Dance to the flow

May 21, 2003 at 12:00 am

“I’m in the process of getting us lost,” Detroit-based dancer Jeremy Kallio jokes as he winds through the colorful streets of southwest Detroit. Kallio is searching for a plan-C restaurant because plan A and plan B were both closed. The car glides to a halt in front of an inviting — yet previously uncharted — hole in the wall.

Later, with a gorgeous array of Mexican carryout on the table in front of us, one gets the sense that Kallio doesn’t need to be fixed on where he’s headed to wind up exactly where he needs to be. Or that his form of artistic expression has as much to do with the way he’s moving through life as it does with the way he’s open to letting life move through — and carry — him.

In our mad-rush, corporate world, it’s easy to forget that’s possible. Fortunately, this Friday, if you hit the Detroit Art Space and experience a sonic rush in the form of a show called “Live Sensation,” you too can have your nerve endings flipped to “on.” Organized by Kallio, the event stars an eclectic lineup of Detroit artists, including Amp Fiddler, Malik Alston with Painted Pictures, Ayro, Chardonnay, the Electric Bear and Heart + Hand Jazz Unit. Up-and-coming hip-hop act Ten Speed and Brown Shoe (featuring Name Tag and Black Milk) will host the event.

The name, “Live Sensation,” may be a nod to that forgotten organic flow, but it’s also a great way to describe each artist in the lineup. Take Amp Fiddler. Over the past few decades, Fiddler has recorded with such artists as Prince, the Brand New Heavies, Ramsey Lewis, George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars, Raphael Saadiq (the list goes on). This is in addition to more recent vocal and keyboard-organ-piano projects, such as Amp Dog Knight’s “I’m Doing Fine” and contributing work to The Detroit Experiment CD.

A pre-Movement (formerly DEMF) chance to see Ayro (aka Jeremy Ellis) is also enough to make a body buzz. Especially in line with other fresh Detroit acts and everyone’s favorite urban woodland creature, the Electric Bear.

How did Kallio pull it all together? Perhaps the same way he appears to have done anything — because the opportunity presented itself and his eyes were open. The former student of kung fu and Japanese language became interested in dance while studying at Eastern Michigan University. After researching the work of a dancer named Mintanaka, Kallio traveled to Japan to study with him. When he returned to Michigan, Kallio auditioned for and was accepted into the University of Michigan dance school. Whatever others may have had in terms of technical training, Kallio seems to have compensated for in terms of pure drive. At the time of this interview, he was sporting scrapes from a recent — and particularly passionate — show in New York.

“Dancing is doing a very noble thing. It’s drawing attention to the body,” he points out. “People lose sight of the fact that we inhabit a human body, and consciousness can come out of drawing people into it.”

Kallio paints a picture of an alternative Detroit where other art forms are on par with things like garage rock, and a “band” of kids get together next to dad’s tools and an old Chevy to work out movement problems. The body as instrument: Interesting. And you can catch a glimpse of the concept at work this Friday as Kallio lends his talents (“I play the body”) to an ensemble of musicians known as Heart + Hand Jazz Unit.

“While improvisation can be more challenging for a performer or for an audience, it’s a way to reach something more sincere,” Kallio says. “Some people are pushed away by it, but when I see something like that, it’s more accessible. It’s right now, right there.”

And anyway, he laughs, “Why would anyone want to live without any kind of mischief and excitement?”

If you’re reading this in an office, under buzzing fluorescents or away from movement, beats or the organic flow of MCs, you might be asking yourself the same question. But you’re not lost. Maybe we’re all just bodies wandering through the streets of Detroit, looking for the right place to get fed. On that note, see you at “Live Sensation.”


See “Live Sensation” Friday, May 23 at Detroit Art Space (101 E. Baltimore, Detroit) at 9 p.m. Advance tickets at Avalon International Breads, 422 W. Willis, Detroit.

Kari Jones writes about theater and performance for Metro Times. E-mail her at [email protected]