Monday, November 19, 2012

Live Long and Fringe On

A disclaimer on this post: it's very much a "sampler platter" of my experience in New Orleans.  There's a lot of ground to cover, so I'm going to be brief about most things.  Know though, that almost everything I mention has a richer, more detailed core to it.  I may expound upon some of these memories in blog posts to come.

This weekend, I attended the New Orleans Fringe Festival.  It was an incredibly worthwhile trip, full of great food, people, and performance art.  Many memories were made, a few of which I want to share here.

First of all, it was wonderful spending part of this trip with a FrenetiCrew consisting of Mollie, Rebecca, Robert, Mandy, and new(er) friends Nick and Carla.  In particular, I think we're returning from this trip energized about working as a group on our own Fringe.  Personally, I'm excited to get an early start on our 2013 Festival, especially since we have so many new ideas to bat around and integrate (What can we do with our storage area?  What if we had everyone bike from venue to venue?).

The food was, in brief, profoundly good.  I think that pictures of food speak louder than words about food, so I'll let a pair of images do the talking:
Belgian waffle and turkey bacon
Seafood gumbo and sampler platter at Coop's Place, complete with  the best jambalaya I've ever had

Similar to my experience at the 2010 NOLA Fringe, the 2012 shows were eclectic and awesome.  I saw 12 shows in my three days there, and there were only two that I probably wouldn't have recommended to a fellow Fringe attendee.  The rest, I would have (and, in some cases, gladly did) champion to other patrons. For a festival that is, by definition, full of original oddities, this kind of consistent excellence is really remarkable.  Among these shows, the highlights for me were The Rub, a take on Hamlet peppered with pop-culture references and featuring ingenious staging, and Underneath the Lintel, a one-man show depicting a librarian's quest to find the perpetrator who returned a book 123 years overdue.  In The Rub, Hamlet's internal conversation was captured in two equally brilliant ways: (1) by having his father participate in the soliloquies and (2) by having four "Hamlets" onstage at the same time, crossing each other's paths and repeating each other's lines.  Lintel was, at its core, a contemplation of existence and how the decisions we make throughout our lives, whether they be dismissing a potential lover or going to great lengths to puzzle out a library crime, define us and our sense of self-worth.  It was beautifully crafted, funny, heartfelt, and terrifically acted.

I also really enjoyed getting to know some of the performers and organizers in the Fringe.  If I were to extrapolate from the people I met in order to describe the NOLA performance art community at large, I would describe it as warm, diverse, happy, proud, and more than a bit rambunctious.

A number of my memories from this trip didn't have much to do with the Fringe, though.  On Sunday, after the FrenetiCrew had departed, I went to Bourbon Street to get lunch at a bar.  In the middle of my meal (depicted in the second food photo above), I struck up a conversation with the fellow seated to my right at the bar.  His name was Joe, Brooklyn Joe, and after a storied career with the phone company in New York, he had moved to New Orleans seven years ago.  We chatted for a while, and then Heidi and Paul walked in.  They, along with Joe, are regulars at this bar.  Joe's been coming here since he arrived, Heidi for the last year or two, and Paul...well, Paul's been coming here since the bar opened in 1982.  We sat at the bar, laughing and chatting for an hour and a half, talking about big band music, potholes, Superbowls, Huntsville (where Paul worked as a prison guard for a while after Katrina), and what it implies to refer to a gal as a "young woman", among other things. They were so warm to me.  We were all so content with the situation, me with my food and the friendly discourse, and them with just spending time together.  The four of us, sitting at the bar, drinking in the moment.  When it was time to leave, I thanked them for the conversation and the beer they had bought me, and I said, "Just in case I don't see you, have a wonderful life."  Heidi shook her head slightly and replied, "Oh, come on, we'll see each other again."  I paused.  There was something knowing in her eyes, and I didn't question it.  I simply nodded and walked away.  I'd rather she'd be right.

