When Joori Jung first arrived in Detroit, it was love at first sight — even though it was winter, and nobody was around. A graduate of the dance program at Seoul's Kyung Hee University, Jung had spent the past four years of her life in New York, where she continued to dance and work on choreography. But she felt lost in the shuffle in New York, and financial strain was causing her to contemplate going back to Korea to come up with a different plan.
A chance encounter with the man who would become her husband put Detroit on her radar. "He was also from South Korea, but he attended the College for Creative Studies," Jung explains by phone. "When he was going to school at CCS, he was visiting his friend in New York. He'd talk about Detroit. He loves Detroit, and said I should come and check it out."
Jung immediately sensed an opportunity to do something different. "People would say, 'Detroit? What's happening there?' They just don't know," she says. "When I'm here, I feel something going on. It quickly changed my mind," she says. Jung made the move to Detroit in 2012.
Dancers and choreographers are always looking for opportunities to present their work, Jung says. That lead her to the creation of her nonprofit, Artlab J. Located in Eastern Market, Artlab J offers classes, showcases, and workshops.
The nonprofit also puts on the Detroit Dance City Festival, now in its second year, which pulls in performances from local and national dancers. The festival managed to draw 1,000 attendees with just seven months of planning last year. The group is hoping to double attendance this year.
More than 30 diverse dancers and companies will perform at this year's festival, in styles that range from jazz, ballet, hip-hop, and musical theater. Jung has also set up an exchange with the South Korean Gwang Jin International Summer Dance Festival, which will offer one choreographer presenting at this year's Detroit Dance City Festival the opportunity to present work overseas next year.
For now, Jung is enjoying her new role as a dance ambassador to Detroit. She even got one of her friends to recently move here. "When they're here, they say, 'Wow, I didn't expect this. This is really fun,'" Jung says. "Once people come here, they change their mind. My mission is I need to bring people here."
The Detroit Dance City Festival is Aug. 22-24; venues and ticket prices vary, see detroitdancecityfestival.com.