Jane Comfort

What the National Performance Network has Meant to Jane Comfort & Company

by Jane Comfort

Sean Donovan and Leslie Cuyjet from "An American Rendition"

When we did our first NPN residency, in 1989 at Dancer’s Collective in Atlanta, I was thrilled to finally be a part of a performing network that I had known about for years. I hoped that more tours would follow, but I had no idea how many great NPN experiences were coming our way.

We did extensive residencies in the many NPN sites that followed: Helena, MT, Cincinnati, OH, Burlington, VT, Austin, TX, Tampa, FL, Washington, DC, Lewiston, ME, to name a few, and performing, teaching, doing community workshops with teachers, teens at risk, dancers and actors, dialogues with immigration lawyers, lec/dems, shared rehearsals with local artists, whatever the presenter dreamed up with us. We traveled all over the United States, but that was only the beginning.

We were invited to perform at our very first annual meeting, in Durham, which resulted in an invitation from La Red/Performing Americas to tour in Brazil for three weeks, through the International Touring Residency program. Brazil! That delicious tour reignited my love of Latin America, a love that had developed years before while living in Venezuela as a Peace Corps volunteer and traveling throughout the continent. A few years later, Performing Americas invited us to go back to Brazil (oh yeah), this time to work with G2, a modern dance company in Curitiba with whom we had shared rehearsal showings on our previous trip. Together we created a new work over a month in 2007, as part of a Creative Exchange program designed to deepen relationships between artists and presenters in the Western Hemisphere.

The Annual Meeting also offers In the Works, an opportunity for artists and presenters to pitch their newest projects. In a wild 2 or 3 minutes, you throw out reams of information about your work, ending with requests for commissioners, funding, touring. I have stood there many times talking as fast as an auctioneer about my new work and have received all of the above and more. NPN’s Creation Fund grants have been crucial to the development of our works, and have often been our first grants, paving the way for others.

Over the years NPN has commissioned my riskiest, most difficult work, work that terrified funders. NPN Partners have presented the work. NPN has put our most outrageous photos on the cover of their annual report, photos I was told not to send to most presenters. NPN presenters and artists have become friends and sounding boards to me. NPN has listened to me and given me the love and support that a family gives its members, no matter how strange they are. I thought I was joining a touring network, but what I was really joining was a big, inclusive, noisy, smart, innovative, sassy, art-loving family.

An American Rendition
Jane Comfort and Company
NPN Creation Fund
Photo by Arthur Elgert

Published February 2010

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