Today, I spent the morning in City Park.  It was a lovely day, and I wanted to get away from the streets for a little while.  I wandered around the sculpture garden, which was incredible, before settling down beside a pond, where several varieties of birds (including a pelican perched in a tree) bickered with one another over who-knows-what.  It was comical, watching a seagull chase a duck that dove underwater for cover, seeing puffin-like creatures flap their wings in surprise when a plop of excrement came raining down near them from the tree above, where white, arc-beaked birds rested quietly.  Animals are fascinating to watch, as long as you give yourself enough time.

Anyway, it was a very nice way to cap off what amounted to a wonderful weekend in New Orleans.  It's cliche, but every time I visit this place, I find myself walking away feeling like I'm under a spell.  I talk a bit more slowly, I take more time on things.  I find myself marveling a bit more at what's present.  The people I met here wore this air like an old, favorite, and perhaps slightly tattered jacket.  The kind that just looks right on them, even if it's a bit outdated by modern norms.  A when they embrace you with it - and they do embrace you with it - it feels like home.

Here's to holding onto that spirit back here in Houston.  I suppose if I lose it, I can always drive six hours east and grab lunch at a bar.

Here are a few more pictures.  So glad this happened.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Seeing Aspen Santa Fe

I saw Aspen Santa Fe Ballet perform at the Wortham this evening.  It's been three hours since the show ended, and I'm still basking in the glow of it.  The only way I can think of summarizing it is by describing a few of the moments that stayed with me:

  • A man, spotlit from above, holds himself off the floor with one arm, his elbow tucked into his stomach.  His legs are spread, and his toes rest on the ground behind him.  He remains frozen as the spotlight dims and the scrim slowly rises, sending columns of light streaking across the floor from upstage.  He is now backlit; the lights then fade.
  • A woman runs in a circle around the stage.  When she reaches downstage center, she is caught by a man who suspends her in air as her legs continuing running.  Her lelgs freeze mid-gait, and she is lowered to the ground.
  • Six dancers lay with their backs on the floor, equally spaced and parallel to one another, their heads downstage and their legs upstage.  A man sprints from the wing stage left, touching the ground in between each dancer before disappearing into the wing stage right.  As he passes over them, the dancers contract, lifting their arms and legs up before relaxing them back to the floor.  Jumping through puddles comes to mind.
  • A woman wraps herself around a man's stomach.  The man leans over his bent left leg such that the woman's back rests on his quadricep.  Her legs stick straight up in the air.  They pause, and he slowly lifts his right leg off the ground into an aribesque.
  • A woman sinks into splits, supported by her partner at her waist.  He proceeds to walk slowly to the left, gliding her in her splits alongside.
  • A woman dances alone on stage, strutting, hopping, and twitching like a bird.  At the end of her solo, she bends over in releve, grabs her ankles, and tip-toes offstage, chased by a man similarly strutting.
  • A man leaps in the air, lands in second, and sinks into a deep plie.  He turns his feet parallel and lets his hands relax, his fingers hitting the ground on at a time.  In the silence of the theater, his fingers sound like raindrops.
  • Two men hold a woman in the air between them.  She swings one leg to the side and almost to her head, and then the other leg, much like a pendulum.
  • The entire scrim is a gradient of sky blue to day-glo green.  The women wear bright green dresses, and the men wear blue pants.  Everyone belongs.
  • A woman, tangled in the arms of a man, coils in fear of his clawed hand nearing her face.  She turns in his arms and scampers, but his grip remains, and she goes nowhere.  She turns back to the hand to find it closer, and again, she tries to escape.  She descends to the floor in a heap, and the hand freezes, undulates, and returns harmlessly to the man's side.
  • A man lies on his back on the floor, his arms supporting a woman above him, both of her legs in attitude.  A second man approaches the couple, who are spotlight from above.  He takes hold of the first man's foot and spins the couple in a circle on the floor.
  • A woman and a man embrace downstage right.  She ducks out and slowly steps back, leaving the man as the shell of an embrace.
This is to say nothing of the way the company rippled movement from one side of the stage to the other and back, or how nearly every lift they did seemed completely unique, or how silly the dancers became in the second piece as they took on animal personas, or with what fluidity all of the dancers moved, or how much they all seemed to enjoy themselves onstage.

