"Movement. Sound. Art."
That’s the motto of Jane Franklin Dance. But what does it mean?
In three simple words, it captures the troupe’s distinctive productions, which mix dance with performance art. Studio owner and choreographer Jane Franklin creates unlikely or off-the-wall "partners" for her dancers. They include round-wall skateboarders, life-size kinetic sculptures, live video feeds, and dogs being walked, all of which interact with the dancers. Just as air, fire and water are elements of nature; so are movement, sound and art essential to dance at Franklin's Shirlington-based studio.
"Movement is the way we express ourselves everyday, in conversation, sitting at the table, walking down the street," Franklin says. "It's wonderful to put those ideas on stage alongside the fine-tuned delicacy, warmth and physicality that the company generates."
A series of April and May performances will embody these ideas, including the premier of a show about extremes and differences. Entitled "Going Polar," it will be performed at Theatre on the Run in Arlington. Most dances, she said, include a combination of ballet and modern techniques, with her special touches.
"It does combine those forms with a big emphasis on movement quality and expressiveness," she says.
Rather than using paints and brushes, dancers have no tangible tools to work with and instead depend on the body and mind.
For them, the artist is the choreographer, who stitches together movements like a quilt to create art in flight.
Still, rehearsals are collaborative. "The dancers and I create movement, which I mold and edit. It's kind of an ever-changing situation with balancing the movement and the sound while keeping it fresh and alive," Franklin says. "We use movement that reflects various dance techniques but also references the communication of gesture and body language."
Before becoming a choreographer, Franklin attended Ohio State University as a fellow and received a certification from the Laban/Bartenieff Institute for Movement Studies in Brooklyn, NY.
Her choreography has been presented at numerous venues and festivals in the mid-Atlantic and southwestern U.S. as well as in Mexico and the United Kingdom.
Franklin likes to refer to her studio as an Arlington arts organization. In fact, it is a one-stop shop. The office, rehearsal and performance space is located at the Cultural Affairs Building at 3700 South Four Mile Run near the Village at Shirlington. The company regularly performs at Theatre on the Run, which is in the same building. The "Theatre on the Run,” she says, “is a great little jewel of a black box in Arlington." Typically, a black box theater refers to a simple performance space, used to create a flexible stage and audience interaction. It is usually a square room with black walls and a flat floor.
Franklin also offers programs for both adults and children. One dance troupe, "Forty+," is a group of community-based performers past the age of 40. There are also matinee performances and camps for kids.
Most dancers met Franklin at an audition, "or perhaps I've known them through their work elsewhere. Several of my dancers have been with me for quite some time; or take on other projects, then return," she says.
Lately, Franklin has been drawn to community-driven pieces. She produces them by incorporating interviews that are woven into the sound score.
"There's a narrative arc that I'm drawn to as a choreographer, using spoken word and many elements of theater,” she says. “The interviews provide a context for us to create the movement.”
She transcribes and edits the interviews and plays with the words and ideas. Her recent piece "EyeSoar,” which will be performed this month at the Atlas INTERSECTIONS festival in Washington D.C., is an example of her vision coming to life. It will be told through personal stories, movement and visual art as it examines her every-changing neighborhood across the street from a creek.
"It's about the 3700 S Four Mile Run Drive neighborhood, about the changes in this small industrial area, and how space is getting tighter, older businesses residing with the newer things coming in,” Franklin says. “ I interviewed several business owners or key management people from Automotive Express, Weenie Beenie, Inner Ear Studio, and many others and layered that with projected images and video of how the area looks today.”