Photos: Bailey Bailey and Jonathan Hsu.

Laila J. Franklin

2023-2024 Boston Dancemakers Resident
2022-2023 Dance Lab Resident
2022 Run of the Mills Resident

Artist Bio

Laila J. Franklin (b. 1997, she/her) is a dance maker, performer, teacher, administrator, and writer based in the territory of the Massachusett and Pawtucket peoples (Boston, Massachusetts), by way of unceded territory of the Nocotchotonk and Piscataway peoples (Washington, DC.) Her work explores kinetic imagination through the rigor of juxtaposing virtuosic and intimate performances. She approaches composition with particular attention to framing and environments. She thinks of the stage as a fishbowl, a terrarium, a diorama, a dollhouse — a portal, or a container to investigate the complicated nature of being a moving body in the world. Her work extends from lineages of black and queer experimental dance makers, with a particular interest in postmodern improvisatory movement practices and aesthetics, and dance theater.

Laila’s choreography has been presented through Public Space One (IA), Loculus Collective’s Sideways Door Festival (MA), Bates Dance Festival Works In Progress Showing (ME), Lion’s Jaw Dance and Performance Festival’s The Thing (MA), the Boston Conservatory, and the University of Iowa. She is a recipient of a Boston Center for the Arts 2022 Run of the Mills Residency, 2022/2023 Dancemakers Laboratory Residency, and 2023/2024 Dancemakers Residency, as well as a Boston Conservatory at Berklee 2022 Alumni Choreographic Commission. While a graduate student, Laila was an Iowa Arts Fellow 2019-2021, and is currently a 2023 Dance/USA Archiving and Preservation fellow. Her performance and collaboration credits include projects with Miguel Gutierrez, Michael Figeuroa, Christopher Kinsey, Dr. Christopher-Rasheem McMillan, Jennifer Kayle, Melinda Jean Myers, and Stephanie Miracle.

Laila has been working as a teaching artist since 2018. She has taught contemporary dance classes as a part of the Midday Movement Series (MA) and as a teaching artist for VLA Dance (MA), and has served as a teaching assistant at the University of Iowa, and a SY2021/2022 Visiting Lecturer in Music and Dance at Salem State University (MA). Expanding this work, she also serves as a consultant and collaborator for social justice education projects and programming for Midday Movement Series.

She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Contemporary Dance Performance from The Boston Conservatory and a Master of Fine Arts in Dance from the University of Iowa. She has completed additional training through the Trinity Laban Conservatoire (LDN), the Lion’s Jaw Dance and Performance Festival (MA), Movement Research (NY), The Field Center (VT), and the Bates Dance Festival (ME).

Project Description:

BABYBABYBABY (2023-2024 Boston Dancemakers Residency)

BABYBABYBABY is a dance about dances about love. It is interested in aesthetics that communicate romance, infatuation, and desperation through an exploration of physical states that evoke those feelings in ourselves. It seeks to tap into feelings of budding romance, when falling in love is silly and fast and sexy and devastating and you are brilliant and stupid and spellbound. This work will be both virtuosic and intimate in nature, interested in companionship, partnership, and connection through carefully crafted scores of improvised performance. This dance is about the human impulse to respond—the first movement, the first urge, the first thought, while considering the ways that response can be learned, replicated, and approximated in performances of closeness and intimacy. At it’s heart, this is a work about exploring the ways we give and receive support and care, through a physical practice as well as the lens of love.

BABYBABYBABY is the grand gesture I am committing.

Project Description:

BABYBABYBABY (2022-2023 Dancemakers Laboratory)

Shared through the new Dancemakers Laboratory at BCA, BABYBABYBABY by Laila Franklin, is a dance about dances about love. It is a project that is interested in the aesthetics that communicate romance, infatuation, and desperation and a practice of entering physical states that may stir up those feelings and emotions in ourselves, as performers and as witnesses. Thematically, though occasionally through parody, the work is still interested in love. Through character studies, it stumbles through the irrational, the silly, the earnest, the messy, and the sincere. It seeks to explore the ways we contend with the precarity of trust, impulsivity, and continuity. At the heart of it, it’s a work that’s interested in companionship and partnership, exploring the ways we give and receive support and care to one another, through a physical practice as well as through the lens of love.

Artist Statement

I improvise, I score, I fail, I score again, I usually laugh, and there is a small chance I cry, and, in that case, I have tissues.

I am invested in the (in)visibility of lived experience. I use my practice to explore kinetic imagination and explore new possible futures. I build fishbowls, terrariums, and dioramas. My work seeks to create a container for the complicated nature of being a moving body in the world.

My work is grounded in the politics of visibility, citation, erasure, and legibility. A cacophony of embodied presence, vibrant in its bursts of physical virtuosity, I am curious about the intimacy and vibration of stillness and silence, juxtaposed by the disorientation and fullness of excess. I am interested in body histories and archives and the process of transforming embodied knowledge into generative movement material. Through collaborative processes, I seek to disrupt the ways we’ve been taught to see, ourselves and others.

I seek to heal and liberate myself and others from neoliberal, white supremacist value systems of labor and aesthetics in dance by facilitating processes steeped in the values of care and justice, holding space for the beyond.

Project Description: GRIEF OBJECTS (Run of the Mills Residency, Spring, 2022)

GRIEF OBJECTS is a multidisciplinary gallery walk and performance, and an invitation to enliven and reconsider the ways we engage with the various waves of grief that seem to engulf us so frequently right now. You are invited to explore a collection of personal objects — physical and digital — that have been archived in grieving processes over the last 3 years in a space activated by live dance and sound performers.

GRIEF OBJECTS is the catharsis of dusting off that box that has been hiding under your bed for the last year or the one in your grandfather’s attic that has gone untouched for decades. Why do we hold onto these objects? Why do we organize? What is storage versus an archive? How do the objects of grief constantly object to grief? When do they become gifts?

GRIEF OBJECTS seeks to hold space for grief, longing, and disarray while objecting to our traditional, cultural aesthetic assumptions of grief and the (perceived) excess that comes with it. This performance was developed in collaboration with Kate Gow and David Dogan.