From the Masonic Temple to Mojo’s Mothership, Prince marked Detroit – and a life

This article was first published by Crain’s Detroit Business.

By Leslie Green

Some rock and a whole lot of funk, that was “Soft and Wet,” a track from the 1978 album “For You” that put Prince on the cover of Right On magazine. That cover was my introduction to the aFor You album coverrtist I would romance in my dreams for the next 30 years.

Over the course of his career, one cut short too early, the singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist had many names and no name at all. He was Jamie Starr, Alexander Nevermind, The Purple One, and a symbol we replaced with The Artist Formerly Known As. He started bands, refreshed flagging careers, created cult classics and brought us to a new level of understanding when it came to creativity.

He wore guy-liner, a term that hadn’t been applied when started, frilly purple threads and platform boots; but he oozed a manly cool that had me plastering his photos — posters, album covers, magazine tear sheets — on every flat surface of my bedroom, windows included. Every year, I would walk the mile or so from my University District home to the record store on Curtis just west of Livernois to buy the latest Prince album. This was the only reason I ever saved my allowance.Prince_at_CoachellaWhether he was in costume singing in falsetto on “I Wanna Be Your Lover” or taking it deep and serious in a T-shirt and jeans on “4 the Tears in Your Eyes,” on the “We Are the World” benefit album, his music was charged with unrivaled passion and a freakish level of originality.

Prince’s first “Saturday Night Live” appearance (1981) marked the first time I stayed up long enough to watch the entire show. The performance was epic. He and the band that became The Revolution played “Partyup,” from his “Dirty Mind” album, then Prince kicked over the mic stand and the group stormed from the stage. Prince did everything on his terms. And for this rebellious teenager, that marked the picture-perfect epitome of defiant nonchalance.

While those national visions of Prince added to the artist’s heft, it was the Electrifying Mojo — a renowned Detroit radio DJ (WGPR, WJLB, WHYT and WCHB) whose real name was Charles Johnson — who revealed Prince as both human and otherworldly. Despite comparisons to Jimi Hendrix and James Brown, Mojo made it clear Prince was an artist unlike any other.

The DJ’s devotion to Prince’s music and Prince’s obvious appreciation lured MMadhouse8ojo’s followers into becoming die-hard fans. Mojo not only played the A-sides heard on national radio but also those B-side tracks, long versions and records under Prince aliases no other DJ played. “Madhouse 8” anyone?

Often, Mojo pitted music by Michael Jackson against Prince’s music, playing songs from each artist (and only those artists) throughout the night and asking listeners to call in and crown the real king. On Mojo’s “Midnight Funk Association,” he featured Prince far more than the other favorite funk artists (Parliament, Rick James, Teena Marie, Gap Band…) that he played.

While it took NBC another 20-plus years to get Prince back to “SNL” and talk show hosts spent years trying to coax more than a few words from the reclusive artist, Mojo didn’t have to lift a finger to have a conversation with the Purple One.

At least twice during my youth, Prince called Mojo out of the blue and expressed his love on air for his Detroit fans and thanked us “purple people” and “motor babies” for our support. I recall Mojo asking Prince why he wasn’t out partying and Prince laughing, saying it wasn’t his style. Instead, the artist who broke rules throughout his career said he was watching an Eddie Murphy movie. That was Prince. He was all about the business of making good music and putting on a show you couldn’t stop talking about.

There was another time, when Prince said he was going off to watch “Purple Rain,” again. Mojo then called on his fans to do the same. We did.

After I paid to see the movie (released June 25, 1984) at least five times, it came to a little discount theater called the Norwest, on Grand River Avenue just east of Southfield. Saying we had a dozen viewings is probably conservative. Plus, a friend worked there, so my boyfriend and I got free popcorn. We repeated this scene a couple of years later when he released “Under the Cherry Moon.”

Prince’s love for Detroit resulted in numerous concerts here, including his concert last year at the Fox Theatre.

