The Jane Franklin Dance Company, hailing from Arlington, Virginia, is very clear and direct about their approach on being a troupe; they layer their physical movements with music and visual arts. Their latest production, Wash Over You, is a multimedia burst of busyness and thoughtful stillness.
Wash Over You opens with a projected image of three women all dressed in identical blue-green plaid sundresses perch atop a trunk. As the stage lights are brought up the audience sees the same women right in front of us striking a similar pose. The music starts; it’s loud and fills the space. The racing violin and piano chords are matched by the movements of the dancers as they dart back and forth across the stage. These initial moments build as the dance moves are only interrupted by stops that are synced to projections being shown on the backdrop. There are photos of a clear blue sky, then a high wheat field, and then uninterrupted blue.
What you soon gather from the staged clues, multiple trunks, projected images, and the sparse lines spat from the dancers, is this experience is about travel. The journey at this point is about three unnamed friends on a waterway heading somewhere. On this trip there are obstacles, physical and mental, but the trio move ahead, undeterred. There are as many as 10 dancers onstage and there are times when the flood of bodies overwhelms the senses and makes it difficult to prioritize where you should focus your gaze. The company, aside from the three central dancers, serve two purposes. At times they make up the landscape and at other times they represent people meet along the voyage.
Wash Over You
Choreography by Jane Franklin
Details and tickets
There are also times when the dancers, none of whom are mic’d, have to compete with music to deliver their lines. For a performance that is very smart about the use of multimedia, it feels like a missed opportunity for the performers who were trying to aid in the physical storytelling with overshadowed dialogue.
Wash Over You shines in moments when the three featured dancers are front and center carrying out graceful movements with the help of the rest of the company. At least twice during its nearly hour performance, Wash Over You’s three travelers are on top of their trunks as the company sweeps them across the stage. In these moments you see the beauty of their coordinated and focused effort and you feel the rush of the waterway pushing the trio to their destination.
Wash Over You does not use a lot of dialogue, but one that catches your attention each time you hear it is, “it an imperfect experience” which is true on the micro and macro here. Jane Franklin Dance’s Wash Over You is not a perfect experience nor is travel or the numerous ideas that going on a trip represent in this performance but all are worthy of our time if not for what we see over the peaks and valleys, but what we can start to see in ourselves.
Wash Over You . Choreography, Text, Video: Jane Franklin . Wave Design: Susan Mireanda . Composers: David Schulman. Eva Schlegel . Dancers: Taryn Packheiser Brown, Emily Crews, Ken Hays, Nicole Y. McClam, Carrie Monger, Matthew Rock, Amy Scaringe, Rachel Scaringe, Brynna Shank, David Schulman . Produced by Jane Franklin Dance . Reviewed by Jason Williams.