Considering the almost familial ease between choreographers Kelly Bond and Melissa Krodman, tension seems an unlikely theme for their first collaborative work, Colony. Produced by the Lucky Penny as part of Theater Emory’s Breaking Ground series, the 50-minute duet will make its Atlanta debut June 21–22 at the Theater Lab at Emory’s Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts.
As with many of their artistic sentiments and interests, Bond and Krodman share a fascination with tense environments. Their collaborative relationship is idyllic, a self-described “ice cream and lollipop story” that has proven to be fertile ground for creation. Both prefer to research ideas over time and to allow themes to unfold as a natural process of experimentation. “It’s just a room full of yes-saying until we can throw stuff out,” says Bond.
Perhaps it was that openness that led Krodman and Bond to an unlikely source of inspiration. Two years ago, they were at a friend’s house and sat down at the piano to play “Heart and Soul” — “as you do when there’s a piano nearby and you don’t know how to play the piano,” jokes Bond. The moment quickly turned introspective when they began to reflect on the song’s popularity and their shared impulse to play it. Tension, they decided, was the key factor; both participants and spectators want “to see who’s going to screw it up first,” Bond says.
Krodman says they spent months researching dance marathons and other incarnations of “amateurs doing something repetitively and not that well.” They were interested, she says, in “the critical moment of collapse and transformation,” or rather, the moment right before tension breaks. Both choreographers felt it important that the audience expect and wait for a crash that doesn’t occur. Tension doesn’t release, it simply morphs into something else.
Thus Colony is a study in “synchronization, repetition, and duration.” Bond and Kelly, dressed in identical black-and-white-striped, scoop-neck leotards and striped sneakers, begin the piece with 12 to 15 minutes of side-by-side running in place. Online videos show how strikingly similar the movement is on each of their taut bodies, a testament to their attention to detail. When presented with near-perfect unison, it’s human nature to look for mistakes, and Bond and Kelly intend for the movement vocabulary to make viewers aware of their own tendencies to seek out error.
Both women — experimental choreographers and performing artists — knew they wanted to involve the audience and to perform the work on an open, nontraditional stage space. Chairs aren’t provided, and Bond and Krodman hope audiences will move around freely. But they also hope viewers will see themselves as participants, heeding rules that determine whether to sit or stand and what areas are off-limits.
“The choreography is incredibly specific, but we have to be accommodating to elements of surprise,” says Bond. “People are unpredictable, so we have to make choices.” Since Colony’s 2012 premiere in Washington. D.C., Bond and Krodman have performed the dance in a number of spaces with different outcomes. Krodman describes one moment where she and Bond walk a circular path, singing as they spiral in closer. “People often get trapped in the circle, but we never change our path,” she says. Part of the fun, both choreographers agree, is figuring out how to get the audience member out without breaking the tension.
In speaking to Bond and Krodman together, one gets the sense that they have the sort of friendship most people crave but may never experience. They laugh often, agree on nearly everything and talk excitedly about future collaborations. Krodman, who is now based in Philadelphia but has lived in a number of cities, including Atlanta, first heard about Bond’s work in 2010 when she was living in Washington, D.C. “I was so floored that someone was making stuff like that in D.C., I kind of demanded that I be introduced to her.”
Both women are self-described performance artists; Bond’s background is in dance, Krodman’s in experimental theater and devising. Bond attended the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in London, and Krodman holds a degree in film and television production from Boston University.
In the four years since their meeting, Bond and Krodman have cultivated a working relationship and friendship seemingly devoid of conflict, competition or jealousy. They don’t argue, and the compliments flow freely. “The work I do with Kelly is so easy and feels so natural,” says Krodman. “I trust her sensibility so much. If anything, I trust it more than my own.”
Bond has since relocated to Nashville, and the distance has challenged but not deterred the two collaborators. They say the hardest part about working together is the $200 it costs to fly in for rehearsals. In an effort to maximize time, Bond and Krodman will spend most of their Breaking Ground residency working on a new piece. They don’t yet know what it will look like, but they trust one another and, by extension, the work they will create together.
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