Meet the Artist: Lindsey Kelley

September 26, 2011 § 2 Comments

Rachel Silver, our Dance Project summer intern, chatted recently with Asheville dancer/choreographer Lindsey Kelley about her training, her performance experience, and what she is up to now.  Lindsey is touring in the NC Dance Festival performing her collaborative work, “A Tribute and Reflection of the Relationship”.  Interview: July 7, 2011

DP: When did you first begin dancing?

LK: Well, I started dancing at around 3 yrs. I hated it! So, I stopped for a while and did some other awesome things, like baton twirling. I went to cousin’s recital around age 7, decided I wanted to try dancing again. Been dancing ever since!

DP: You are a former member of the STEPS on Broadway Repertory Ensemble. What was that like?

LK: Hmmm, it was interesting. I worked with some pretty great choreographers. Let’s just say, after one year, I realized that the whole uptown dance scene wasn’t really me. I’m more of a “downtown” modern dancer, so to say. I’m classically trained in ballet, but I like to get down, do my own thing, lots of improv. I was really thankful for the experience though, of course.

DP: How did you become interested in choreographing?

LK: Well, I always like coming up with my own stuff. Ever since I was a little, little gal! I received some “formal” choreography training in college at the University of South Florida. I created a lot of work there. As much as I enjoy working for other choreographers, I think it’s super, super important to have your own voice, know what type of movement suits your body and what type of dancing feels best.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time rehearsing and dancing for other people whose work didn’t feel quite right. I’d come off stage from performing feeling a bit defeated and kind of pissed, which is rare for me. I love performing, absolutely and positively. Therefore, I’ve realized now that it’s so important as a dancer and artist to practice and participate in work that you truly believe in and stand by. Most of all, that feels right.

DP: You have such a broad range of performance experience. Does your background in dance affect your current work at all?

LK: Oh absolutely. I mean, just like all dancers, my “preferred” way of movement is constantly evolving and changing. My prior training and experience has totally shaped who I am today as a dancer, obviously. But, more importantly, I’m always affected by my surroundings. People greatly inspire my work, as well as the architecture around me.

DP: Your work has been presented at many different festivals and events. How do you choose dancers to perform your work?

LK: Well, I usually work with a pretty small group of people, 1-4. That’s just what seems to work for me lately. In my most recent work, I had the option of using lots of people, but I opted to choreograph a quartet. Not that I’m taking the easy way out, but that I really like to get to know my dancers. I usually involve quite a bit of writing into the process. A lot of incorporating the dancers’ history and story into movement. Not so literally, though. I also like to work with mature artists. People I can trust, count on, and know they will do good things with my movement. Make smart, independent choices.

Honesty is important to me within movement. I feel like it takes a certain type of dancer to do that. I am constantly working on that, myself. Holding back just enough, being truthful. It’s a super hard and complicated thing to do.

DP: You are currently a resident teacher/choreographer for the Asheville Ballet. What brought you to North Carolina?

LK: I needed a change. A little serenity and consistency in my life. NYC is super duper, but it’s a tough place…for anyone! I was supposed to perform in Asheville last summer, but tour plans fell through there. I still swung by to check out the city and ended up liking it. Moved here with my boyfriend, who’s a chef. Decided I might be able to do good for the community. I really want to make a difference somewhere. Be a big fish in a small pond. I heard lots of wonderful things about Asheville and how supportive the community can be with the arts. Took a chance and now here I am!

DP: What are you working on now?

LK: Well, I’m working on an evening length piece called, “swot.get up. mug up. bone”. The quartet I mentioned earlier is a 15-minute section of the piece. And I recently performed the second part, “boma” in a show, as a guest artist for the Asheville Contemporary Dance Theatre. I’ll be setting a new work on the Asheville Ballet this Fall for their upcoming “Free Fall” Performance at the Diana Wortham theater here. I’m also teaching A LOT!  I am the dance  program director for the Asheville Performing Arts Academy, as well as a modern teacher for the Asheville Ballet.

Check out Lindsey’s website here.

Lindsey’s work for the Festival is titled “A Tribute and Reflection of the Relationship.”  The dance is choreographed and performed by Lindsey Kelley and Mindy Upin.  The pair go way back, from dancing together on stage with Monica Bill Barnes & Co., to having their co-choreographed work shown in Maryland and NC. Our intern, Rachel Silver, chatted with them both separately about the piece.

Dance Project: Please tell us about the dance you will be performing, “A Tribute and Reflection of the Relationship.”

Lindsey Kelley: Well…last November, my choreographic partner and I, Mindy Upin, created a new duet for a festival in NYC. I used to live there and moved to Asheville in November of last year. Mindy and I have collaborated before on a few other projects and we always begin by simply creating the movement. Neither of us really had any idea where the piece was going, but the movement was there. The piece was completely a team effort. It’s quirky, random, and filled with hidden inside jokes and messages…naturally. Mindy and I have very different backgrounds and ways of dancing/moving, which I think creates a unique blend of juxtaposition when it’s all put together.
Once sections were strung together, we delved a little more as to the meaning of the piece. It sort of all became a little memoir of our relationship as friends, dancers, choreographers and good pals! With me leaving NYC, it was a really special piece for us to be able to perform. Sounds cheesy, but holds lots of sentiment. It’s set to the music of Queen, which was also a random selection. It totally works, though, and adds a whole different fun and energetic factor to the work. Although it is a light-hearted and totally silly duet, Mindy and I both feel passionately about showing audiences that we are strong, technical dancers. There’s also quite a bit of dance theater thrown into the mix! Holla!

Here’s what Mindy Upin had to say about it: This piece was created last year for Danspace Project’s Food For Thought. Linds and I approached it, like our other dances in the past, from a purely fun, joyful place. Movements that came to us out of nowhere were thrown in and used as jumping off points. If it made us laugh it was definitely included. We just building and adding and before we knew it it was quite long, intricate, and awesome: ) We added music later in the process after discussing and exploring many options. We were originally toying with using the “Jaws” theme song and versions of it, with perhaps one Queen song in there. Later, and after some feedback from our dear friend and “choreographic consultant” we realized Queen all the way was the way to go. We’re very open and responsive to each other’s ideas. We usually find a way to incorporate all that is offered and I know I’m always pleasantly surprised and amazed what Lindsey brings to the table. She and I actually have very different aesthetics and styles of dance and choreographic choices, but somehow when we come together it works. Or at the very least, it makes us happy.

DP: When did the two of you begin working together?

MU: Our first piece came out of a mutual pair of shoes, the desire to work together, purely goofing around to create a short, little ditty.

A little elaboration from LKHmmmm, a few years ago. We performed in a company together for a while. That’s how we met and became really great friends. One day she was over and we realized we had the same pair of shoes. These really funky, black and white heels. So…we did a piece based on our alike shoes. She’s a little peanut and I’m quite a bit taller than her. Together, we created our first piece, “Tall & Small”.

See the pair’s quirky duet on Thursday, October 27 in Boone, Friday, November 4 in Greensboro, and Saturday, February 25 in Wilmington! www.ncdancefestival.org.

Up next: An interview with Courtney Greer.  You saw the rehearsal footage, now hear what she has to say about the choreography!

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