The Francesca Harper Project, a contemporary dance company led by dancer/choreographer/vocalist Francesca Harper, celebrates its fifth anniversary season at Joyce SoHo Friday, June 4 – Sunday, June 6, 2010. Enhanced by special guest artists Desmond Richardson and Ronald K. Brown (June 4th performance only), the 12-member Francesca Harper Project continues to capture Harper’s amalgam of varying art genres including film, theatre, ballet en pointe, and modern dance. Highlighting the program are three world premieres – Bach Remixed by Harper and two opening night collaborations with co-choreographers and dancers Ronald K. Brown and Desmond Richardson in Deliberate Joy and TBA, respectively. Other program highlights include: Fearless Mine (2009), Documotion: One-Rave (2009), and Chroma Style (2004) by Harper; and The Calling, an excerpt from Splendid Isolation II (2006), by Jessica Lang.
Opening the evening is the premiere of Bach Remixed, Harper’s contemporary translation of Bach’s The Goldberg Variations (1741), one of the most sophisticated works ever written for keyboard. As an obligatory nod to her classically-trained upbringing, Harper sets intricate pointe work on a series of deconstructed solos, duets, and trios. Always one to explore multifarious art forms, Harper integrates dance with spoken word; the dancers share personal revealing subjects (specifically, catalysts for change in their respective lives) through the use of text and movement.
Opening night features two world premieres by Francesca Harper and two of her colleagues – Ronald K. Brown and Desmond Richardson. Harper pairs up with Desmond Richardson, the Co-Founder and Co-Artistic Director of Complexions Contemporary Ballet, in a new duet (title TBA) based on writings by civil rights poet Langston Hughes and set to music by Walter Marks. Both Marks and Harper are currently starring in Langston in Harlem, a highly acclaimed new musical at New York City’s Urban Stages.
Also, for the first time in their 15-year friendship, Harper and Ronald K. Brown, Artistic Director of EVIDENCE Dance Company, will be joining forces as co-choreographers and dancers in the premiere of Deliberate Joy. According to Harper, “now, more than ever, I’ve been gravitating towards Brown and his magnetic positive spiritual nature. It’s an honor and thrill to be collaborating with one of the vanguards of modern dance after all these years!” Deliberate Joy is an introspective duet influenced by Harper’s personal experience with familial illness; it ponders the unexpectedly strong survival instincts that live within all of us.
Similarly, Harper’s Fearless Mine reminds us that, “the warrior within can conquer even the darkest challenges in life.” Set to music by Ryuichi Sakamoto and Bach, Fearless Mine features a sextet performing eye-catching, colorful, and kaleidoscopic pointe work. Rounding out the program are: Documotion: One – Rave which premiered in 2009 at Alvin Ailey’s 50th Anniversary Gala at the Apollo Theater; Chroma Style, a collection of dramatic power struggles amongst seven dancers; and The Calling, from Splendid Isolation II – a Jessica Lang work set to the choral piece O Maria, Stella Maris by Trio Mediaeval and Adagietto, from Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 in C Sharp Minor – to be performed solo by Harper.
Francesca Harper blends original choreography, dance, music and film to create groundbreaking works that are category-defying. Harper was raised in New York City, where she studied at the School of American Ballet, the Joffrey Ballet School, The Ailey School, and under Madame Darvash and Barbara Walczak. After performing with the Dance Theater of Harlem, she danced as a principal in William Forsythe’s Ballet Frankfurt from 1994-1999. Since returning to the States in 2000, Harper has performed in several Broadway productions including Fosse, The Producers, The Frogs, and The Color Purple. She played the role of Helene opposite Molly Ringwald in a national tour of Sweet Charity. She performed the role of Judith originated by Judith Jamison in a revival of Sophisticated Ladies in 2009, choreographed by Chet Walker. She is currently starring as Mrs. Poindexter and the main dancer in Langston in Harlem at Urban Stages in NYC.
Harper’s choreographic career began while still in Germany, where she choreographed a full evening work for the Holland Dance Festival. She has since choreographed works for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Ailey II, Tanz Graz, and her own company The Francesca Harper Project, which has become the platform for her own artistic vision: classical dance forms deconstructed and fused with cutting-edge text, music, film and video. Her original hybrid work was first seen in 2000 at the Cherry Lane Theatre, as part of 50 minutes with Harriet and Phillis, a collaboration with Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Margo Jefferson and composer Paul Miller a.k.a. DJ Spooky. She premiered her critically-acclaimed one-woman show The Fragile Stone Theory at the 2002 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. Francesca’s latest commissioned work, Documotion : ONE – Rave, was requested to be performed at the 50th Anniversary of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center at World Famous Apollo Theater by Judith Jamison. As a singer and lyricist Harper has released singles in Europe and Japan. In November 2003, her single “Would I?” was released on Powerhouse Records. In 2006, she released her debut solo album Modo Fusion with 10 original tracks of soul-inspired R&B and electronica.
The Francesca Harper Project debuted in August 2005 with the sold-out premiere performance of MODO FUSION at The Ailey Citigroup Theater, New York City, and went on to perform a week-long run of MODO FUSION during the 92nd St Y Harkness Dance Festival in March 2006. Company members have also been active performers in MODO FUSION LOUNGE (the music-based cabaret version of MODO FUSION), performing alongside Harper at venues such as Makor and Bowery Poetry Club in New York City. The Francesca Harper Project was recently featured at Solstice: Dancing at the Crossroads in Times Square, sponsored by Dancers Responding to AIDS, and at the Holland Dance Festival. The 2007-2008 season highlights include performances at Harlem Stage, Bloomberg Culture Series, The Ailey Citigroup Theater, New York City Center, Central Park Summerstage and Venice Biennale.