Let's open up a restaurant in Santa Fe.  At the very least, we can see ASFB as often as we'd like.

Thursday, September 27, 2012


Hi! My name is Taylor, and I’m a blog novice. (So don’t judge too harshly!) I’m also a lot of other things; allow me to share a few of the relevant ones. I joined FrenetiCore in the fall of 2011, and I hope it comes across as genuine when I say that this company is one of the best things that has ever happened to me. Top 5 for sure :)  By day, I am a graduate student.

One of my favorite things about FrenetiCore is company class. With a pretty diverse line-up of classes, I get a little bit of everything in my week.  Important note: all of our classes are open to the public, and very reasonably priced! Check out the schedule at

Let me just get this out; trying out new studios gives me anxiety. Find the place. Figure out how to get in. Do they take credit? Will everyone else know each other? Please don’t tell me that everyone is wearing a leotard and tights. Cross fingers that I will not make a fool of myself. My blood pressure is rising just thinking about it. Thus, to help you, FrenetiBlog reader who may want to come take class with us but is secretly terrified, allow me to clue you in to what to expect from class at Frenetic Theater:

First, get yourself to 5102 Navigation. Grab a parking spot and head to the big silver double doors. Push hard. Congratulations, you got in – now’s when the fun starts!

For me, it is essential that FrenetiClass begin with at least one giant hug from a fellow dancer. I think that’s just as important as plies. As we begin to warm up and get moving, you’ll notice that the class is lighthearted and fun! Don’t worry; no one will be wearing tights. Studio F will probably be on the warm side – expect to get your sweat on. At least one person will curse as she falls out of a turn or forgets a step.  You’ll get several cheers for a perfectly executed jump.  Expect great combos, helpful corrections, a few laughs, a good stretch, and to leave with a full, happy heart. Come back next week – your body will thank you!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Dance isn't part of life,.. but life itself

I crave for it!!!... think about it, choreograph it in my head as a way of procrastination,... can't listen to music while I am working because my imagination will be lost in it. I thought that it would be some kind of stage in my life, but the reality is that I could never let go of it.

Not being an example of a prima-ballerina, nor having the height or body for it, got to stop me from continuing to fit (aka. squeeze-in) some kind of dancing in my life. Following my desire to be part of the Houston dance community, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet Freneticore (Frenetifamily sounds more like the way the group feels like =).

Every single one of the dancers have some kind of special characteristic that makes them unique on stage. I was lucky enough to be able to see "Memoriam" a couple of times and really enjoy their special talents.

