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Columbus Makes Art Presents: Xclaim Founder Mariah Layne French on the Dance Company’s Tenth Season and Latest Work

Pam Glauber Pam Glauber Columbus Makes Art Presents: Xclaim Founder Mariah Layne French on the Dance Company’s Tenth Season and Latest WorkXclaim Dance's Spirituals. Photo courtesy Xclaim.
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Ten years ago, Mariah Layne French founded Xclaim, a contemporary dance ensemble based in Columbus. Since then, Xclaim has performed nearly 50 original works, most of them choreographed by Mariah. In addition to directing Xclaim, she teaches dance at Charisma Centre for the Arts. Mariah lives in North Linden with her husband, Philip, and their seven vivacious children. Meet her at Xclaim’s upcoming performance, Light, Sound & Brainwaves, held March 23-25 at Columbus Dance Theatre. Professional dancer and former Xclaim artist Pam Glauber recently sat down with Mariah for a Q & A.

Mariah Layne French who founded Xclaim.

Mariah Layne French who founded Xclaim.

Pam: Xclaim is now in its tenth season. Congratulations! What was your motivation for founding Xclaim? What has changed in the past ten years?
Mariah:
Thanks! I wanted to change the world. [Laughs] My initial vision was to use dance to bring a vitality to Columbus, through meaningful, innovative dance and effective community outreach.

Mariah Layne French dancing. Photo by Terry Wilson.

Mariah Layne French dancing. Photo by Terry Wilson.

Initially, I was performing more, but increasingly I’m letting the other dancers bring my choreography to life. The diverse individuals who are working with us each season bring their own essence to the work.

Pam: The Dispatch described your choreography as “big, bold, infectiously upbeat, spirited,” and “strong.” Describe your creative process.
Mariah:
I’m driven by a concept I want to express, either based on life experience, a great piece of literature or artwork. The rhythms and emotion in music inspire me. I’ve also come to appreciate the energy that emerges from collaboration.

Pam: You also engage Xclaim in several community-oriented dance events each season. How important to you is outreach?
Mariah:
Vital! We strive to reach underserved audiences with inspiring themes, offering positive and cathartic dance opportunities to those who might benefit most. Over the years we’ve participated in a dance mentorship program with underserved youth, held benefits and performances for social justice causes, and brought performances to juvenile corrections facilities.

Pam: You have been dancing for most of your life. Who was the most influential person in your training or career?
Mariah:
That’s difficult to pinpoint, because I’ve worked with some exceptional artists and I love so many styles of dance. I’m grateful David Covey at OSU Dance prepared me for and taught me to love the artistic aspects of production through his organic lighting design techniques.

Pam: You have seven young children at home, yet you direct a successful dance company, teach dance and continue to astound audiences with entirely original performances. How do you maintain a work-life balance?
Mariah:
Xclaim is life-giving! It can be strenuous — as a family we often juggle many things, but it is meaningful, purpose-filled work. I am fortunate to have a husband and children that enjoy creating something beautiful together.

While different seasons I may not perform due to pregnancy or injury, dance has been a vital part of me being a whole and healthy person, which inevitably has a positive impact on my ability to parent, teach and create. Dance is an avenue by which I derive physical activity, artistic expression, spiritual connection and community.

Pam: What’s the best thing about the Columbus art scene right now?
Mariah:
Bold diversity. There is something for everybody! I believe Xclaim really exemplifies that, with home-town dancers and choreographers bringing their unique best to the table.

Pam: What can audiences expect to see from you next?
Mariah:
We’re busy in the studio preparing a colorful exciting and abstract new project: Light, Sound & Brainwaves.

Xclaim Dance Company invites you to attend matinee or evening performances of Light, Sound & Brainwaves from March 23-25 at Columbus Dance Theatre, 592 E. Main St., Columbus, OH 43215. Group rates are available. For tickets and information, go to xclaimdance.com.

Columbus Makes Art Presents is a bi-weekly column brought to you by the Greater Columbus Arts Council – supporting art and advancing culture in Columbus. The column is a project of the Art Makes Columbus campaign, telling the inspiring stories of the people and organizations who create Columbus art and sharing information about exhibitions, performances, concerts and more at ColumbusMakesArt.com. Each column will be written by a different local arts organization to give you an insiders look at how #artmakescbus.

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