The most memorable concert for me happened in 1982. I was about (mumble)teen years old and doing chores in my pajamas — vacuuming, I think — when a WJLB DJ announced tickets were going on sale for Prince’s “1999 Tour.” My brother yelled, “Let’s go,” not giving me time to dress. We jumped in his truck and headed for Northland Mall.

I waited in the car — remember, I was wearing pajamas — while my brother went to the Hudson’s ticket office. Soon, he was back outside with tickets in hand and a couple of girls trailing behind him. He had purchased tickets for all of his friends on a whim but didn’t have enough money. The girls, strangers, had loaned it to him. My brother then reached in the truck, scooped out mounds of loose change and handed them their payment. Prince would have been proud.

A few months later, on Dec. 1, we were looking down at Prince, Wendy, Lisa and the crew as they performed on the Masonic Temple stage. It was beautiful. I still recall the way Prince flipped himself over the sports car for “Little Red Corvette.” On the way home, Mojo continued the concert by playing Prince and only Prince for the rest of the night.

On June 7, 1986, his birthday, Prince played one of several sold-out shows at Cobo Arena in Detroit. After the “Around the World in a Day” concert, Prince and Mojo talked again. Have a listen here and here.

“Money is one thing, soul another,” the king of rocking funk said, adding why he continued to return to Detroit. “You can feel the love in the room. That means more than money.”

Until his death Thursday, I didn’t realize much of my life was measured by Prince’s music.

“Controversy” marks my father’s irritation during a family road trip from Detroit to New York and Niagara Falls when my brother and I were singing lyrics to the album’s less-than-wholesome songs. My high school class song was “1999,” despite having graduated many years before that. In my first summer as a camp counselor at The Roeper School in Bloomfield Hills, my 7-year-old charges performed Prince and the Revolution’s “I Would Die 4 U” in the talent competition. Radio play of “Kiss” marked whether I was late for classes in my sophomore year at Wayne State University. “Kiss” in the parking garage meant I was on time, on the freeway, egad, I was late. “Batman” marks me as a happy newlywed; “Sign of the Times,” a short while later, as grieving divorcee; and “Diamonds and Pearls” marks my foray into publishing. That’s when I met and interviewed Maurice Brandon Curry, the man who choreographed the Prince and The New Power Generation “Diamonds and Pearls” video. “Let’s Go Crazy”? Who hasn’t sung that at karaoke?

I recently started a new career that likely will be marked by yet-to-be released gems, old Prince songs and movie re-releases.

The seven-time Grammy Award winner released four albums in the last 18 months, including two on the streaming service Tidal. Which was unusual. Prince had a habit of shunning streaming services and making sure his music never stayed on YouTube for long.

He also became a less reclusive in recent years. Earlier this year, he began performing at more intimate venues — in Atlanta last week as part of his “Piano and a Microphone” tour, he put on a stripped-down show that featured a mix of hits like “Purple Rain” or “Little Red Corvette,” and some B-sides from his extensive library. Recently, he held several late-night jam sessions where he serenaded Bay City native Madonna, celebrated the Minnesota Lynx’s WNBA championship and showcased his latest disciple, singer Judith Hill.

Last month, Prince surprised all by announcing Spiegel & Grau would publish his memoir The Beautiful Ones in fall 2017. A news release about the memoir said: “Prince will take readers on an unconventional and poetic journey through his life and creative work” with stories about his music and “the family that shaped him and the people, places, and ideas that fired his creative imagination.” Now, it’s unclear if we’ll ever read it.

Regardless of what we read about Prince in coming weeks and months, there is no doubt he has affected the course of music.

Remember “Starfish and Coffee”? Prince proved, singing about school days and breakfast on “The Muppet Show,” that his creativity was innate and he could make music out of anything. As a result, we all have higher standards.

– The Associated Press contributed to this report.

©Leslie Green [2016] and Crain’s Detroit Business.

The Truth lies in Oceania: “1984” and “The X-Files”

Happy happenstance is when you complete “1984” and catch the first two episodes of “The X-Files” reboot in the same week. Think about them too long, though, and a sickly feeling might overcome you.

