STORY WRITTEN BY TARA LYNN JOHNSON
For Digital First Media
A dancer, age 3, twirls and does pliés and arabesques in her hometown in Doylestown. Years later, all grown up, the same dancer brings her contemporary company to her hometown region for their first Philadelphia performance. Jessica Lang Dance will grace the stage at the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts March 19 through 21.
“I’m so excited to be making our Philadelphia debut,” she said.
Her company, founded in 2011, is dedicated to enriching and inspiring global audiences “by immersing them in the beauty of movement and music.” Dance Magazine called Lang “a master of visual composition,” and soon, dance fans in the Philadelphia region will get to see for themselves.
Annenberg audiences will see several shorter pieces: Lines Cubed; Mendelssohn / Incomplete, set to Mendelssohn’s Concerto No.1; Among the Stars, a romantic duet; The Calling (excerpt from Splendid Isolation II), an Ailey II commission for a solo dancer; White (film), which explores the idea of manipulating time; and i.n.k., an ensemble piece framed by video projections of ink and paint moving in slow motion to an electronic score.
Lines Cubed, a full-ensemble piece, was inspired by Dutch artist Piet Mondrian. The dance references geometric patterns from his painting, which use red, blue, and yellow in and around black lines, and the idea that color is related to emotions and moods. In addition to choreographing the piece, Lang coordinated the stage design, which is divided into panels of white and primary colors. The goal is to create a three-dimensional painting inhabited by dancers.
“It’s a bit of an inside joke with someone about how in general I don’t like color,” Lang said. “This was my chance to explore color and emotions attached to it.”
In the beginning of the piece, everyone is in black and the stage is “very black and white,” she said. The colors are added and then the end brings everyone back to the beginning, but with a different ending.
“It’s a composition that comes to life,” she said. “You’ll see things you didn’t see when everyone was wearing black.”
Using a painter as inspiration isn’t unusual for Lang. She’s inspired by visual art and the arts in general, she said.
“I’m open to sculpture, visual art, architecture, literature, and music,” she said. “Most of the time, the inspiration comes from something other than movement. Movement comes last in my creation process.”
But movement has been a part of her life forever. Her older sister attended dance classes when Lang was a toddler who tagged along. Lang started taking classes herself when she was three. Ballet and dance spoke to her at the right time, she said – she was disciplined enough to decide at 14, “this is what I want to do,” she said. “It’s who I am.”
Lang studied dance while growing up in Doylestown, then went to Julliard. She was a member of renowned dancer/choreographer Twyla Tharp’s company for a time after she graduated. She also toured as a professional, but didn’t care for the repetition and tour life, she said.
“I was bored without the creative process,” she said. “I missed being in the studio.”
After working as a professional choreographer, she knew she made the right choice. Since 1999, Lang has created more than 80 works for companies around the world. And now, she brings her own company to the region where she grew up.
“It’s neat. I have friends that still live there and it’s nice to be able come back and share with them and these audiences,” she said.
She doesn’t get to her hometown often, but she’s grateful she’ll be able to this month. In the Philadelphia region, “I have deep roots,” she said, “and hopefully people who I’ve known and knew me when I was growing up will come and see what I’ve become.”
For videos of Jessica Lang Dance performances, check HERE
IF YOU GO
What: Jessica Lang Dance
When: 7:30 p.m. March 19; 8 p.m. March 20; 2 and 8 p.m. March 21
Where: Zellerbach Theatre at the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 3680 Walnut St., Philadelphia.
Tickets: $20-$50, available at http://www.annenbergcenter.org/event/jessica-lang-dance
Info.: Call (215) 898-3900