Fringe Artist Interview: Jane Franklin

Written on June 5, 2014

Capital Fringe had a good streak going of monthly artist interviews, but, for various reasons, we fell off the wagon in 2014. But, with the Festival in less than 45 days, let’s catch up. We’ll be featuring two artist interviews per week in the run up to the Festival. Let’s get to it.

Jane Franklin (lead photo, credit: Enoch Chan) leads modern dance company, Jane Franklin Dance. This July, they will debut their new mixed media performance piece, Blue Moon/Red River, inside of the Capital Fringe Festival.

What’s your background? Tell us about Jane Franklin Dance.

I grew up in rural Colorado; went to the University of Colorado at Boulder leading to dancing in NYC with Rudy Perez Dance Company and three years with a company in London, England. Then back to Boulder where I had a dance company there for several years; then went to the Ohio State University as a University Fellow where I also got an MFA. I then came to this area as a visiting guest artist at George Mason University. Since I started the company, I have been presenting work in unusual places, outdoors, what-have-you, and I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with amazing music, media and visual artists.

Tell us about Blue Moon/Red River.

Our production and collaboration with Tom Teasley Percussion has been in process for over a year; and had a showing at Atlas INTERSECTIONS Festival. Blue Moon/Red River is a way to experience two artistic mediums together in live performance. Dynamic movement, percussion and physical storytelling convey the sounds and wide spaces of the American Southwest. Symbols gradually fill a video backdrop and bodies are marked in an athletic and interactive production. Tom Teasley described by the Washington Post as a “multi-instrumental genius” combines ancient sounds and modern technology. The Balafone, a West African instrument and ancestor to the modern day xylophone, is played while bodies create a landscape.

The eleven dancers travel through celebratory movement that echoes creation myth in reference to Coyote and Eagle; and later dwell in “wind” sound reminiscent of the lonely vastness of the Southwestern plains. Dancers use each other to climb as if in an effort to scale to the top of a mesa from a deep canyon. The Aqua-sonic, a newly invented instrument with water inside, creates a bravado as Tom moves through a ritual that explores marking and the desire to belong. The piece truly is a “coming home” to my own birthplace and my own love for the beauty and grandeur of the Southwest.

Jane Franklin Dance is a mainstay in the DC area arts scene. What drew you to the Capital Fringe Festival for this production?

I have so much faith in this piece, that it can continue to grow as Tom and I work on it. It is a lot larger than I can accomplish in one performance or one showing… and in fact I’ve always developed my work in this way, that the direct feedback from the audience and yourself after performance is a much deeper experience than zillions of rehearsals. The opportunity to show at Fringe is to have multiple performances and perhaps attract audiences we would not have been able to attract to any of our usual Virginia locations. And Fringe has given us a wonderful venue and a great opportunity for the company to push beyond what we’ve done before.

The piece truly is a “coming home” to my own birthplace and my own love for the beauty and grandeur of the Southwest.

What do you want the audience to experience during your show?

I hope to convey the feeling of the Southwest, not only the more mythic idea of “frontier” but some of the emotion that the landscape and history can generate… timelessness, support, loneliness and struggle.

What makes your production unique?

We have a wonderful cast, the live music that Tom generates on the spot; and Tom’s looped rhythms that are recorded as he plays them. We also have a video backdrop that was created by Hernando Hernandez and Janette Kim, designers over at Scott Laughlin’s LMO Advertising in Arlington. The drawings fill in gradually over time. The drawings were inspired by rock drawings done by a young Navajo man I met at the bottom of Canyon de Chelly in Arizona. We re-create those drawings as reference to the many petroglyphs found in that area…that’s Spider Rock down at the bottom of the canyon that you can see in this photo.

What have you learned working on Blue Moon/Red River?

Mostly I have learned to put many pieces of inspiration together and hopefully this will provide some emotional resonance to any viewer. I think of emotion as non-linear, but in dance and really any staged production you don’t have that luxury of letting pieces fall… mostly because part of the story might be forgotten and left untold.

What does success mean to you?

I want to be very proud and happy with the piece of course, and not sitting in the audience and cringing because I’m afraid it’s not working. That is a big part, just flat out making a really good piece. We do have a big house to fill - at the Lang - and it would really be nice to get audiences to fill those seats, because who knows, maybe sometime they would then venture a trip across the river and into Virginia.

Jane Franklin Dance’s Blue Moon/Red River debuts in this summer’s Capital Fringe Festival. Tickets will go on sale Thursday, June 19th.

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