David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in “The X-Files.” Credit Ed Araquel/Fox

David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in “The X-Files.”
Credit Ed Araquel/Fox

Reading George Orwell’s tale of a government’s all-consuming need to meddle destructively with humankind and the lengths we would go to make them stop was me fulfilling the first Shelf Improvement1 book challenge of 2016. The task was to reread a classic book (something 50 years old or older) that you read in school. Orwell wrote “1984” in 1949. I first read it nearly 35 years later.

Nineteen eighty-four

Reading “The X-Files?” I did that for the aliens, growths, creepy siblings and dry, subtle humor alluding to the many years that have passed since season 9 aired to a world without — for the most part — social media. Yes, creator Chris Carter’s story of FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully investigating strange phenomena successfully managed nine long seasons without a hashtag. In part, the show’s success stems from Carter’s mission statement, “It’s only as scary as it is believable.”

According to John Ross of Caritas St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Boston, Orwell’s success in making “1984” believable in part had to do with his health. In 2005, Ross published a study in asserting Orwell’s bouts of bacterial pneumonia, dengue fever and tuberculosis “made him a better and more empathetic writer, in that his sense of human suffering made his writing more universal.”2

Did Orwell’s ill health make his work predictive as well as well as universal? Is “X-Files” believable because it skirts close to the realm of possibility?

Many argue whether art imitates life or life art, and I don’t care to rehash that fight. I do know, however, that watching what’s happening worldwide with governments and technology (who’s listening to whom?), watching “The X-Files” and rereading “1984” make it clear that conspiracy theorists aren’t to be taken lightly.

“X-Files” special agent Mulder (played by David Duchovny) reinforces that thought when he rants that aliens aren’t the problem, but sketchy humans who misuse nano-, bio- and other technology are the problem. He and an Alex Jones-like character (played by Joel McHale) cite FEMA concentration camps, weather control and a collection of additional questionable actions that conspiracy theorists have proven true as proof that the public indeed is being manipulated. The question is by whom? The government? Well, that’s a big unwieldy entity. The unknown conspirator, like Big Brother, seeks to use innovative minds to destroy a way of life and control the future.


Side note: I am a tech geek… with an English degree. I am far from technologically savvy; however, I am curious. I write news stories and fiction about tech; and I believe there are some brilliant people using technology, like virtual reality headsets for terminally ill children, for positive transformation or inspiration. That said, I believe technology can be effective without being invasive.


In “1984,” everyone has a telescreen. Those on the other end of the telescreens regulate every portion of the collective lives, what they said and did as well as what they might say or do.

“Always eyes watching you and the voice enveloping you. Asleep or awake, indoors or out of doors, in the bath or bed- no escape. Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimeters in your skull.” George Orwell, “1984”

A few years ago, “Dateline NBC,” “20/20” or one of the other be-scared-be-very-very-scared TV news magazines revealed the ease in which hackers can access an individual’s computer to listen and watch them unawares through the PC’s camera.

Nowadays, we purposefully allow invasive technology into our homes — to make life simpler. On the low end of the spectrum (I think), my television learned what time I most frequently turn it on; so, according the Sony manual, it turns on faster during those times.  Early last year, reported on the privacy statement associated with Samsung’s “smart,” voice command-enabled TV. 3 According to the statement, Samsung might collect what users were saying when the TV was listening (even if it wasn’t a direct command), transcribe that information and send it to a third party… to improve service.

“Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.” George Orwell, “1984”

For a while, there was some hoopla in the news about Samsung’s statement. Eventually, the company apologized, and then the news faded away without word of people destroying their televisions or of the market seizing from the dearth in purchases. Life went on. We accepted tech’s new role.

A few days ago, I called a bank and its telephone artificial intelligence informed me I needed to set up a voice-recognition password to use the service. For some reason (baaaa), I did. I repeated a phrase three or four times until the computer recognized and possessed a record of my voice.

Today, a source copied “Amy” on an email, requesting “she” send us a meeting invite. Shortly afterward, I got an invite from Amy Ingram, an artificial intelligence service, which negotiated times and days until we came to an agreement on when we would meet.4

Simpler? Maybe. Better?

