Rebecca French, choreographer, dancer and the co-founder of FreneticCore, has a simple philosophy: "Dance theater can be powerful, if you commit to it and have a good idea, with good talent onstage."
What She Does: French doesn't have one pat answer when she's asked what she does. "It depends on who's asking," she tells us. "Usually I say I'm the executive director and co-artistic director of FrenetiCore and Frenetic Theater." That's her short, catch-all answer.
Her long answer is a little more involved. "We became a nonprofit in 2003. We bought the theater in 2006 and actually opened in 2009. That whole time, Robert Thoth and I were making original dance theater work together. I was choreographing and dancing while grant writing and hanging drywall while trying to get a kids' program started. Then we got the Houston Fringe Festival started in 2008.
"There's still a fair amount of tedious office work and janitorial work to what I do, but I'm actually to the point in my career where I can say, okay, I'd like someone else to do the annual fund-raiser. Really, I'm kind of a spaz. I like to do a lot of different things. I'd like to spend more time in the theater, putting the shows together. And I'd like to choreograph and perform while I can still do that."
Why She Like It: "Because dance theater is magic. I learned at an early age that what happens on stage can transform people. Theater can be an incredibly profound experience. As a kid I remember seeing plays and some dance and I remember walking out of the theater transformed. When I found dance in college, I just knew that that was going to be what I gave my life to. I love the way it feels to move in my body. I love that I have a wonderful combination of being an athlete and a creative artist. I also really love the process of putting a show together, of putting all the pieces together in an interesting way. And I love when people see our work and then tells us they were entertained, or moved, or touched in some way.
"It feels so good to dance, it feels so good to create, especially with people that I love and respect. It's become an obsession, I just can't stop. Every part of the process is fun ... well, except for the administrative stuff. That's not that exciting, but everything else is."
What Inspires Her: After a week of paperwork, French says she has a simple method to get her creative juices flowing again. "I go to dance class. That always feeds my soul, my body and my brain. It gets me right again. It also gives me ideas to create. I go to ballet class and suddenly I have ideas for my modern dance choreography."
French finds seeing others perform also inspires her. "I especially like to go see the big shows that tour, or the Houston Ballet. When you see dance theater on that grand scale and with that level of virtuosity, that definitely inspires me to make our smaller shows as big as possible. When I see a good show, it inspires me to do good work. When I see bad shows, it inspires me even more to do good work."
When it comes to her choreography, French says no matter what the piece, she's basically always discussing human relationships and love. Not that her work is all butterflies and flowers. There's often violence in her pieces. "Life is not always happy and pretty. It's really important for art to reflect what's happening in life and if it's safe, it doesn't do that. That's not a reflection of my experience at least; my life hasn't always been safe and easy. Violence and tragedy, death, all that inspires me just as much as nature and happiness and all the wonderful, beautiful things in life. I can go to a yoga class and find a great move to throw into a piece; I can see a car wreck and find a great move to throw into a piece."
If Not This, Then What: "I was an English major before I found dance in college, so I might be a professor. I'm really interested in human rights and social justice, environmental causes, so I might be a lawyer. I probably would have joined the Peace Corps at age 20 if I hadn't found dance. Who knows? I had a fortune teller tell me once that I should be a banker."
If Not Here, Then Where: "I love New York and I love Paris. When I went to Paris on vacation, I convinced myself that I could stay and just be a street performer when I was like 21. I tried and nobody gave me any money. New York and Paris would attract me, but I really do love Houston. My family is here, it's where my roots are. And my building is here. I really love that, that I have a warehouse that I can grow into year after year."
What's Next for Her: "You know, we try to plan out the season, but things just always show up on our doorstep, so there are always surprises."
The latest new project French and company launched is the monthly Frenetic After Dark: A Glittered, Gutted and Glorified Cabaret, a performance-party-drag show curated by jhon r. stonks and hosted by his drag queen alter ego Miss Understood. "It's a neat collaboration that just makes a lot of sense for our space. It's so easy to transform the space and create a cabaret feel makes sense for us. It feels a little seedy; it happens late at night and there's all sorts of things that happen. jhon came to me and said, 'I want to perform in a space where I can say the word 'fuck.' I want to perform for adults.' It's not adult entertainment per se, we're not trying to just be titillating. We've got this strange hodge-podge of sexy, adult stuff, from modern dance to burlesque to queerlesque and music."
FrenetiCore is also working on a dance film project, but that's not going to hit the screen for a while.
Oh, and then there's a little something called the Houston Fringe Festival, a three-weekend, three-location festival of independent and experimental theater, puppetry, film, dance, music, burlesque and visual arts. French is both a performer and an organizer.
Frenetic After Dark runs once a month through November at the Frenetic Theater, 5102 Navigation. Admission is $10. The Houston Fringe Festival runs August 30 to September 15 at Frenetic Theater, 5102 Navigation, Super Happy Fun Landm 3801 Polk and Bohemeo's, 708 Telephone. For information, visit the festival's website or call 832-426-462. Admission is $10 per performance, with festival passes for $40 (five shows), $70 (ten shows) and $80 (all shows).
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