AN EDUCATION: TEA WITH MS. JAYNE PERSCH
“Dance is the noblest of arts. It blends music, color, tone, textures, and nuances. It is mathematical, historical, structural, conversive; speaks of relationships and contrasts, explores opposites, contains histories of cultures and relationships of peoples. I believe that all people dance! [All people] express themselves personally and culturally. They socialize, connect, blur differences, and communicate.” –Jayne Persch
Artist extraordinaire Jayne Persch has founded an unusual new dance company in Boulder, CO. BRIAH Danse seeks to facilitate the future of dance by expanding our ideas of what dancers can do– and what dance is– by challenging the dancers themselves. Ms. Persch has performed with some of the most prestigious companies in the world, but the knowledge she is passing on to the dancers under her direction is less traditional and more innovative. (Apart from BRIAH, Jayne also teaches classes and coaches individual dancers in artistry and technique.) She sees people as human beings with massive, individual expressive potential rather than cogs in a perfectly tuned machine.
BRIAH Danse may be understood as a kind of journey, or bridge, between what has occurred and what has yet to be manifested. Ms. Persch has described the company as being “about traditions and the future, and who will pass through it.” Modern and classical dancers unite to make something that draws from, and yet is more than, either of these institutions of movement and storytelling. Such a departure could be (understandably!) difficult for the dancers, but I imagine it is Ms. Persch’s injunction to “recognize [their] own excellence” that proves most challenging.
Collaboration seems to drive BRIAH’s energy in its progressive direction. Perhaps the inability of such a system to stagnate was key to Ms. Persch’s plan in her development of the company. In person, Jayne Persch is gracious, humble, wry, knowledgeable, and clearly compassionate. Dancer, choreographer, teacher, craniosacral therapist (Jayne continues her work as well as furthering her education in this specialized field), and possibly everything in between, Jayne explores and creates positive connections within individuals as well as between individuals and dance, between people, and between performers and audiences.
Impressed by the multitude of considerations Jayne must take into account when planning, choreographing, scheduling, and otherwise envisioning and organizing a production as Artistic Director, I asked her about her approach. Does she consider various elements separately and then coordinate them, or is the whole shebang so interrelated that it must be considered as a cohesive whole even in its genesis? I felt a little silly even asking, because by that time in our conversation it was clear to me that Jayne’s approach, in general, is quite comprehensive.
While her work in dance is quite considerable, it is important to note that dance does not describe the breadth of Jayne’s interests, abilities, and commitments. Among other things, she has multiple advanced degrees/certifications, knows musical and color theory, studied Russian and Asian philosophies and civilizations, can hold forth on anatomy (the sphenoid bone came up pretty quickly), tai chi, and brain chemistry. Basically, what I find complicated makes perfect sense to her. Not that her job is easy, but it doesn’t seem to tax her intelligence.
Ms. Persch’s work with Brilynn Rakes, a legally blind and “exquisite” young dancer, seems a serendipitous intersection of Jayne’s varied talents and interests. In Jayne’s words: “Together we learned how to move inside and outside. I saw and learned to teach authentic, connected movement while she discovered how to feel without seeing. I worked with her to connect muscles to organs to memories to psychological responses. She could feel connections, express herself with complete honesty, feel the integrity of her movements because she was both physically empowered and emotionally expressive. This journey gave me time to explore movement as a therapist and an artist. The years gave me time to explore creating a ‘safe place’ for artists and people both within themselves and around themselves to connect and move and reach beyond. I use this method to create choreography– to teach movement– to honor each dancer, beginner through professional, from babies through elders. To me, this is the journey. This is my life!”
Ms. Persch has defined success as “To see anyone empowered through the non-verbal communication and connection of movement.” By this yardstick alone, she has experienced resounding success. Watching a video of a performance of her (choreographed and artistically directed) piece “Duet,” I was struck by how the two dancers seemed so aware of each other and themselves. They appeared almost physically interconnected, as if they were one body. This illustrates a very present theme in her work; that of encouraging and facilitating compassion and care for others and the critical effort to extend that care to oneself.
If you were not fortunate enough to see BRIAH Danse’s performances in February and April, make sure to visit http://www.briahdanse.com regularly in order to discover your next opportunity to do so. My review More that Before: BRIAH Danse Adds to the Conversation of Front Range Movement of a February performance may be found on the Presenting Denver Blog.
Jane E. Werle: With artwork and writing published by Bombay Gin, Hot Whiskey Press, Wyrd Tree Press, Summer Stock, and her own imprint, Thirsty Lizard Books, Jane is a passionate proponent of creativity, self-expression, and the pursuit of elusive and meaningful beauty. A poet, educator, and longtime nanny, she works and explores with kids, challenging young minds and safeguarding young hearts. Jane graduated with an MFA in Writing and Poetics from Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, and has come up with no compelling reason since to move away from the lively Denver area and its admirably self-made cultural opportunities. Contact Jane with editing needs, parenting problems, and extravagant travel writing proposals.