The book and television episodes were entertaining and enlightening; but the more I reflect, the more I realize they are downright scary visions of our possible futures. Think about it too long and I can’t help but want to put a beer bottle on my doorknob.5

So what do we do? Toss our TVs, laptops and tablets on the trash heap? Swap our smartphones for landlines — if they still install them in your town?  Dump our everything-enabled cars for a Deuce and a Quarter — if you can find one that hasn’t been “upgraded”? I mean, I love my Sirius and rear-view screen, which was developed (at least in part) to decrease the number of accidental deaths and injuries.

A friend and former news colleague, Gary, is notorious for restoring what a group of us call “serial-killer” cars. Steel monstrosities that take a half a city block when parked. Currently, he is driving a 1979 Buick Electra 225 with original parts (all working) and an interior that’s just a few swatches away from DayGlo green. Gary has a plan to outwit all the connected sheep like me.  When all other vehicles like choreographed swimmers are traveling down the highway — synced with the road, traffic lights, each other and the mothership — he’s going to cruise. He will barrel through traffic; because as, he put it, the tech-enabled cars are going to part like the sea when they predict (wrongly) he’s going to hit them if they don’t.

But would he ever leave his location-enabled cellphone and Facebook friends behind? Unlikely. Could he outrun the neighbor’s drone? The Electra is too easy to spot. And what about his kids, should he ever have them? Will he disabuse them of the thought that visiting a Disney park is an American-given right just because of the “magical” wristbands that “enhance” the Disney experience (and send use data back to the company)? 6 Don’t count on it.

The point is this: Fiction or not, “The X-Files” is a good reminder that we need to speak up and speak out when we know the creep (illegal human experiments7) and conspiratorial factor of industrial, medical and whateverical technology is too high. Otherwise, it won’t be long before we are living in a more extreme version of Orwell’s Oceania with Blade Runners as Thought Police.

“Replicants are like any other machine – they’re either a benefit or a hazard. If they’re a benefit, it’s not my problem.” “Blade Runner”8

1 Shelf Improvement: Take the Classics Challenge.
5 “Conspiracy Theory”:
8 “Blade Runner”:

The Force Awakens Another Black-White Buddy Film

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” the seventh film in the George Lucas-conceived franchise that went into hyperdrive in 1977 and still has people wishing the force upon one another, already has grossed $1.3 billion worldwide, according to That’s about the dollar amount it would take to rebuild one of the worlds the Jedis, Stormtroopers, Darths, and their minions destroy from one film to the next.

While all of the “Star Wars” films deal with science fiction/fantasy themes of good versus evil, dystopian futures, and family dynamics, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” also joins the continuing spate of black-white buddy films coming out of Hollywood.

(possible spoilers ahead)

In the J.J. Abrams-directed, Disney-owned production of “The Force Awakens,”  older viewers are treated to early “Star Wars” stalwarts Han Solo, Chewbacca, Princess (now General) Leia, and Luke Skywalker. However, the stars of Episode VII are clearly Finn, Rey, and Poe.

Finn (played by John Boyega), who is black, is thrust into a life-or-death situation as the gunner for Poe (Oscar Isaac), who is white. Later, Finn comes across Rey (Daisy Ridley), also white, and a similar situation arises.

The Walt Disney Company, which bought the “Star Wars” franchise in 2012, has a successful formula for its films. The main character becomes separated or orphaned from family and then reunites with or reestablishes family. In “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” Disney sticks with its primary formula with Han Solo and Rey. With Finn, however, Disney resorts to the formula often reserved for black/white buddy films.

All around Finn are ruthless bad guys and the courageous warriors. But Finn begins as a frightened stormtrooper who deserts the First Order and wishes only to save his own hide. Sure, he eventually becomes a Resistance fighter, but not because he is strong or well trained — though he was a stormtrooper — but because he’s compelled to fight by the much stronger, smarter woman he loves.

