Colony is not an easy work to describe, but one might begin this way: While most performances are designed to be watched by an audience, Colony is a performance designed to look back.
“The dance doesn’t exist in a separate space and time from the audience,” says Kelly Bond, who along with collaborator Melissa Krodman created the 50-minute experimental dance piece, which will have its Atlanta premiere at Emory’s Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts this weekend, June 21-22. “It quietly asks each audience member to look at how they’re responding. The responses can all be different, but it asks them to look at themselves to see how they’re dealing with situations.” “When we were making Colony, we were really interested in what each moment of the choreography was provoking,” says Krodman. “There are moments when we are directly addressing or having eye contact with the audience. There’s not a fourth wall.”
Colony’s world premiere was at Washington D.C.’s Capital Fringe Festival in July 2012 and has gone on to be performed in Philadelphia, New Orleans, and Carlsbad, Sweden. The piece is adaptable to a number of performance spaces but typically uses no proscenium, no separation between performers and audience: viewers roam around and watch the piece from different vantage points. Any “etiquette” or rules for engaging with the piece are, by nature, unspoken and must develop organically during the performance.
“We’ve been enjoying seeing how audiences pretty immediately establish their own set of rules,” says Krodman. “Each audience adheres to a set of rules, and there will be rule breakers, and the audience will then react to those rule breakers in various ways. It’s about the audience noticing themselves in the context of this communal event, witnessing how they’re choosing to behave in this environment. It’s really fascinating to see that herd consciousness at work and to notice how groups think without any talking or without any verbal communication. I hesitate to use the word ‘political,’ but there are some subtly political themes when you’re in this environment noticing how people choose to react to what’s happening.”
Bond says, “It’s interesting to note where people’s boundaries are, where other people are creating rules even though they may not necessarily exist for us.”
The Atlanta performance is part of “Breaking Ground,” a residency of the Atlanta-based arts organization Lucky Penny at Emory’s Theater Lab at the Schwartz Center. The Lucky Penny was formed in 2011 by Atlanta artists Blake Beckham and Malina Rodriguez to create and present new performance and dance works. The second annual Emory residency also includes a preview of Beckham’s latest work Dearly Departures, a birthday party celebrating the organization’s third year, classes by the creators of Colony, and a workshop from Atlanta-based dancer and choreographer Corian Ellisor, all culminating in a showcase on Saturday, June 28, at 5 PM.
Kelly Bond + Melissa Krodman’s “Colony” takes place Saturday, June 21, at 8 PM and Sunday, June 22, at 5 PM in Emory’s Theater Lab, located in the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts. For more information, visit the Lucky Penny.