Mollie fit perfect as the timid but yet strong character as Stacey's friend (a little bit of a trouble maker ;). I was really struggling for Mollie's character and her constant internal fight in between being a friend but at the same time preventing herself to be influenced by Stacey's character. Mollie's movements were flawless (as always, she can really make any steps look like they are "easy" to do). Stacey,... oh my God how much I enjoyed your acting,.. it didn't even felt like that, you are a natural. Stacey is just a bundle of joy. I am very happy I had the opportunity to meet you. I wish I would have met you before and enjoy more of your afro-brazilian class. I am pretty sure you will kick a** anywhere you go. You personality can light up any "dark" room. Kira, one word: powerful. I absolutely loved your performance. It was so strong, in so many ways,.. from the darkness of the character to the movements themselves. I bet you had a blast doing it too. Being the "bad guy" in the stories is so much fun. You are one of the most versatile people I have ever met in my life (no exaggerations). "Mal-mal" (aka Katie Perry) you are just as cute as a button. I am always impressed with your core strength, it almost feels like half of the time you are inventing a new way to be upside-down =D. You will always see her with a smile on her face. I haven't being able to make any of your jazz classes but I promise it is on my to-do list. Taylor, oh Taylor,... who would have thought that you will be in pointe again? (I did!!!) and I have to say that I am really glad to see you on them. Taylor did such a great job not only on her dancing and pointe work, but in the character itself. It was a perfect combination of innocence and creepiness. I also never thought I will see you with dark eyes hehe. She is a great friend and one of those "hard to find" people that will have your back no matter what. Rebecca, the sweet and patient one. She always have a good and positive comment in class, whether it has to be with the correction of dance step or just a silly joke to break the ice. Rebecca is a very organic and fluid dancer. It doesn't matter how much I try,.. my steps will never look the same as when she does them. She also thinks out of box, can't predict her next dance step,... always new ideas, you can never tell what her next performance will be about. And I love that!!! Last but not least Alex!, representing the male genre in class. Alex is such a gentleman and a very organized person. Thank you sooo much for your help on managing the house.

I am blessed to have people like you in my life. Whether it is the dancing part of my life, or the simple everyday life, you all contribute to fill it with happiness (thanks! =D )

Can't wait to see you all in class!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

It's Raining It's Pouring

If you live in Houston it is very likely you were doing one of three things this morning during the abrupt storm that entruded on the city around 11:00 am. I can only assume you were either: worshiping…something; laying in bed listening to the vibrating thunder and sheets of rain; or curled up with a book enjoying a grilled cheese and warm tomato soup.  If you are a dancer for Freneticore you were swimming to rehearsal while dodging the inevitable “puddles” down Lockwood and Navigation. Of course this is not usually what one wants to be doing Sunday morning, but we all made it safe and sound one way or another and only a few minutes late. Rebecca French’s Sunday morning modern class usually begins with a juicy floor combo to get us awake and moving. Not today! Jumping jacks, ponies, chasse’s OH MY! With 100% trust in Rebecca the few of us that had arrived despite the outside conditions were ready to go for it! Rebecca puts on Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zero’s Home. (If you have never heard this song stop reading now, navigate to whichever site you get your music and listen!) Everything about this song breathes happiness into your soul and was perfect to get us out of the funk the weather had brought on. Walking throughout the room passing hugs and greeting those jumping in from the rain, I thought to myself, “I’m home and my heart can breathe because my family is safe.”  My frenetifamily. Sharing a space and moving with such beautiful beings is my therapy. It was nice to let go for an hour and twenty minutes and just move. With our show, MEMORIUM opening in less than a week stress levels are a bit high. But we seemed to all be able to save it for later. We have all week to pull each others hair out. I’m sure, well I know, we will be at each others throats within 48 hours, but deep down we all know the show will be fabulous. It feels to me that July has crept up on all of us. I will not let myself believe we are a week into the month. I keep pushing July way, not because of fear of performance, but the inevitable departure of Stacey Ramsower. She leaves us on the 25th to head to New York. I could talk all day about this lady, but I’ll save it for another blog.  I have refused to accept her leaving ever since she announced her move. It hit me today in our final jump combination at the end of class. Leaping to Empire Sate of Mind,  I sailed through the air with Stacey and realized I have few chances left to do this with her.  I was selfish and continued to repeat the sequence with her, trying to keep my emotions inside and savor the moment.  So, while you were safe and cozy under your roof today, I was with my frenetifamily soaking up every moment and memory and every articulation…and preparing for an approaching goodbye.

