Dance at Franklin encompasses 200 students of all levels. Every participant in the program is required to take part in Arts Alive, a four show performance with an audience of hundreds each night. There are opportunities to choreograph, produce, and collaborate in the studio, making it a largely student-led endeavor. Sonia Kellermann, the director of the show and the Dance at Franklin program, said that “this year the goal is to center student voices.” With an impressive 12 pieces featuring student choreographers and/or directors, Arts Alive 2022 certainly accomplished that goal.
Originally conceived by Kellermann’s predecessor Julana Torres, Arts Alive was formed with the intention of a display of all art forms at Franklin. Torres said, “I felt strongly that I did not want to do a show that was solely dance, but one that displayed how all arts are connected and feed off of each other. I wanted an opportunity to build collaboration amongst all of the departments, demonstrate the need for these programs, and also to provide an opportunity for students to explore creation with other arts students.” Torres began with a budget of $800, compared to this year’s estimated $10,000. The constant from then and now has been Josh Forsythe, the Franklin Theater and stage craft teacher. Torres said, “Mr. Forsythe really saw my vision that first year and was a huge support and instrumental in helping to bring the show to fruition.” Forsythe oversaw the technical aspects of the show, as well as contributing to the musical theater pieces. The Black Box Theater hosted visual and ceramic art displays, including photography. Thespians gave monologues alongside chorus renditions, poetry slammers, jazz musicians, electric guitar, a Mean Girls duet, and the list of various acts goes on.
The opening night standouts captivated the audience. Most noticeably, Emya Hall (10) singing “Anyone” by Demi Lovato. The curtain opened to reveal a shadowed profile swimming in the blue background. Hall’s voice was distinctly vulnerable. When the scrim lifted and revealed her and a floor length emerald dress, the impressed crowd cheered encouragingly. As Hall continued her voice got increasingly more powerful, and by the end of the song many around me were teary eyed (including myself).
Leaving a similar aftertaste of openness and beauty was the dance piece Valleys, performed and choreographed by Shannon Doyle (12) and Stella Garrido-Spencer (12). The contemporary duet seemed to play with space between the two dancers; a manipulation of one anothers’ energy through movement. The dance was accompanied by the song “The Valleys” by Elecralane, an English all-women band. Its rhythm is steady; the style is defined as Krautrock (a 1960-70s German concoction of psychedelic rock, avant garde and electronic music). The gray background with the warm lighting on the dancers tied it all together, making it one of the most technically successful pieces of the night.
Meandering on over to the Black Box at intermission might surprisingly make you hungry. That’s thanks in part to a delicious display of ceramic sustenance. Kelsey Eisland’s picnic ready “Summer Pie” and Ruby Owens’ “Peanut Butter and Banana Toast!” are certainly good enough to eat. The high-gloss glaze added a flattering sheen reminiscent of Japanese jelly candies, yet were based on the French sculpture style of Trompe l’oeil or, “deceives the eye.” Accompanying the ceramic foods were bowls and pots good enough to be professional, such as Nina Roy’s graduated nesting bowls “Urban Cityscape” with a delightful black and red line art skyline climbing the outerface.
Lining the Black Box were paintings from all levels of art, and photography on the back center wall. Adrian Wilkinson’s (11) spooky iconic photo painting “Black and White Landscape” stood out distinctly on the left wall as a panoramic rectangle with glowing cemetery crosses. Moving clockwise to the photography, the intimacy of Sophie Adam’s (10) “Shy” leaves you wondering what its subject hides behind gaudy fingers. Julian Tiana (12) embodied Patrick Batman in an imaginative tri-photo series entitled “Hip to be a square” that brings a comedic angle to horror tropes. Reminiscent of childhood and late summer nights running around was Sofia DeBenedetto’s (9) “Golden Hour”. And finally, “Do what you love, love what you do” by Kevin Ngyen (10) was giving Wes Anderson with its saturated red and blues and posters reflecting the different angles at which one can hit a ping pong ball.
Sans music, the Tap Company’s “Call and Response” moved as a unit, shaking the auditorium and demanding the audience’s attention. Tap, like ballet, is one of those mediums that noticeably takes training. While the dancers shuffle-ball-changed and added more and more small taps between, I sat and thought to myself, “man, I definitely could not do that.”
As for popping and locking, Alida Halsy (12), who co-choreographed the group piece “Okra” with Arabella Kelly (12), made it look so effortless. Every step was perfectly on time. The crowd did their loudest hooting for the final hip-hop dance, Beyonce’s “Homecoming” number. The high-energy moment left everyone with a smile at the close of the show.
The future of Dance at Franklin looks like expansion on the diversity of practice and genres of dance. Kellermann expressed that she isn’t comfortable teaching styles of dance that she hasn’t studied in depth. “I came up in a time when Western European Centric practices were prioritized in our curriculum, and other art forms weren’t. I would love to bring on a different voice.” However the biggest crowd pleasers of the night came from the K-Pop club, the Latinx Dancers (special shout out to Luis Barrios-Villanueva (11) who waved those hips and had the crowd howling), as well as the Hip-Hop Company. All of these groups choreographed their own works, proving once again that the students of Franklin show up for what they care about.
As cheesy as it is, seeing your peers on stage, let alone your friends, creates an overwhelming sense of pride. Our assortment of differences seem so much smaller, and you can feel the nerves that blossom into confidence when the performers move from their hearts. If anything, Arts Alive is a wonderful anti-apathy pill to leave you feeling Franklin Strong.