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Dancers bring images to life

Rowe Niodior African Dance Company COURTESY PHOTO

Rowe Niodior African Dance Company COURTESY PHOTO

By Phreddy Wischusen
The Michigan Citizen

The N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art is alive this month with multiple shows: French photographer Gilles Perrin’s “Yene Kono,” photographs taken in Africa, and David Philpot’s “Time,” an installation of intricately decorated living room furniture, on display until November. Yet on Oct. 12, gallery founder and director George N’Namdi will bring those images to life through dance in a performance titled “The Fluid Image.”

N’Namdi has selected a diverse group of locally-based dancers and dance companies to perform works that are inspired by or relate to the “Yene Kono” and “Time.”

Crettia Hunter and Seydi Sarr are the co-founders of the Row Niodior African Dance Company.  The company is “dedicated to African culture and making sure it is presented in its truest and most traditional form, by not only entertaining people but educating people as well,” Hunter says. The company is comprised of 8-10 dancers and 2-3 drummers.  They focus on West African dances from Mali, the Gambia, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea and Senegal.

Hunter’s expertise is in Malian dance, and Rowe Niodior will perform “Sunnu” a Mailian dance of celebration during “The Fluid Image,” with Malians in Perrin’s photographers looking on. Traditional Malian dress is loose-fitting and covers the body entirely from the neck to the ankles. “The movement has to be so intricate so you can see it through this garment,” Hunter says. “It is fluidity. When you do Malian dance, you dance from the very top of you head to the very tip of your feet.”

Maya Stovall is a dancer and scholar living and working on Detroit’s east side. Along with Seycon-Nadia Chea, Kristi Faulkner, Natasha K. Foreman and Erika “Red” Stovall, Stovall will perform two pieces during “The Fluid Image.”  Her choreographed piece “Time Travel” was created specifically for this event, inspired by Philpot and Perrin. “Dance presented in the gallery setting is really open-ended. It’s more of a choreographic installation,” Stovall says, “… viewing bodies as though they have become a part of the exhibit itself.” Instead of sitting down and expecting to be entertained, Stovall says: “In this environment, the audience is interpreting the dance movement in a similar way to a work of art.” Her second piece, “Dance of the Chip Bagger,” is inspired by “street culture, urban challenges and the dynamics of moving around in public space,” she says.  It will be performed on the street while the audience looks out from within the gallery “Time Travel” and “Dance of the Chip Bagger” will be accompanied by keyboard improvisations by Quaint, cello improvisations by Cecilia Sharpe and the music of Cliff Martinez, Daft Punk and GlitchMob.

Describing her process of translating visual arts into dance, Stovall muses: “There’s a palpable emotion that transcends disciplines. It’s getting to that level where you’re able to take an idea and let it expand and shift and do different things based on the shift in medium.”

Jungle Statement, choreographed by Ryan Myers-Johnson, will present a new interpretation of her piece, “Fight Song.” Set to a “curious” take on music by Charles Mingus, Myers-Johnson says her piece is a “is a contorted love story… a modern take on a man and woman struggling to communicate and find their identities in an a complex and challenging environment.” The piece takes inspiration from “certain aspects of the photography of Gilles Perrin, particularly those work dealing with ritual adornment and body art,” Myers-Johnson told the Michigan Citizen.

Korean-born Joori Jung moved to Detroit in 2012 and wasted no time in getting absorbed in Detroit’s dance scene. Since then she founded art Lab J, “is a non-profit organization to provide a space for literary and performing arts,” the nine member art Lab J dance company, and put on the Detroit Detroit Dance City Festival. Jung recently met Gilles Perrin and his partner and says “Yene Kono” expresses “the experience they had in Africa … Their stories were the inspiration for my new piece.” Jung says art Lab J’s dance piece, “Beautiful Autumn Days,” is “not just a dance routine, it the story about Gilles experience in Africa.” She continues: “The photographer and the Africans will hold on to this experience for a life time.”

Performances will take place Oct. 12 from 7-10 p.m. in the N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art located at 52 E. Forest in Detroit.

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