Saturday, May 26, 2012


There are certain things in life we cannot live without: oxygen, food, water, clothing (debatable...), shelter, etc. I’m going to put therapy and exercise on the list of non-negotiables as well...hugs... Each of these “necessities” has its time and its place, and we humans are not always so astute when it comes to knowing which one or which combination of a few we may need. A possible problem could be that “magic” is not on the list, nor “alchemy;” we identify the “needs” as separate from one another. In order for the ingredients, or “necessities,” to support an actual human life, some kind of alchemical reaction must occur. It’s the kind of magic that turns a house into a home, a plate of food into nourishment, a hug into a sense of belonging. This leads me to my story: I came to class on Wednesday night looking for a way to unwind, to decompress. I felt antsy and scattered and I needed something to get me out of my head, to put me back together. I’m a big believer in sweat as therapy, and when summer hits Freneticore, you can count on a juicy sweat fest- conditions were perfect for my exorcism.

I pulled up to the theater in a rush of emotion, babbling away to Mallory before class. Mallory Horn, B-T-dubs, is fierce in her dancing and passionate in her teaching, and every time I take her class I walk away with something new to work on, a full body, mind, heart, and spirit. She let me vent, gave me a huge hug I didn’t even know I needed, and wasted no time getting to the incredible music and movement I rely on her for. Throughout the class I was able to channel my energy into combinations that gave my mind and body space to move freely, while keeping me accountable to precision and timing. During our final combination, Mall said to me, "You looked genuinely happy during that combination." Well, yeah....I was. Totally, genuinely happy. I could feel myself again. I felt at home.

Dance is the only place to feel the rush of adrenaline, the passion of self-expression, the freedom of creative play and the pleasure of movement. Dance is where my soul sings and my heart rests, my mind melts into the moment and my smile gets to unleash itself on my face. The act of dancing no doubt released the clog from my head/heart, but that wouldn’t have happened without the space of Freneticore. I don’t just mean the four walls and roof, or the red velvet seats and buzzing, multi-colored lights, I mean the space that opens up for me every time I walk through the door- the space to be myself, the people who share my enjoyment, my frustration, my hard work, my terrible’s magic the way these people put up with me. It’s like coming home, and as someone who lives very far away from my immediate family and that place I called “home” for so long, that’s a very special place. Someone said that “home is where they have to let you in.” Well, Rebecca and Robert didn’t HAVE to let me in, but I’m sure glad they did.

P.S. my name is Stacey Ramsower, and I’ve been a company member of Freneticore since 2010!

*Photo by Ed Schipul

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Photo Shoot Madness

                                  Kira Boerkircher, Photo by Robert Thoth 

I'm choreographer and co-founder of FrenetiCore Rebecca French.  Robert Thoth and I started the company in 2003 and opened Frenetic Theater in 2009.  FrenetiCore is my passion, my outlet, my day and night job.

I just got home from an amazing day of taking dance photos on location with Lynn Lane, a prominent and talented Houston photographer.  As I sit here I notice my sunburn deepening, my pointe shoes are a soggy mess in the corner (some of our shots today were taken under a hose spraying at a car wash) and my lower back is feeling the burn of jumping on the concrete at an old silo.  The same question enters my head--the one I ask every time we do a performance or project of any kind: "Why do I need to do this?  Shouldn't I start acting like a responsible adult at some point?"  And the answer I arrive at every time is: I need to do this because dance theatre is magic.
I found dance in college, and realized quickly that it would be a major part of my life.  I had never been an athlete or artist.  As a dancer, I became both.  Going to see touring companies as a young adult showed me how transformational dance could be.  The performances that affected me most were the ones that created a world onstage; a world with characters that I cared about, and a story that showed me a new way to understand life.  Story is powerful.  It's why we read books and watch movies.  It's why we need songs and sitcoms.  Life can be cruel, but stories teach us how to overcome difficulties, understand others better, and grow as human beings.

So how are photos of FrenetiCore dancers doing backbends at an abandoned silo going to teach anyone anything about the human condition?  They may not.  But hopefully, the shots we took today will tell a story of beauty, struggle, strength, and even comedy.  I hope people will look at them and feel moved, or at least transported for a moment.

If you step into our story, we promise to give you some magic.