Photo by Steven Schrieber

Photo by Pete Richter

The Raving Jaynes:Improvised Dance/Theater

The Raving Jaynes combine dance and improv to tell stories.  Characters, settings, atmospheres and abstract imagery emerge from the simple seeds of skillful movement.  Two unique characters go on a journey that gradually reveals itself amidst a collage of accompanying scenes.  The audience gets to make its own surprising discoveries in a made-up story--one that's much stranger than it at first appears.  The dancers become actors and back again--dialogue into movement, movement into dialogue.  The sacred and profane, natural and fantastic, flawed, ridiculous and hopeful mingle in a field of play. We perform regularly at the PIT in New York City, teach workshops and are advocates for the art of improvisation as a performance practice. We have been presented at IMPRO Amsterdam; the Abundance Festival in Karlstad, Sweden; TCIF in Minneapolis; the ADaPT Festival in Santa Barbara; The Crisis Art Festival in Arezzo, Italy; The Comedy in Dance Festival at Triskelion Arts; Dancemopolitan at Joe's Pub; Duofest in Philadelphia; The NYC Improv Festival; The Unscripted New York Improvised Theatre Festival, The Out of Bounds Comedy Festival in Austin, The District Improv Festival in D.C., Your Move in Jersey City and The Tank.


Jamie Graham is delighted to be one half of The Raving Jaynes. When not buzzing around a dance studio trying to awaken her inner impulse, Jamie can be found a) fastening long lashes to her eyelids on Saturday nights with Jenny Rocha and Her Painted Ladies, b) bent over connecting her sitz bones to her heel bones with Barbara Mahler, c) sweating it out with seniors all over Manhattan through Dances for A Variable Population, or d) smiling as she asks for "just one more set" in a Pilates session. If none of the above applies, she may be in class at The People's Improv Theater or at home avoiding the dishes.

Amy Larimer (creator, director, player)

Jay Rhoderick (coach) is a founding member of the long-running long-form improvisation ensembles Burn Manhattan and Centralia. Jay has taught improv for 12 years and has studied mask, Commedia dell'Arte, clown, and acting for more than 17 years. He has improvised with Jeremy Piven, Kate Walsh, Will Ferrell, Horatio Sanz, Stephen Colbert and many others. Centralia has performed throughout the U.S. and recently had its immortal song "Holy Shit" used in Showtime's TV spots. As an actor, Jay took part in the rollicking original NYC Fringe production of "Urinetown!"


The Raving Jaynes



Yes that is Snoopy... and yes, he is doing a happy dance. Why; you ask? Because I was doing a happy dance after I saw The Raving Jaynes do their happy dance! ..... Let me explain... 

As I watched Jamie Graham and Amy Larimer enter the stage, I was not sure what to expect. They were dressed in kinda funny, loose fitting garb... pretty typical for female improvisers... no reason to get excited... 

They begin just like ever other group begins... by asking for a suggestion from the audience. I can't even remember what the suggestion was, because after that, I was enthralled. As Jamie and Amy went into their opener, my eyes opened wide... and I was once again reminded that there is no wrong way to improvise.

I was skeptical at first... Improv with a dance gimmick? Give me a break! But I was so so wrong.  To call The Raving Jaynes a unique blend of dance and improvisation would be an insufficient description; for they have truly wed the two art forms into one. 

As I watched them dance about with each other... I put on my improv goggles and quickly realized they were doing much much more than simply "dancing about with each other". They were listening to each other, giving and taking, passing the energy and focus back and fourth, sending and accepting offers from one another. It was truly inspiring... seeing these deeply rooted improv principals played out before me in a beautiful theatrical dance. Once they were ready, they would jump right into a scene. I was stunned. These weren't just great dancers that figured they'd up and try improv one day... nor were they ambitious improvisers trying to do something experimental and different... they were... they were... Danceprovisiors!  

One of my biggest improv pet peeves is "Talking Head" scenes... Move around! Use the environment! DO SOMETHING! Needless to say... the Raving Jaynes are the polar opposite of this criticism.  Their dancing makes for some highly physical improv; my favorite kind. These women have such control over their bodies, and by extension, their faces, voices, and postures, resulting in some varied and personalized characters.

What I took away from the Raving Jaynes is that there is no wrong way to improvise. The way they wove together movement, scenes, and dance with such fluidity was astounding. They showed me there's a lot more to environment work than just creating a space to exist in... you got to PLAY in it!!   

May 29,2012 by Johnny Harkins