Watching the film recently reminded me of a long-ago conversation, as well as a bit of research I once did on creation of the black-white film genre.

You’re OK for one of them

Rick graduated from an all-white high school in an all-white town in Texas before joining the Army. He claimed not to like (derogatory term removed*). Yet he called the African Americans he lived with and served beside “brothers.”

Rick’s story is not a parable. This real person confessed his bigotry to my then-husband and I over a leisurely dinner one night in 1989, the same year “Lethal Weapon II” and “Die Hard” appeared on big screen.

Why the disparity? As Rick explained it, acceptance and even friendship with soldiers of other races is necessary when your life is threatened and you must depend on them as your shield and defense in combat.

“Racial attitudes are improved and stereotypes are broken when diverse groups come together under circumstances that promote meaningful cross-group interaction, such as in the military,” wrote Mary J. Fischer, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut, who co-authored a 2015 study with Jacob S. Rugh, an assistant professor of sociology at Brigham Young University.

It started with a fight

Prior to the Vietnam War (1959-1975), African-Americans actors were mise-en-scene — background for affect, servants to demonstrate a character’s status (or lack of), the fall guy, and the fool.

During the war and almost concurrent Civil Rights Movement (around 1955-1965), African Americans became more visible than ever in American history.They appeared in American households by means of television news, emerging for the first time en masse in combat beside white soldiers with whom some created unexpected alliances.

The criminal element

The newly integrated battlefield and the Civil Rights Movement allowed Hollywood to create films with black actors in starring roles. There were provisos though. They had to star alongside a white actor to give the film legitimacy and to attract spending spectators, white audiences.

While these films opened doors for African-American actors, they also fabricated other constraints. Black actors, in addition to being cast only as criminals, police officers, and military grunts, portrayed the blessed primitive to white actors’ ruined sophisticate characters or the comic/minstrel to the serious actor.

The groundbreaking, Academy-Award winning “The Defiant Ones” (1958), starring Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis, is an early example of a film with a black-white, criminal-character scenario.

But there was nearly a ten-year gap before the next black-white buddy film emerged on big screens. It was then that roles for African-American film actors regressed with the rise of Blaxploitation films. Pimps, prostitutes, drug dealers, excessive violence, and a “gotta get mine” ghetto mentality that still seeps into film-making typified this genre.

Everyone can’t be tough

“Firefox” (1981) and “First Blood” (1982) were among some of the first post Vietnam white male buddy films, but it wasn’t until the 1987 release of “Lethal Weapon (“Off Limits” follows a year later) that African-American characters without a criminal background joined the party. Still, the black character had a bit of a coward in him.

While both stars, Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, portray veterans and police sergeants, filmmakers emasculate Glover’s Roger Murtaugh while portraying Gibson’s Riggs as a super-tough (though ruined) hero. The film opens with Murtaugh’s family celebrating his 50th birthday; other officers are commenting (with feminine flair) on how he looks without his beard, and when he suspects that Martin Riggs (Gibson) is a criminal and proceeds to detain him, he is thrown to the grown; then he says, “I’m too old for this.” Throughout the original and its sequels, as Riggs performs dangerous feats, Murtaugh screams like a child not like the trained officer he is.

Primitives, sophisticates, minstrels, and actors

Will Ferrell, bottom, and Kevin Hart in "Get Hard." Photo by Patti Perret - Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Will Ferrell, bottom, and Kevin Hart in “Get Hard.” Photo by Patti Perret – Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

It was in the ’70s, just after the official end of the Vietnam War, when the black-white buddy film zipped to the forefront of film culture. Unfortunately, it came with familiar racist undertones.

Kicking off the bi-racial genre were “Silver Streak” (1976) and “Stir Crazy” (1980), starring Gene Wilder (the ruined sophisticate) and Richard Pryor (the blessed primitive and minstrel). Pryor plays the fool who uses streetwise smarts to teach Wilder’s innocent straight men how to survive. Pryor isn’t the only African-American actor known for playing the fool and the blessed primitive.

