.

(energetic music).

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