Story last updated at 2/5/2014 - 5:13 pm
Most people use movement to transport themselves from one location to the next. Frances Donohoe uses movement to transport her ideas onto the stage, tease artistic confidence out of others, as well as create community and artistic opportunities.
"In all the work I've done," Donohoe said, "both teaching and performing, I find I come back to a desire to help people understand the things hidden in their bodies and movement."
Collaboration seems to be a theme as Frances has returned to Sitka this month and has launched herself into various projects. Starting in January, she began teaching adult dance classes in the evenings through the Sitka Fine Arts Camp and youth classes at Baranof Elementary School in the mornings as an artist in residency. She is also working on choreography with the Fireweed Dance Theatre. This gives a sense of fitting symmetry as Donohoe was one of Melinda McAdams's first Sitka Studio of Dance students.
A Sitkan born and raised, Donohoe counts herself blessed to have found dance early on. Having started at 10 years old "by total luck" when McAdams moved to Sitka, she said she "only signed up because my best friend did." However, by the age of 13, Donohoe was attending summer dance intensives all over the West Coast, as well as participating in the local Sitka Fine Arts Camp. At the age of 16 she moved to Aurillac, France, to work with the dance company Vendetta Mathea. Donohoe believes working with the company "introduced her to dance as a lifestyle" as opposed to the stereotyped performance career that is relatively short lived.
Following this philosophy, she attended the Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, Wash., where she earned a degree in dance performance, teaching and choreography. This education she believes is what defines the "difference between a dancer and an artist." The time she spent at college equipped her to be versatile in more aspects of a production than just stage performance, which has opened doors for many new and exciting collaborations.
Through these endeavors Frances has discovered that her true passion is "community, and how to create connections in a community through art." This idea has drawn her specifically to contact improvisation, which focuses on "creating with a group." Sitkans can experience Frances's dancing either through her Adult Modern class at Allen Hall, or see her choreography performed by the Fireweed Dance Theatre on March 8.
Donohoe's Fireweed Dance student, Emma Combs, said that "I'm usually really afraid of improv, but I feel really comfortable with (Donohoe)." For those who are interested, but hesitant or intimidated by the prospect of dance improvisation, Combs suggested they go for it, and said Donohoe is "passionate ... and she's not really afraid of anything. She wants all of us to be there too; she wants everybody to succeed."
Emma Bruhl is a senior at Sitka High School and an intern at the Greater Sitka Arts Council. This is her first article for the Capital City Weekly.