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Motor City Movement - What Makes it Work

Motor City Movement is coming back to the Crofoot this Friday, Dec. 27th for its EIGHTH showcase of dance. Since 2010 MCM has been putting on vivid and exciting dance shows highlighting the talents of local and national dancers and choreographers. With near capacity shows, high energy and a sense of community among the attendees each show is always a wonderful and memorable evening. Having seen and photographed more than a few MCM shows I have witnessed the tremendous amount of hard work and activism from the two people behind it all, Jill Zmijewski and Ryan Nunley. Here's some Q& A with Jill and Ryan on the history of MCM and why they do it.

How has MCM changed since your first event back in 2010?

Jill:  Though MCM has kept relatively the same format since our first show, we have grown so much as far as the production level, notoriety and elements of the show.  Through trial and error, we have learned things that do work and things that don't. Our show runs much smoother than it did in the beginning as the more shows we do, the better we understand the process and what is need for a killer show.  We have added a workshop, where dancers can take classes from choreographers featured in the show. (December 28th) We've also begun to sell apparel which has been a big hit and fun for us to design!

Ryan: For our first show, we would have been happy with 50-100 audience members. We had a stand-up comedian as the host and a musical performance, Detroit rapper Finale, at intermission. We have decided against the intermission and a musical performance, and have added more groups just to keep the focus on dancing. We haven't changed much, it's really hard to stay away from keeping the focus on dancing. Plus, all the performances in the show are thought up by the choreographers, they get to do what they really want to do, it would be really wrong of us to give them input on their upcoming performance.

Maybe it's just me but over the past couple years there seems to be a popularity explosion for dance - what do you attribute it to - Youtube, So You Think You Can Dance, people like you?

Jill:  It's not just really has exploded into the mainstream world.  Its such an exciting time to be a dancer or dance lover!  I absolutely attribute shows like So You Think, America's Best Dance Crew, and Dancing With the Stars. It has brought the awesome world the we always knew about to the eyes of the public. I also think the fact that these shows highlight ALL different kinds of dance is a huge part of their success and why people are going crazy over dance!

Ryan: It became enjoyable to watch for me years ago. This was before So You Think You Can Dance, Americas Best Dance Crew or Dancing with the Stars, to my knowledge, had even aired. I have never taken a class or performed in choreography (for the most part), but I really enjoy watching people dance, professional or not.

What's the most rewarding part about putting on your events?

Jill:  For me it definitely seeing all the hard work the different groups performing put into their pieces for the show.  I love when I see how excited they get when we send them their acceptance email.  I love seeing Facebook posts about how their rehearsals are going great.  And the energy in the room the night of the show is like nothing I've ever felt!

Ryan: I really enjoy seeing all the hometown talent that Metro Detroit has. A lot of talent leaves our area for New York or Los Angeles, but this area still has an abundance of talent. I want to think that before Motor City Movement there wasn't a platform such great talent to be seen, like they can be seen on MCM nights. There are a lot of MCM dancers that have a competition background, but once they graduate from their studio, they aren't left with stages to perform on like they had.
A disappointing thing to do is send out emails that unfortunately tells a group that they will not be performing at the upcoming MCM. We are not at all trying to be the end all be all of dancing in Metro Detroit, we try to keep a good length and amount of diversity in a show.

Any surprises you can hint at for your show on Dec. 27?

Jill: Well it's not a surprise, but we have Will Thomas from Season 9 of So You Think You Can Dance as our host. He is an amazing dancer and has such a fun personality...I think he's going to be a huge hit as host!  We are also selling some really cool new apparel!  And, I don't know if I'm making it a bigger deal than it is, but I think my routine is going to surprise a lot of people. It's still my trademark jazz style, but it has a comedic side to it, too.

Ryan: Honestly, no big surprises planned. We don't really try to surprise. I think the biggest one for me was for last years December show when I was in a coma.We try to give away all of the information for the upcoming show, to get everyone interested.

Do you have a vision or goal for MCM? Where you'd like to see it headed in the next few years?

Jill:  I would love to see more groups that we have not seen yet submit to the show.  It'd be awesome if we could get some groups from Chicago, Ohio, Canada!  I'd like MCM to get more involved in the community and have a year long presence as opposed to just when we hold our shows.  I'd also like to build our workshops and possibly even do traveling conventions.  Sky's the limit!

Ryan: I agree with Jill. Seeing new groups performing at MCM is what I really enjoy. We love groups that continue to send in submissions, but there is still a lot of unseen talent that don't send anything in. We receive a lot of hip-hop and jazz submissions, but I love having a great diverse show. We have been thinking about taking a smaller version of MCM over to the west side of the state, and seeing new groups from Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, Muskegon & Chicago, just to name a few. Also, having monthly workshops taught by some of our choreographers will probably happen.
There also may be an opportunity for a few of the MCM groups to go on a paid mini Michigan tour in the near future.

What's your best advice you can give a dancer that is just starting out but shows potential?

Jill:  Work hard and don't give up! You will be sore, you will be tired, you will miss out on some parts of a "regular life", but you need to accept these things and roll with the punches if you want to improve.  The life of a dancer is a hard one, especially when you decide to make it your career, but it is the most rewarding life if you put in the work to become successful.

The pictures used in this interview were taken at last year's show and capture only a bit of the wonder the show brings. Be sure to be at the Crofoot at 7:30pm for another night of this unique and exciting showcase.

Post and Photos my Mikel O.D. of MPAD Media