The Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance December Dance Concert features select student choreography. Many students submit their pieces for consideration, but only a few are included in the concert. We sat down with Christina Chammas, one of the selected student choreographers, to find out more about her and her work.
Tell us about your December Dance Concert piece?
My dance has 6 dancers. It is something that I have been thinking about doing for a long time. It was inspired by a poem that I really love by Andrea Gibson, “Birthday for Jenn.” The second movement of my piece is performed to the actual poem. The main inspiration for my piece came from the themes from the poem along with things from my personal life that I could tie in.
Was there a specific line from the poem that inspired you?
There are a lot of different moments in the poem that really stick out. There’s one particular line that is probably the most notable: “We were all born on days when too many people died in terrible ways, but you still have to call it a birthday.” That line really hit me; it relates us to the world as a whole. That was an important concept that I hung onto while I was working on this.
How long have you been a dancer?
My mom started me in classes when I was four. I went to ballet class once a week but it wasn’t anything serious. When I was in 8th grade, my mother found an article in the newspaper for a performing arts school that was near my house. I was dancing every day at the new school, and I loved it. That is when I started training seriously and took it more as something I may want to do for the rest of my life.
Have you choreographed before?
Last year, I choreographed a trio that was in the Spring Dance Concert at the Bonstelle Theatre. That was the first full length piece I choreographed at Wayne State. Two years before that, in my senior year of high school, we had to choreograph our own dance as part of our senior dance capstone. That was the first full piece I ever created.
What styles of dance are most interesting to you?
Right now, I’m interested in modern and contemporary dance. I was trained in ballet and classical modern techniques such as Horton and Limón. When I came to Wayne State, I started working with contemporary styles, and I’ve molded the two together to create my own.
What do you find most rewarding about being a choreographer?
Seeing the final product, having the support from other people and hearing that they actually liked and appreciated what I created. That’s the most rewarding part.
Why did you choose Wayne State University to study dance?
My dance teacher in high school had been a teacher at Wayne State and is a WSU alumnus. He took us to WSU dance concerts and invited us to sit in on his classes. Through this, I had already formed a bond with Wayne State before I was even thinking about going to college. I knew what the college had to offer and I was already comfortable with the style of dance I was doing. When I came to Wayne State, the transition wasn’t a hard one.
How do you like WSU dance?
I love it and I’m so happy that I made the decision to come hereI feel like it’s the right amount of opportunities given to the student to choreograph and perform, but it’s also very challenging at the same time. When I started out I was confident in my dancing, but I quickly learned that I had so much more to learn. Once my mind was exposed to all of these new things, my dancing started improving and I was still being challenged in class.
Do you think WSU has prepared you for the future?
Yes, I do think so. Especially being in dance workshop because it’s student managed. We do our own fundraising, we have committee chairs within the company for which I’m the Secretary. We have specific jobs and responsibilities. We have to manage our budget and we’re planning a trip to go to New York to give a performance.
What advice would you give someone looking to become a dancer?
Just trust yourself. If you feel this is the thing you should be doing, it probably is. Just go with your gut feeling.
Performances are at the Bonstelle Theatre, 3424 Woodward Avenue, in midtown Detroit on Friday, December 5th at 7:30pm and Sunday, December 7th at 2:00pm. Tickets range from $10-$20 and are available by calling (313) 577-2960, online at Bonstelle.com, or at the Wayne State University Theatre Box Office at 4743 Cass Avenue on the corner of Hancock Street.