On Stage: W. Chester’s Crane keeps ASH going strong despite pandemic

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times 

Braham Logan Crane

A lot of memorable events happened in 2004.

George W. Bush was reelected President of the United States.

NASA’s MER-A (Spirit) spacecraft landed on the surface of Mars.

Saddam Hussein went on trial in Iraq for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The Nintendo DS, the best-selling handheld game console of all time, was released in North America.

The New England Patriots defeated the Carolina Panthers 32–29 in Super Bowl XXXVIII at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas.

And, Mark Zuckerberg created the social networking site Facebook.

Also in 2004, West Chester’s Braham Logan Crane put together his company called A.S.H. (which stands for “Artists.Simply.Human”). A.S.H. made its area debut in 2004 with a pair of shows at the Painted Bride Art Center.

Two years after the debut at the small venue in Old City, Crane brought his company back to Philly for a show at the prestigious Annenberg Center venue on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania.

A lot has happened since then and the world has drastically changed – especially in 2020.

Fortunately, throughout all the changes, A.S.H. has persevered, grown and is still going strong – despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the years, A.S.H. has developed into one of the most respected modern dance companies in America. It also changed its punctuation and became simply ASH. And, it became a touring production with events that included performances and teaching.

The 2019-2020 tour season for ASH started in October. It was scheduled to run through this spring with stops all around the country – including

Some of the stops along the way are Tysons Corner, Nashville, Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Denver and Philadelphia.

Unfortunately, the tour screeched to a halt when the coronavirus pandemic shut down the country.

“We lost six of the tour events,” said Crane, during a recent phone interview from his current home in Palm Coast, Florida. “We lost six of 31.

“Our last tour stop was March 13-15. The rest of the events have been canceled.”

Crane has hunkered down in the small Florida community on the Atlantic coast with his pregnant wife Brie and his son Jett, who is two-and-a-half.

“It’s definitely a very full time with my family,” said Crane. “I haven’t left Florida since March. I only leave home to go to the office or to the grocery store. Everything is going fine.”

Crane’s touring production has grown into a major event in major cities across the country.

Crane discussed the event last year prior to its run in Philadelphia as part of the 2018-2019 tour.

“It’s a dance education type event,” said Crane, whose mother Joyce Crane ran Crane Performing Arts in West Chester for more than 25 years before recently closing shop. “It’s not like dance competition events. We have 11 faculty members and a crew of 10.

“This year, we’re going to 21 regional cities and then we’ll finish at Nationals in Orlando this summer. We have many faculty members who are tops in the industry. They all travel to different cities. This is our eighth tour – and our ninth annual event in Philly.

“In Philly, it will be a three-day event with 100 companies and around 1,500 dancers. There will be two performance showcases with about 250 numbers over the two shows and a closing show on Sunday with the best numbers from the performance showcases along with faculty performances.

“The event will also have workshops with master teachers as well as competitions and showcases. There will be a lot of scholarships provided by ASH, various colleges and different sponsors. There will be over $250,000 in scholarships just at the Philly event.”

All current styles of dance will be represented including jazz, tap, hip hop, ballet, jazz-funk and contemporary.

“There will be activities for teachers, parents, dancers and spectators,” said Crane. “There will be more than 250 pieces by dancers. We expect about 1,500 attendees.”

That was then – in the pre-COVID era. Fortunately, Crane has been able to adapt to operating as close to usual during the pandemic with “ASH on the GO.”

Crane posted this message on the ASH website —

“We are so excited to launch ASH on the GO! We will be bringing your ASH family to your studio to celebrate the end of the 19/20 Season! Get ready for

an inspiring, encouraging and action packed in-studio convention!

We have created an atmosphere where dancers can interact, learn, grow and most of all have a fun, challenging and memorable experience. This page contains some details, but feel free to contact the ASH Office with any additional questions!

We’re thrilled to have you as part of the ASH Family and looking forward to dancing with you at your studio!”

Next month, it will be full speed ahead for ASH.

“I have done some virtual stuff,” said Crane. “I’ve learned so much. There are a lot of things that are different.

“The first thing – when you go to a live event, really there are three things you experience – getting content, getting connection and community.

“Content is pretty easy to deliver. Connection is challenging. Community is challenging. We had to figure out how to do five touch points per event.

“We combined livestream elements with Zoom elements so that students feel that they’re involved. We do have interactive digital sections to make you feel like we’re talking to you through the screen. It’s modeled a little on what Tony Robbins does when he sets up the whole room in the round.”

Crane and his ASH tour will be hitting the road again this fall.

“We have to deal with the COVID bubble,” said Crane. “We tour from October until May with some time off to vacation and rest.

