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IMPRESSIONS OF: The Francesca Harper Project & John Heginbotham

IMPRESSIONS OF: The Francesca Harper Project & John Heginbotham
Christine Jowers

By Christine Jowers
View Profile | More From This Author

Published on June 23, 2010
photo by Bill Hebert

© Christine Jowers 2010

Impressions of:
 
Question: When is it appropriate to hug a choreographer that you don’t know?

Answer: When they invite you into their home during their family reunion and share with you their deepest loves. When they just don’t show you what they can accomplish, and how exceptionally they can pull it off, but include you in their experience with open and welcoming arms. This generosity of spirit and concern with communication describes Francesca Harper the elegant dancer/choreographer leading a muli -talented cast of young artists she describes as “her heart”.
read more...
And in the words of that immortal buddy
Samuel J. Snodgrass, as he was about to be lead
To the guillotine:
"Make 'em laugh" *
(*Written by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed for “Singing In the Rain”- originally song by Donald O’Connor)

 
What I thoroughly appreciated about Jonathon Heginbotham’s One-Man Show was the ingloriousness of it all-- coupled with its vaudevillian aspect, a worship of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, and a whirlwind homage to one- person shows and the historical Joe’s Pub. I loved that a dancer with the Mark Morris Company who could have chosen to create a show in which he danced his ass off, preened, or showed off his “really serious artistry“, decided instead to expose his insecurity, goofiness and blue-briefed back side to us. Actually, he keyed into what artists do every night when they perform –reveal their vulnerability and take risks in a potentially frightening situation with everybody watching. Heginbotham uses wit, self-deprecation, singin’, dancin’, and his rapid demise to really bring that the point home.
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ad more...
 

IMPRESSIONS OF Francesca Harper

The Francesca Harper Project Fifth Anniversary Season – June 4th, 8pm- Opening Night, The Joyce Soho
Choreography: Francesca Harper, Jessica Lang (The Calling), Ronald K. Brown (with Harper-Deliberate Joy)
Dancers: Special Guests-Desmond Richardson and Ronald K. Brown- and Francesca Harper, Mary Carter, Matthew Chiu, Natasha Diamond-Walker, Eriko Iisaku, Geneva Jenkins, Josh Johnson, Willy Laury, Major Nesby, Stephanie Williams

Christine Jowers 2010

Question: When is it appropriate to hug a choreographer that you don’t know?

Answer: When they invite you into their home during their family reunion and share with you their deepest loves. When they just don’t show you what they can accomplish, and how exceptionally they can pull it off, but include you in their experience with open and welcoming arms. This generosity of spirit and concern with communication describes Francesca Harper the elegant dancer/choreographer leading a muli -talented cast of young artists she describes as “her heart”.
 
Francesca Harper - Photo by Bill Hebert (BHPhotos.net)

From the first duet of the evening, we are included with the artists as journeymen, traveling on an imagined subway train getting bumped and jostled with Harper and Desmond Richardson. Richardson, who audiences expect to dance super -humanly (because gawwwwd he is a magnificent performer), tonight was a low key a fellow passenger, quietly gesturing and rocking to the sound of Harper’s voice memories.
 
Francesca Harper and Desmond Richardson - Photo by Bill Hebert (BHPhotos.net)

The ten pieces of the evening- fashioned as links on a necklace, no bows or applause in between to break the continuum-feel like a walk through a dream. Bold colored brush strokes projected on the back wall introduce the cast who fill the stage alternatively with playfulness, flirtation, and sinuous sensual movement that melts into the floor, flicks the air, and extends the limbs to the furthest reaches of space. Moments like a whip whip whip multiple turn on one leg, punctuated by a quick flick of the wrists, almost announce, “I hope you didn’t miss that.” Yet there is no empty technique. I don’t think Harper would allow it. Dance means too much to her. As the piece flows on, stories of what led some of the artists to dance are revealed through video and text.
 
The Company in "BachRemixed" Photo by Bill Hebert(BHPhotos.net)

Harper, the performer, wins us over not only with her expressivity and obvious dance gifts, but also, very distinctly, with her willingness to be vulnerable on stage. She searches, she reveals, she shares. She is a mature woman. Her duet with Ronald K. Brown, Deliberate Joy, is a beautiful example of the depth seasoned artists bring to dance.

Inspired by classic modern dance and post- modernism, intrigued by multi-media, grounded by strong technical skill and heart – Harper’s choreography makes a room vibrate. It was a special privilege to be an audience member in the intimate space of Joyce Soho Theater.
 
The Company - Photo by Bill Hebert (BHPhotos.net)
 

MPRESSIONS OF John Heginbotham

One-Man Show –June 5th, 9:30 pm- Joes Pub
Choreographed and Written by John Heginbotham
Cast: John Heginbotham, Elizabeth DeMent, Aaron Mattocks, and Daniel Pettrow
Original music by Julia Meinwald, lyrics by Gordon Leary, and costumes by Maile Okamura.

Christine Jowers 2010
And in the words of that immortal buddy
Samuel J. Snodgrass, as he was about to be lead
To the guillotine:
"Make 'em laugh"*
(*Written by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed for “Singing In the Rain”- originally song by Donald O’Connor)
DanceNow at Joe’s Pub provides audiences the opportunity to witness Terpsichore letting her hair down, breathing easy, and having a laugh.

What I thoroughly appreciated about Jonathon Heginbotham’s One-Man Show was the ingloriousness of it all-- coupled with its vaudevillian aspect, a worship of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, and a whirlwind homage to one- person shows and the historical Joe’s Pub. I loved that a dancer with the Mark Morris Company who could have chosen to create a show in which he danced his ass off, preened, or showed off his “really serious artistry“, decided instead to expose his insecurity, goofiness and blue-briefed back side to us. Actually, he keyed into what artists do every night when they perform –reveal their vulnerability and take risks in a potentially frightening situation with everybody watching. Heginbotham uses wit, self-deprecation, singin’, dancin’, and his rapid demise to really bring that the point home.
One-Man Show-John Heginbotham- Photo by Steven Schreiber

This self-effacing odyssey commences when our anti-hero flat lines and, when just about to enter that final musical dance theater in the sky, is mercifully granted reprieve by an elegantly dressed surgeon and his knockout nurse – Dr. Astaire (Aaron Mattocks) and Nurse Rogers (Elizabeth DeMent) who pity the poor boy because he has never fulfilled his life-long ambition to create a one-man show.

We then promenade through Heginbotham’s trials and tribulations as he, with only fifty minutes to live, attempts to develop his solo masterpiece all the while being taunted by his brain, played as an unkempt impatient surgeon (Daniel Pettrow) who tinkers at an electric piano (miming to a recording) while swilling whisky and hurling insults.

The other members of the “supporting” cast (this is a four person one-man show) also can be surly. They would rather be a part of any other one-man show than this one- what about Elaine Stritch, Spalding Gray, or Liza with a Z?

There are zingy and silly one –liners, a song celebrating “just showing up” and one about procrastination that speaks to the anxiety of every person who ever created any piece of performance. Finally on the postage size stamp stage that is Joe’s Pub, a salute to Fred, Ginger, Irving Berlin and the musical “ Top Hat” in which Heginbotham earnestly sashays under swirling lights in the manner of a enamored devotee. Even in this “cabaret for an underachiever “context, that is a moment of charm and wonder.
One-Man Show-John Heginbotham- Photo by Steven Schreiber

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