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BWW Reviews: Art Imitates Life in THE LOOK OF FEELING

Photographer Breton Tyner-Bryan

For hundreds of years, storytelling has been an essential part of African-American culture. Through both song and dance, they have passed down their struggles, their hopes, their history. When actress, dancer and singer Francesca Harper decided to pay homage to her mother the late dance pioneer Denise Jefferson (Alvin Ailey School Director) it only seemed appropriate she would do so by using her art.

In her one woman show The Look of Feeling, Harper, who bears a striking resemblance to her mother, portrays Denise, exploring the private life of the vibrant, fearless and fierce woman behind the dance.

Sharp movements, similar to an African war dance take us through the struggles of her ancestors, slaves in Mississippi. We saunter through Denise's years in Paris while she sings a rendition of J'ai Deux Amours (a la Josephine Baker.) We even take a pimp walk through New York City in the 1970's.

Denise, who lost her battle to cancer in 2010, never lost her wits which Harper seamlessly intergrates throughout. From her operatic version of Hard Out Here For a Pimp (Academy Award winning song from Hustle and Flow) or her waiting room imagining of "Hospital the Musical" which is one of the show's most memorable moments.

Written by Harper and aided by Directorial Consultant Susan Batson (renown acting coach) The Look of Feeling uses every color to paint the picture of Denise Jefferson's tenacious spirit and epic journey.

There is no doubt as an audience member just how proud Harper is to be Denise's daughter. Mirroring her mothers lasting impression on those she touched, Harper's storytelling will do the same for the audience. It is a piece rich in truth and authenticity.

With Mothers Day quickly approaching what better way to pay tribute to your mother than by sharing her story with the world. The Look of Feeling cleverly begins at the end and ends at the beginning which only reminds the audience that Denise Jefferson will forever live on.

Conceived/Written/Performed by Francesca Harper
Directorial Consultant: Susan Batson
Producers: Fiona Graham and Ignacio Garcia-Bustelo
5/9, 5/10, 5/16 + 5/17 at 7pm; 5/12 + 5/19 at 3pm; and 5/11 + 5/18 at 6pm
Susan Batson Studio Theater, 300 W 43rd St (near 8th Ave), #300, NYC, Train: A/C/E Port Authority
Tickets: $20. To purchase, contact the Studio at 212.226.4630 or visit

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