“We want to make it an experience – to create a new experience with a virtual element. ‘Ash Virtual’ will be a hybrid event – live with a virtual option. People can attend live or virtually. If they chose virtual, it’s still interactive. For example, they’ll be able to ask questions in real time.”

The first stop on ASH’s 2020-2021 schedule will be from October 23-25 in Orlando, Florida.

Some of the stops along the way are Tysons Corner, Nashville, Austin, Cleveland, Dallas, Santa Clara, Atlantic City, Provo, New Brunswick, Greenville, Houston, Chicago, Denver, Indianapolis, Burbank, and Philadelphia. The local event will take place at Loew’s Philadelphia Hotel (1200 Market Street, Philadelphia) from January 15-17.

“There are about 35-40 precautions we’re taking for the live events including masks, social distancing and a fogger,” said Crane.

“For the world, COVID-19 has been a major – 100 per cent – inconvenience. But — it has been fostering creativity.”

Creativity has also been in evidence with regard to performances of live music in the area. Many venues have moved the show outdoors with social distancing – and fresh air.

The Living Room Outdoor Concert Series (https://www.thelivingroomat35east.com/) has moved to a new location.

Trevor Gordon Hall

The Living Room at 35 East, the award-winning intimate listening room in Ardmore, announced the continuation of The Living Room Outdoor Concert Series. After three very successful sold-out concerts in July and August, they decided to resume the series with five more outdoor concerts in September and early October. Tickets are on sale now.

Upcoming shows are Trevor Gordon Hall with Adam Monaco on September 12, The Fractals on September 19, “Women’s Singer-Songwriter Showcase” with Emily Drinker, Joy Ike and Valentina Sounds on September 26, and Lili Añel and David Mowry with Dale Melton and Bill Zinno on October 2.

The concerts will continue to be held at a large, private location. Customer seating areas are pre-assigned with a minimum of six feet between each site and six-feet walkways. Masks are required in all public areas on the property. Customers are asked to bring their own food and beverages. All special instructions and ticketing information is posted on the venue’s website at www.thelivingroomat35east.com.

While the weather is still nice, you can enjoy some low-key, outdoor, socially distanced shows at a variety of local venues.

Cedar Hollow Inn Restaurant and Bar (2455 Yellow Springs Road, Malvern, www.cedarhollowinn.com) will present Bill Hake scheduled on September 10, Sunshine Jones on September 12, Chris Lebresco on September 18, Jason Farley on September 19, Kendal Conrad on September 24, Nicki Sbaffoni on September 25, and Jerry Watkins on September 26.

Brickside Grille (540 Wellington Square, Exton, bricksidegrille.com) has a full slate for this month with Tap Duo on September  10, Stephen Sottung on September 11, Singles Going Steady on September 12, Dave Saunders on September 13, Vic Raolji on September 16, Michael Kropp on September 17, Nicole Zell Duo on September 18, Michael Kropp on September 19, and Bill Hake on September 20.

Stable 12 Brewing Company (368 Bridge St, Phoenixville, stable12.com) Rick McSteve on September 19 and Kendal Conrad on September 25.

Adam McCue

Penns Woods Winery (124 Beaver Valley Road, Chadds Ford, www.pennswoodswinery.com) will present Adam McCue on September 12, Jason Ager on September 19, Greg Jones on September 20, Pete Marziano on September 26 and Hanna Paige on September 27.

The Bordley House (1520 Tattersal Way, West Chester, www.bordleyhousegrille.com) will host Chris Lebresco on September 12, Bryan McDermott on September 19 and Ziggy Isaacs on September 26.

Epicurean Garage (570 Simpson Drive, Chester Springs, www.epicureangarage.com) will present J.D. Malone on September 12.

Tuned Up Brewing Co. (135 North Main Street, Spring City, www.tunedupbrew.com) will host Bill Ferreri on September 11 and Mr Mody on September 25.

Creekside Sports Bar & Grille (765 N Lewis Road, Royersford, http://www.creeksidesportsbar.com/) will host Michael Kropp on September 13 and 20.

A’Dello Winery (21 Simmons Road, Perkiomenville) has a schedule featuring Joe Miralles & Gary Houk on September 19 and Michael Kropp on September 26.

Cedar Hollow Inn Restaurant and Bar (2455 Yellow Springs Road, Malvern, www.cedarhollowinn.com) will present Bill Hake scheduled on September 10, Sunshine Jones on September 12, Chris Lebresco on September 18, Jason Farley on September 19, Kendal Conrad on September 25, Nicki Sbaffoni on September 25, and Jerry Watkins on September 26.

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