Maybe you’ve been wondering who exactly Lauren Slone and Helen Hansen French are. Maybe you haven’t but now that I’ve suggested it, you want to know. Slone and French are two incredible women who grew up in the same place, have travelled the world, continue to make work, dance, and be complete all-stars, and now produce an entire performance series.
I first met Lauren Slone in graduate school at Florida State University 7 years ago. She was beginning her second year of the 3-year program and had already accomplished in a single year more than most students do in three. I had the opportunity to be in a piece of hers and my hunch that she was in a league of her own was quickly confirmed. Fast forward seven years and Lauren continues to set the standard that all of us “normal” people try to live up to. Her role as co-producer with Helen French could not be more perfectly matched since Helen, too, is one of those people that us mere mortals try to emulate. The first time I met Helen? She was nursing a young son, playing legos with her oldest son, restaging a work by Jacqulyn Buglisi, cutting paychecks, and listing the best lunch spots in walking distance. LITERALLY ALL AT THE SAME TIME. Helen’s ability to draw up a plan and then mobilize the troops, to engage the community and make connections is unlike anything I have ever seen. This woman can do it all and she makes it look so easy. Helen an Lauren together are unstoppable and off-the-charts brilliant. The BEACON series that have conceived and produced together for the last two years is a testament to their drive and ambition and walking the walk not just talking the talk. They think, they devise, and then they enact and they won’t be stopped. Thank goodness. The world could use a few more Lauren’s and Helen’s in it and I feel so lucky that TIP gets to be a part of their journey.
They are each, in their own way, a force to be reckoned with. They move mountains. They make sh*t happen. They are kind and generous and brilliant. And, here’s a bit more about them in their own words via their “official” bios.
Lauren Slone is a choreographic thinker who writes, produces projects, takes photographs, and travels. Her interests span movement, ritual, portraiture, poetry, pilgrimages, tattoos, red wine, medieval iconography, personal finance, Catholic saints, pool halls, vegan cuisine, and painting.
From 2010-2012 she was the first Andrew W. Mellon Fellow at Maggie Allesee National Center for the Arts (MANCC), where she helped plan and facilitate 28 residencies for the nation’s leading artist/scholars at Florida State University. She was also a Teaching Fellow and Ballet Lecturer in the School of Dance. Prior to MANCC, she was appointed Artistic Director of Morgantown Dance and founded Morgantown Ballet Company, which is the only pre-professional training and performance program in North Central West Virginia. She is proud to say that the graduates of her program are now in major dance companies and university dance departments worldwide. Lauren holds a B.A. in Religious Studies with a minor in Philosophy from West Virginia University, and an M.F.A. in Dance Performance and Choreography from Florida State University School of Dance.
Since 2012 her live performances have been presented at the Wassaic Art Festival, Ailey Citigroup Theater, Church of Saint Paul the Apostle in New York City, Movement Research at the Judson Church, Agnes Varis Performing Arts Center (2015 Gibney Dance Work Up artist), and The Palladium Theater. In 2016 Performance Space 122 (PS122) awarded her a RAMP residency. She also received a writing residency at the Lillian E. Smith Center in 2015 to work in collaboration with Harper Addison and Loren Davidson.
She’s received grants to pursue choreographic research in Spain, Paris, and Israel, and has performed in works by Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, Dan Wagoner, Loren Davidson, among others. Lauren is the co-founder and co-producer of the critically acclaimed BEACON performance series in St. Petersburg, FL (now in it’s third season).
As part of her artistic practice, Lauren is also the Program Manager at the MAP Fund. She is a steward of an annual fund that provides more than $1.1M project commission and professional development support. She oversees a portfolio of more than 200 cultural organizations and 600 artists across the United States, and facilitates the grant selection process. She recently launched a major initiative to provide feedback and grant writing skills to every applicant (more than 900 per year). She leads writing workshops and is recognized as a charismatic program ambassador and public speaker at national and international conferences, festivals, panel platforms, performances, and openings. She was recently invited as a guest blogger for Americans for the Arts’ curated ARTSblog Salons after developing a new partnership between MAP and Animating Democracy. She cares about resource distribution and ferociously champions the production of other artists’ work.
Helen Hansen French, a native of St. Petersburg, Florida received her BFA from The Juilliard School in 2001. Upon graduation she was invited to join Buglisi Dance Theatre. Tobi Tobias of the NYC Village Voice hailed her as “altogether luminious”, and Nancy Wozney of ArtsHouston says her, “generous and radiant performance stands out.” In addition to BDT’s annual New York City seasons she has toured nationally and internationally performing in such venues as, the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Chautauqua Dance Festival, Vail International Dance Festival, Rishon LeZion International Festival in Israel, and the Oriente Occidente Festival in Rovereto, Italy. Mrs. French has been instrumental in staging BDT’s works at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Pieve International School in Italy, North Carolina Dance Theater, and numerous colleges and universities through out the United States. Mrs. French has also been a member of Karen Reedy Dance and had the pleasure of performing with Nilas Martins’ Dance Company, participating in a residency at White Oak Dance working with choreographer Adam Hougland, and performing in the Guggenheim’s Works/Process program with Brian Reeder and Pam Tanowitz.
As a choreographer/movement maker Mrs. French focuses on collaborations and exploring the relationship between dance and other art forms. In support of these endeavors she has been awarded a 2015, 2016 and 2017 Individual Artist Grant from the City of St. Petersburg and she is also a 2016 Creative Pinellas Artist Fellow. Her work has been shown at The Peter Jay Sharp Theater, Clark Studio Theater, Kaatsbaan, Studio@620, The Palladium, St. Petersburg College and most recently at Omaha Under the Radar.
Helen is deeply committed to arts education and developing the next generation of artists as well as contributing to the community in which she lives. She is a founding member of the St. Petersburg Dance Alliance, www.spdancealliance.com, and co-producer of Beacon: a performance series for St. Pete.
In addition to teaching dance to all ages. Mrs. French is a certified Alexander Technique teacher. She has served on the dance faculties at George Mason University, The Juilliard School, Flint Hill School (VA), the Neighborhood Playhouse (NYC), John Hopkins Middle School and St. Petersburg College.