S mooth or textured, stark or emotive, decorative or purposeful, finely crafted porcelain has been prized for its beauty in many places and many times.
It’s like dance that way, and although Elm City Dance Collective’s new modern dance piece Almost Porcelain has no dialogue, its meaning and emotional content are salient. Drawn from the choreographer and artistic director Kellie Lynch’s personal experiences—“originally inspired by the choreographer’s personal struggle with self-perception, identity and the notion of beauty” and having evolved “into a collage of physical explorations stimulated by such concepts as distortion, avoidance, intimacy and the human desire to be seen,” according to the show program—the hourlong composition features a professional crew performing expressive movements, from intensely frenetic to slow and steady, to varied musical accompaniment.
“It’s so exciting but it’s also a little scary” to see it coming together, says Lynch. After working on it for years, since 2011, she says she “needed to let it live and breathe on its own,” which is what it will do during its run at Yale’s Off Broadway Theater (41 Broadway, New Haven) from the 9th to the 11th of May.
Lynch is no newbie within the ECDC. In fact, she’s one of four co-founding members—along with Millie VandenBroek, Jennifer Brubacher and Lindsey Bauer—of the group, which has aimed to enrich New Haven with, as the website puts it, an “experiential and collaborative approach to dance creation, education and performance” since 2008. In addition to professional-level ticketed shows, the Collective, which is run by an executive director (VandenBroek), six artistic partners (the co-founders plus Kate Seethaler and Luis Rodriguez) and a board of directors, holds weekly contemporary technique classes at the Center for the Arts at Christ Church in New Haven ($160 for a semester and $17 for a single drop-in class, or $14 for students). It also engages with the community at local events and festivals, like New Haven’s annual International Festival of Arts and Ideas.
This weekend, the group will lead a program funded by the Arts Council called “The See Yourself Project,” in which dancers will perform as interactive “living statues” on the New Haven Green (tonight, 5 to 9 p.m.) and Broadway Triangle (tomorrow, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.). Dancers’ moves will be affected by passersby, who are invited to shape and direct them, and inspired by themes from Almost Porcelain, giving the public a sneak peek of the upcoming show.
Lynch finds herself increasingly excited as opening night draws nearer, bolstered by positive feedback she says she’s received during advance performances of the show. “The way it transformed on stage, it really turned into something magical,” she says.
The magic of any dance performance, of course, comes through the dancers themselves, Lynch among them. For this crew, she casted from within the Collective but also held auditions to pull new professional dancers in from the community. While Almost Porcelain and the group’s other major productions are strictly for professionals, Lynch says the Collective rejoices in working with the new blood brought by dancers in the community that sometimes join them for events like the “See Yourself Project.” “I love working with a community of movers who are not professionals,” Lynch says. “They really add something special.”
After all, it doesn’t take proper training to bust a few moves, or to be a part of a modern dance project, and it’s a good bet the Elm City Dance Collective will keep the moves and projects coming. As Lynch puts it, “Making art is at the core of what we do.”
Elm City Dance Collective
Written and photographed by Cara McDonough.