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.
Palladium Creative Class of 2021
We are proud to announce that BEACON co-founders, Helen Hansen French and Laren Ree Slone have been chosen as part of the inaugural Palladium Creative Class of 2021. The Palladium at St. Petersburg College has selected eleven Tampa Bay performers to be members of the initial Palladium Creative Class of 2021. Each artist received a stipend of $2,500 that is to be used to create a new project for the Palladium. In addition to producing the annual dance platform BEACON, the funds will also be used to commission another choreographer (TBA) to create a duet for French and Slone to be performed in BEACON '21.
“The Palladium is thrilled to be able to support to these talented artists as they create new work.
To be an arts town you must support your homegrown talent. This is one of the ways we can do that.”
Paul Wilborn, Palladium Executive Director
2021 Creative Class members include:
James Suggs – Jazz
Nate Najar – Jazz
La Lucha (Mark Feinman, Alejandro Arenas and John O’Leary) – Jazz
Jeremy Carter – Jazz
Damon Fowler – Blues
Elizabeth Baker – New Music
Helen Hansen French – Dance
Lauren Ree Slone – Dance
Jeremy Douglass of The Florida Bjorkestra – Pop