Kevin Hart recently joined the scene playing the fool. This year, he starred alongside Will Ferrell in “Get Hard,” a film with a similar relationship premise to the Wilder/Pryor films where Ferrell assumes Hart’s character understands prison and can teach him how to survive.

Here, though, Ferrell plays a far greater fool. But Ferrell’s James is an educated, white-collar executive, while Hart’s Darnell is a cash-strapped car wash attendant desperate enough to play the minstrel despite his ignorance of street smarts or prison.

Eddie Murphy alone starred in at least 11 black-white buddy films, where you can often find him singing or scamming. Thankfully, Disney — so far in its takeover of “Star Wars” — hasn’t taken up that part of the playbook. May we never see a singing, dancing, shucking, or jiving Jedi.

So what?

That said, I have to make my own confession: I have been the first in line at some of these prescribed black-white buddy movies whether violent or comedic. Some, like “Get Hard,” are annoyingly funny. And if I dig through my old VHS tapes, I can probably find a few copies of “Lethal Weapon.”

Yet, that doesn’t change my disappointment when yet another formulaic film hits theaters, makes a bundle, and keeps black actors spinning in the same suffocating quagmire.  It says a lot about our interests when we spend $1.3 million on quick laughs and mind-twirling special effects when there’s only a little story fit into a big template.



*This essay originally used the actual derogatory term for a black person because I chose reality over politics. I’ve never known a bigot to spew, “N-WORD!” However, there are those who have had the word flung at them more times than they can count and don’t need to see it in my blog post.


©Leslie and Wildemere Publishing LLC [2016]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is to Leslie Green and Wildemere Publishing LLC with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Sacred Craft: DJ Jay Daniel on Creativity and its Killers

Jay Daniel doesn’t take creativity for granted.

His grandfather sculpted, aunt danced, mother wrote and sang, and his grandmother cultivated his artistic interests. His childhood illustrations still hang throughout her home. At 9, Jay started playing the drums; by the time he was 11, his interest in DJ’ing was blossoming.

Jay Daniel performs at Movement 2015 in Detroit.

Jay Daniel performs at Movement 2015 in Detroit.

“I used to listen to radio DJs,” he says over pizza at Detroit’s Motor City Brewing Works. “I bought my first record when I was 11.”

That was “Midwest Swing” by Nelly’s St. Lunatics. He still gets that “cool” feeling now that he got while digging through record store stacks back then. While he hasn’t been on the electronic music scene for long—just five years—the media already is calling him a DJ on the rise.

Says “Daniel’s productions stand out for their simple elegance — they’re no-nonsense, no-frills hardware jams that pair hard-hitting bass drums with enchanting, haunting melodies, possessing a rawness and immediacy that makes his tracks feel human and relatable. He’s also an excellent DJ.”

For the first couple of years on the scene, Jay played other artists’ work—actually not an easy feat.

“You have to mix different elements of the song that relate,” he says. “Subconsciously, you pick up on it and then you know what you want to play next. You have to be attuned to it. You have to listen to the record. You have to study the record, pretty much. You have to be sensible rhythm-wise to understand what music plays well.” Of course, being a musician helps.

A couple of years ago, Jay started crafting his own mixes. “The second mix I made was called the ‘3750 Mix.’ I was just vibing—going off the feeling of the record rather than the BPM, you know.” Listening to it later “felt surreal,” he says. “I remember thinking ‘How am I gonna top this!’” He laughs. “But I knew it was a good start for me and I got a good response from it.”

Creativity has its limits

As Jay’s popularity grew so did his travel demands. In 2014, the 24-year-old traveled internationally every two weeks or so. He’d play in Paris for one show, return to Detroit for a few days, head to Japan, back to Europe, Detroit, Australia, and so on.

“I was in front of a lot more people and I didn’t realize it was making me anxious,” Jay says. Being exposed also opened him up to more criticism—his own and others.

“People are judgmental and have certain notions of you. And that’s in the back of your mind before you even meet them, so you end up being more critical too. I’m not a distrustful person typically; but you end up around all these people and you feel like your energy is getting used. It can be exhausting.”

