DANCE: MANY of the art's aficionados claim it as an art form for everyone. One that communicates nonverbally through the body, one that awes with its extraordinary feats of virtuosity, one that inspires with its at times emotion-laden choreography. But while dance may be for everyone, it's not always easy for everyone to get to a dance performance. This week a pair of professional companies makes that task a bit easier for special populations.
For the third year Jane Franklin, an Arlington-based choreographer, presents her work especially for the senior adult population.
"It's an activity we enjoyed doing and a nice thing to offer for those who can't come out at night," Franklin says. The program includes excerpts from Franklin's repertory, including "On a Grand Scale," a piece inspired by Virginia locations, including the urban high-rises of Crystal City and the rural orchards near Charlottesville. Another excerpt, from "Path," invites people from the community, many with little or no dance or performing experience, to join the company's professional dancers. The result, Franklin says, "is a nice blend -- you don't necessarily see the differences [among professional and novice performers] . . . the choreography doesn't have much to do with holding balance, for example."
Franklin ensures that the midday performance is accessible for all, which allows the troupe to reach a new audience. "We have people at the door to help [the elderly] get in if necessary," she explains. "It's fun for us because some may not have seen dance at all before."
Franklin will also present a program for families and children the following weekend featuring "Physical Science," which encourages children to think about science in new ways. Levers, pulleys, kinetic and potential energy and the stuff of matter aren't explained; they're experienced through dancers' moving bodies. "It makes me think about dance in a new way," Franklin says, "in order to find a way to express those [scientific] ideas clearly."
Joan Myers Brown has been teaching children to dance in the inner city of Philadelphia for 43 years; her critically acclaimed company, Philadanco, has been touring the world for 33 years. But performing for young audiences remains the company's most important job.
"First," Myers Brown says, "they're taking the arts out of schools so, aside from some special creative and performing arts programs, most children don't have access to the arts.
"Most of our youngsters don't know how to be audience members," she continues. "Even some adults don't know how to behave . . . because we're a TV, DVD, VHS generation."
The program for children of all ages includes an African American modern dance classic, George Faison's "Suite Otis," to the music of the great Otis Redding; "Hand Singing Song," by Jawole Willa Jo Zollar features hand gestures, especially the "dap," the one-fisted greeting used during the black power movement of the 1960s to affirm solidarity and identity. A new work by former Alvin Ailey dancer Christopher Huggins, "Enemy Behind the Gates," quickly became one of those prescient works, crafted prior to Sept. 11, 2001, that has gained deeper resonance since.
"There are so many things that parents don't do with their children these days," Myers Brown says, "that it's important that we offer programs that entire families can see and enjoy together."
JANE FRANKLIN DANCE -- "Concert for Community" for the senior adult community, Thursday at 11. "Very Physical Science" for children and their families, Jan. 11 at 3. Gunston Art Center Theater One, 2700 S. Lang St., Arlington. 703-212-7680.
PHILADANCO -- Friday-Saturday 7:30, Saturday 1:30, Sunday 1:30 and 3:30. At Kennedy Center Terrace Theater, 2700 F St. NW. 202-467-4600 or 800-444-1324 (TDD: 202-416-8524).