Helen Hansen French and Lauren Ree Slone were born, raised, and received high-quality training in Florida. We both trained and developed a passion for dance here because of outstanding mentors. We both left to pursue professional work nationally and internationally. We met in November 2015 at the University of South Florida. We were adjudicating for a student dance concert, and realized that night that we shared significant roots in St. Petersburg. We knew we had to make something together. Within a few days, the seeds for a deep friendship, a huge vision, and a performance series and support platform were planted.
St. Petersburg is not Lauren’s current address, but it will always be her artistic home. Helen grew up here, left, and returned with her family. The city no longer looks like what either of us remembers growing up. While St. Petersburg is known for its thriving visual art, theater, and music scenes, it is less well known for dance. On a much larger scale, mass migration is occurring at an unprecedented rate in human history, and technology makes it possible to feel like you are everywhere and nowhere at the same time.
This series grew out of our strong desire to provide more opportunities for professional dancers and multidisciplinary artists to create and share the highest-quality work with the local community. Ultimately, we think the “dance scene” will be at its best when it’s not siloed as a niche for a certain kind of person, but deeply integrated into the wider cultural fabric of the community. BEACON should become synonymous with St. Petersburg arts and culture.
Since that first evening when we swapped stories about our high school days in the dance program at P.C.C.A., we’ve had so many conversations about what home means now, and we realized we felt less interested in nostalgia, and more concerned with connecting to the immediate moment, and the people we are surrounded by each day.
BEACON follows our impulse to begin with our community – focusing on local artists who think of St. Petersburg as home in a variety of ways. We share the stage, the studio, and the “Sunshine City” with other inspiring, professional artists, and have created a new multifaceted producing platform for dance that positively impacts artists who live in these neighborhoods now.