“…Embarrassment, self-consciousness, remembered criticisms, can stifle the average person so that less and less in his lifetime can he open himself out.”

Ray Bradbury, “Zen in the Art of Writing”

It wasn’t just the negativity that started bringing Jay down; he found himself solely performing for other people rather than for himself and his love of music.

“I always knew (performing) was for other people because, you know, I’m a fan first. I like music. I never felt like anything anyone else made was just for them or that anything I made was just mine. Other people can hear what you make and enjoy it.”

On top of that, the excessive travel was eating into Jay’s production time, jet lag was taking its toll, and he was having difficulty winding down.

“The party never ended. Even when I was home, I was looking for something to do,” he explains. “But that’s when I should have just sat down and created something. It could have been anything. It could have been drawing, writing, or anything. Just to use that creative energy so you don’t get all frustrated.”

Pruning and bearing fruit

Youth, thankfully, didn’t keep Jay from reflecting sooner rather than later on where he was and where he wanted to be. He reduced his touring time and ramped up time with family.WatusiHIgh

“That helps a lot,” he says, being around people with the same energy as you. “They know how you think to a certain degree. They support you.”

Jay also didn’t sit around the house doing nothing; neither did he look for the next party. Instead, he began working on his own record label Watusi High, which just released the two-track EP “School Dance.” Though touring periodically — he was recently in Australia — he’s now working on an album. The record label, Jay says, gives him something else to feel positive about.

“Now I can build a catalog and have an umbrella for my artistic creations and expressions.”

You set the bouJayimagendaries

Jay’s advice to other artists?

“Stay focused. That’s the most important thing,” he says. “Stuff happens in waves and if you’re not focused then you might fall off that wave.”

Having too much time on your hands, Jay says, is dangerous. “You start thinking about the wrong stuff and end up downing yourself. It’s important to keep that creative energy going. There’s so much other stuff that can dampen and hamper your creativity, if you let it.”

When asked if other people can kill an artist’s creativity, Jay says: “Only if you let them. Just keep creating. Be positive and know your history. Everything is created. Don’t forget where your craft came from. It’s sacred and has longevity. It helps you express yourself.”

Connect with Jay Daniel on Twitter. Find his new EP “School Dance” at Paramita Sound, Submerge, and Peoples and Hello records in Detroit.


 ©Leslie and Wildemere Publishing LLC [2015]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is to Leslie Green and Wildemere Publishing LLC with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Language of Dance

Andrea Daniel

By Andrea Daniel

I have been a dance lover since childhood — making sure to attend performances by major troupes during their annual stops in Detroit and often writing about dance as a freelance writer. But that has been the extent of my dance involvement since participating in Advanced Dance Class in college. And then I received an invitation to the free ArtLabJ event “Moving with Detroit,” supported by CultureSource and

Now, some events you attend knowing what will greet you. You know your agenda, and you have your game plan going in, particularly if you’re to write about it.

Then there are the other events, those you walk into knowing you must have an open mind; you don’t quite know what you’ll get out of it. The “Moving with Detroit” description was pretty clear and set my expectations. The invite said:

The goal is to promote dance and movement events and encourage people to see, talk about and experience dance in Detroit. … The 90-minutes session is jam-packed with a mix of networking activities, panel discussions, artists’ talks, performances, and dialogues. It will be a space for networking, connecting and talking about dance and movement in Detroit and will include a performance by Harge Dance Stories.

But that was only the surface.

The program at hand

“Moving with DancIMG_1621e” wasn’t just an event, it was a working session. We learned about the inner workings of ArtLab J, the brainchild of president and founder Joori Jung; we networked; we brainstormed about the summer release of the “Moving with Detroit” Dance Magazine. And we  benefited from the presence of 90-year-old former dancer Harriet Berg, the lady known as Detroit’s preeminent dance historian.

Left-right: Nannette Mazich, executive director of Eisenhower Dance; Cheryl McIlhon, Eisenhower Dance board member and Detroit Opera House Dance council chair; and dance historian Harriet Berg.

