Go Deeper

The A.W.A.R.D. Show! – Artist Profile: Braham Logan Crane

Posted July 9th, 2009

Choreographer Braham Logan Crane admits to a penchant for guilty-pleasure reality TV, including So You Think You Can Dance. Maybe he’s gearing up to chase the $10,000 prize from Live Arts Festival’s The A.W.A.R.D. Show! 2009: Philadelphia this September. Or maybe (could it be?) he just enjoys the entertainment aspect of dance.

“For your work to stand out, the audience has to get it,” he says. “I think a lot of choreographers are so hung up on getting some nonsensical message out that they forget that at the end of the day, a performance is for the audience whether they like it or not. I think my work resonates that way.”

Crane’s riveting fusion of ballet, modern, jazz, hip hop, musical theater, and contemporary dance took root in his mother’s West Chester, PA studio. “I started with tap and hip hop . . . like most guys, I thought ballet was way too girly,” he says. “I worked my way into jazz and modern, and eventually realized that you need ballet for all those!” Crane, now 25 years old, started teaching dance as a young teenager. “I think that’s a different path than most choreographers, but it’s cool to see how people get to the same point in different ways.”

At just 19, Crane started his own dance company and dubbed it ASH Contemporary Dance, both after his brother Asher and as an acronym for Artists Simply Human. As a business student at Philadelphia University, Crane realized that his real education was unfolding in the studio. “In class we’d be learning about how to set up a business . . . but I was already doing that. It just didn’t make sense for me to be there.” He left school to focus on dance full time.

After the jump, Braham starts to make it as a working artist, and a video preview of Ghosts of Things to Come.

Since then, Crane has worked on award-winning concert pieces as well as musical theater projects like Cats and Altar Boyz (at the Roxy Regional Theatre in Tennessee), an experience that sets him apart from many contemporary choreographers.

“I have to admit, the first time I saw Cats on tour, I really hated it,” he says of the like-it-or-loathe-it Andrew Lloyd Webber hit. “But I came to think of it differently . . . just like a big party, with all these different characters who get up to tell their stories. It’s like any party you go to . . . you’ve got the guy who drinks too much, the girl who gets mad at her boyfriend, all these different personalities. That’s what I saw in Cats and I wanted the movement to reflect that.”

Though he had only two weeks from first rehearsal until opening night, Crane relished the chance to breathe new life into an already successful show. “I wanted to do it a new way . . . so I put in what came naturally instead of trying to fake something. I wouldn’t be happy with it if I tried to conform too much.”

For his The A.W.A.R.D. Show! performance there’s no director to answer to, and Crane plans to bring the audience to their feet with no holds barred. “The piece I chose to do [Ghosts of Things to Come] is a real crowd-pleaser,” he says. “But it’s got a great story that unfolds . . . nothing’s just for the sake of being there.”

Crane’s creative process always begins the same way, whether for a pas de trois or a powerful showstopper.

“I start with the music,” he says, “and the concepts and movements follow. Personally I don’t understand beginning with the motions, or any other way. That’s like saying you’re building a car, starting with the body of an SUV . . . but what if it turns out the only exterior you’ve got is a Volkswagen bug? That’s just not going to happen. The music shapes everything.”

Ghosts features music from Requiem for a Dream, and channels the film’s themes and emotions.

Crane’s refreshing attitude reminds us that emotion doesn’t have to be soft nor art inaccessibly abstract. But don’t expect a cheap quest for the wow-factor, either; he knows a thing or two about creative innovation.

“When it seems like everything’s been done, you just have to layer things in a new way. I’m not living in the time of Balanchine, when there was only ballet and simple modern. There’s so much out there and I try to pull from everything.”

–Mara Miller

Photo by Mara Miller