In Concord Academy’s dance studio on a cloudy late-January afternoon, it’s the last day Dance 3 students are benefitting from a two-week artist residency with Lily Kind ’04. Zoe Green ’22 is standing inside a close-but-friendly gauntlet of her classmates, windmilling her arms. Kind is doing the same off to the side, encouraging her by making airplane sounds. Then she follows up with individualized feedback. “This is about learning about your own body, your tendency to use your midpoint instead of your shoulders,” she says. “It’s not bad, but it’s something you should be aware of.”
The arm motion is part of a set of movements — walking a curve, gathering-and-sending — that all of the student-dancers are learning to deploy in coordinated improvisation. After more drills, they fill up the studio, aiming from all sides and then looping in different directions. Dancers glide onto the floor, spiral off, one leaping over another. Kind circles, watching closely, then throws herself into the mix with a burst of energy.
Then she asks the students to do it again, in half the space.
There’s a collective intake of breath, and Kind offers more instruction, using her body conversationally. “Watch out for…” (she mimics the shuffle-steps of passersby who can’t pick a side) “and this…” (spinning around an internal axis) — “I love a good pivot, but in this space,” (hitting her forehead) “boom!”
Kind consistently emphasizes the relative utility of dancers’ choices, how movements are more or less appropriate for specific conditions. “Throwing your legs is a great way to get around,” she says to the class, “but in this close-running-around world, you’ll kick someone.”
Kind is one in a series of professional dance guest artists — including Alexander Brady and Rika Okamoto from Twyla Tharp Dance — who have come to campus this year to work with and choreograph for the CA Dance Project and teach guest classes. With the Dance Project, Kind played with Ravel’s famously repetitive Bolero. “It’s kind of corny, but it’s a way to force yourself into a different kind of formalization,” she says. “It’s kind of what it feels like to be a student at CA: There’s structure but also an increasing ramp-up.”
Left: A Dance Project member practicing the kickover move Kind also taught her Dance 3 students. Right: Kind watching closely as students traverse the dance studio.
As a member of Dance Company (now called Dance Project) under Richard Colton all four of her years as a CA student, Kind was able to explore improvisation and vernacular and folk forms. “That’s where I learned how to be an artist — not a professional dancer, but an artist, which I was more interested in,” she says. Kind also took art classes and played lacrosse. “You could do it all at CA and no one was going to make you choose,” she says.
Also as a CA student, Kind took part in Summer Stages Dance at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston — a summer workshop and performance series founded and directed by Colton and his wife, CA’s longtime Performing Arts Department head Amy Spencer. Leading contemporary dance artists offer mentorship, and the training program results in the joint creation, with students, of new work. After graduating, Kind returned year after year as a staff member.
“I can’t explain enough how much those experiences shaped my life, both creatively and professionally,” Kind says. Not only did she have opportunities to work with performers of the highest caliber, but she also gained experience in dance production, assisting as a liaison between CA and the ICA. “I actually learned so much about dance nonprofits and how the dance world economy works that I realized I didn’t want to go in that direction,” Kind says. “I was so lucky to have a chance to learn that at a young age.”
Instead, while attending Goucher College in Baltimore, she started the Effervescent Collective, a loosely organized group that embraced a broad definition of dance and performed in eclectic spaces — boxing gyms, churches, riverbanks, warehouses. She studied dance for camera, ballet, and clowning, among other modalities, as a postgraduate at the California Institute for the Arts and Headlong Dance Theater in Philadelphia, where she currently lives. There, she runs residencies and performs at Urban Movement Arts. Kind has traveled to study Flying Low and Passing Through floorwork methods widely employed in European and South American dance institutions. She is also an accomplished Lindy Hopper and vernacular jazz dancer. Now she’s completing an MFA in interdisciplinary art studies with a concentration in performance creation from Goddard College. Her current dance theater project, very much informed by her work with young adults, is called Wolfthicket.
“This is where I learned how to be an artist — not a professional dancer, but an artist, which I was more interested in.”
– Lily Kind ’04
Her love for vernacular and vaudevillian dance traditions and her abiding interest in taking risks are evident in her teaching approach. In the Dance 3 class at CA, Kind has students pair up to work on an intimidating move. One crouches down while the other plants her hands and kicks up and over her partner, tapping a leg side-to-side. “It’s everybody’s favorite,” Kind sing-songs, cajoling the students as she demonstrates.
“That terrifies me!” says Kaothara Morakinyo ’21, though she sounds keenly interested.
The students, nervous, begin trying to work out strategies so they won’t hurt each other. There’s a lot of falling and laughing and apologies.
Kind takes their hesitancy in stride but pushes them through it, cheering like a sports coach. “This is a room full of smart women who think, ‘I can figure it out before I do it,’” she says, “but you just have to try it and fail a bunch.”
Next, she asks them to push up into handstands while their partners hold their legs. Some seem to doubt the strength of their arms.
“Guys, you’re all strong enough to do it with a partner. It’s all here,” she says, tapping her head. “A little more power. It’s there! It’s all there in your body.”