Left-right: Nannette Mazich, executive director of Eisenhower Dance; Cheryl McIlhon, Eisenhower Dance board member and Detroit Opera House Dance council chair; and dance historian Harriet Berg.

In her own attempt to bridge the Detroit dance gap, Berg published “The Body Electric Detroit,” the 2012 guide to all things dance.

She praises Jung’s efforts: “I think that is the unique quality of Joori that she doesn’t just think about her own work and her own company, but about how she can get other artists, and other choreographers and people involved, and give them an opportunity to show their work.


“That is what we’ve been lacking in Detroit,” she continues. “We have the dancers that have the training but there are not enough opportunities to perform. And we have so much talent here in Detroit that Detroiters never get to see because they have to go away. So our dancers are dancing all over the Harriet Bergs dance guideUnited States and we don’t know about their work here. I think that’s one of our serious drawbacks for a young dancer. You know, ‘I’m trained. I’m ready to go… Where do I go?’ It’s about having regular opportunities to perform here.”


Below the surface

What would an event dedicated to dance be without… dance? And there was that, presented by the newly formed Harge Dance Stories, a mobile collective of artists working on various projects.

In following my favorite dancers and covering dance over the years, I have learned the artistry has a language all its own. The trick is to be able to read between the lines or movements to discover the message therein. No other time was this more apparent than watching an excerpt from  “Line Between Heaven and Here.”

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Two solitary women, Jennifer Harge, Harge Dance Stories’ founder, and Erika Stowall took to the floor, while a somber vocal ensemble piece — no lyrics, just some vocalizing — by Michael Hall called “Choir Only” filled the room. From them came the story (at least by my interpretation) of women, of supporting one another, of sadness, and of anguish.

“It’s about what living looks like when death plays a big part in our lives,” Harge says. “Women are our children’s keeper as forces come at us as we try to maintain our foundation.”

I found it interesting that she named her dance collective Harge Dance Stories rather than using the traditional “dance company.”

“I see dances most clearly as a story. The things I choose as dance have a diversity, an arc.”


~ Choreographer Jennifer Harge

Harge and Stowall, founder of three-year-old Big Red Wall Dance Company, met 10 years ago in a dance program at the University of Michigan and often serve as guest artists for each other’s companies.

The “why” of it all

ArtLab J president and founder Joori Jung

ArtLab J president and founder Joori Jung


A Seoul, Korea, native Jung moved to Detroit from New York three years ago to open a dance studio. In her attempt to get to know the city and surrounding communities, she noticed something missing, opportunities for dancers to regularly showcase their work. Her initial response was to fill the gap.

What began as a bi-monthly showcase for dancers’ completed or works in progress at her Eastern Market ArtLab J studio expanded into the Detroit Dance City Festival, which is moving into its third year and has developed international ties.

“Moving with Detroit” is her latest labor of love.

“We want to build up a relationship with all people,” says Jung. “So we want more networking. Like, design and music has a lot of networking going on, but with dance is harder to find that space, so that’s why we made the program.”

One of the things I enjoy when talking with dancers is hearing them describe why they are dancers. Their answers are precise, thoughtful and seem to come from a tender place inside.

“It’s one of the only things that’s consistently made sense in my life,” says Harge. “I always lean on dance to process life.”

Stowall cites catharsis: “It’s the best way to express myself without judgment or ridicule.”

“Dance is my therapist, and she’s free. We have a one hour session everyday.”


~ Erika Stowall 

When it comes to dancers, where words fail, dance completes the sentence.


Andrea Daniel is a poet, publicist, freelance writer, voice-over artist, BMI registered songwriter, founder of AND Communications and co-owner/operator of Dakota Avenue West Publishing. Andrea produces and hosts the Michigan Literary Network’s Internet radio show, and is co-producer and co-host of Literature, Lyrics & Lines on Detroit Public Schools WRCJ-FM 90.9. She lives in Detroit, Mich., with her son and Terrier-Poodle-mix, Dot.

Read more from Andrea Daniel on this site or on her blog.

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