The Francesca Harper Project

The Francesca Harper Project is a study in diversity. The company’s dancers span an array of ethnicities, body shapes and movement style—though they all share impressive technique and fierce stage presence.


“Diversity has always been part of my mission,” Harper says. “It’s important to me to have all races and body types represented. When people come to see us, they can relate to the performers. They can see themselves onstage.”


But the company’s diversity doesn’t end with its dancers. At an FHP show, you’ll see pointe shoes alongside bare feet, and tutus next to blazers and booty shorts. Harper incorporates video and text, with some of the text generated by the dancers. She even plays with unconventional uses of space: During the company’s fifth-anniversary season at NYC’s Joyce SoHo in June 2010, performers seemed to dance as much against the theater’s walls as they did on the stage.


“Francesca’s work is very cutting-edge. You don’t know what’s going to happen next,” says dancer Mary Carter, who joined FHP in the summer of 2009. “The work always comes from the heart. We’re dancing for way more than ourselves—it’s about humanity and connecting with others.”


A NYC native, Harper studied at the School of American Ballet, the Joffrey School and The Ailey School. She went on to perform with Dance Theatre of Harlem, William Forsythe’s Ballett Frankfurt and on Broadway in shows including Fosse and The Color Purple.


She draws inspiration from all of those experiences. “My mom [the late Denise Jefferson] directed The Ailey School for 25 years, and so I always carry Ailey’s spirituality with me,” Harper says. “But Forsythe and [playwright/actress] Anna Deavere Smith have had the most profound effect on my art-making.” She also cites Pina Bausch and Ronald K. Brown as influences. In terms of movement vocabulary, “we start with a classical ballet base, and then deconstruct from there.”


FHP has performed at the Holland Dance Festival, the Venice Biennale and at numerous NYC locations, including Harlem Stage, New York City Center and even in the middle of Times Square. In November, FHP shared the stage with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and the Martha Graham Dance Company at Harlem’s Apollo Theater, in a celebration honoring Denise Jefferson. See the company this month as part of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters conference in NYC, and March 6 and 7 at the Ailey Citigroup Theater.



Pictured: Francesca Harper Project company members (L to R) Mary Oguri, Courtney Henry and Natasha Diamond, by Jacob Pritchard.

Dance Fashion
(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)

Congratulations to Dance Spirit's 2019 Cover Model Search finalists: Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland! One of them will win a spot on Dance Spirit's Fall 2019 cover. Learn more about the dancers on their profile pages, and then vote for your favorite below. You can vote once a day now through July 15.

We also want you to get social! We'll be factoring social media likes and shares into our final tallies. Be sure to show your favorite finalist some love on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, sharing their profile pages and using the hashtag #DanceSpiritCMS.

Cover Model Search
Photo by Erin Baiano

In our "Dear Katie" series, Miami City Ballet soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email for a chance to be featured!

Dear Katie,

When I sit with the soles of my feet together, my knees easily touch the floor, and most exercises to improve turnout are easy for me. But when I'm actually dancing, my turnout is terrible, especially on my standing leg. Why doesn't my flexibility translate to turnout?


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Dear Katie
Via Twitter

Would that we could all live in Taylor Swift's Pride-topia, booty-popping with Todrick Hall and sharing snow cones with Adam Rippon in our rainbow-flag-bedecked RV park. But much as we're loving "You Need to Calm Down" and other similarly upbeat celebrations of Pride month, this is also a time to recognize the battles the members of the LGBTQIA+ community have fought—and are still fighting. That's one of the reasons why "I'm Gay," a new dance video by Eugene Lee Yang of The Try Guys, is so important.

The dark, deeply personal video is Yang's coming-out moment. We see Yang being rejected by his family, condemned by a preacher, and attacked by a hostile mob after attempting to express himself as a gay man. Though not a professional dancer (as we found out in "The Try Guys Try Ballet"), Yang is a gifted mover; he choreographed the project himself, and gathered a group of talented performers to bring the story to life.

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