Their dance styles, personalities and body types are extremely different, but in the studio and on stage, something simply clicks. “She’s a little powerhouse of energy,” says Lindsey Kelley, describing Mindy Upin, a dancer, choreographer and close friend. “I’m more long-limbed and tower over her, but the relationship we have as performers, the juxtaposition between us, it just works.”
Kelley, who relocated to Asheville from New York City, teaches modern dance at Asheville Ballet, and teaches classes for all ages at Asheville Performing Arts Academy. Upin, who lives in New York, will be traveling south to perform in this year’s North Carolina Dance Festival. The long-time friends will team up in Asheville to present their first self-produced, evening-length concert, The Ratio of Mindsey and Kelpin at the BeBe Theatre.
For Kelley and Upin, the challenges and joys of friendship have been a source of ongoing creative inspiration. “Ratio is a reflection of our friendship, and a reflection of our lives,” says Kelley. “We’re both very silly ladies, so there are definitely comical moments as well as somber moments in the show.” Ratio will be performed in Chicago’s Links Hall for a three-night run before being staged in Asheville.
Ratio begins with a duet inspired by the prologue to Romeo and Juliet, which will be read aloud as Kelley and Upin take the stage. The following piece, choreographed and performed by Upin, is “totally an ode to The Supremes,” reports Kelley. “She has the beehive, the glitzy dress and it’s very random and extremely musical.” Upin’s ode, titled Semi Glizt, is described in a press release as “a hilarious take on The Supremes ‘60s-style structure layered atop a modern day Beyoncé-esque flavor.”
From there, the mood changes quite dramatically. Bathed in Perception — Impact, a solo performed in this year’s Asheville Fringe Festival (which earned “Most Inspirational Piece,” as voted by other Fringe participants), explores the process of growing old. To create Impact, Kelley collaborated with her older brother, JD, who wrote the musical score and shot a film that will be projected behind Kelley as she dances. Impact is about Kelley’s grandmothers, who are both widows — one suffers from dementia, and the other yearns for her husband. “It’s a pretty serious piece,” says Kelley. “My work is generally inspired by the people around me, and by my environment.”
Ratios takes another surprising turn with swot. mug up. get up. bone, a piece initially choreographed for Asheville Ballet. Re-imagined for Ratio, “swot is strictly about the movement,” says Kelley. That movement is called release technique, which Kelley describes as “moving from my bones.” swot will be paired with a piece of electronic music by the local band Graviton Project.
swot feeds into a piece called Boma, a term that Kelley got from Urban Dictionary, that means “being in your own little world,” says Kelley. Boma, an aggressive and animalistic piece, is deliberately paired beside swot, and the two pieces explore the differences between professional dance in Asheville versus New York City. “When I created swot I had nobody breathing down my neck, no choreographers, no critics, and I was able to create a piece that felt really good in my body,” says Kelley. Boma “is about dance in New York, and how it’s like live or die,” says Kelley. This idea is pushed to the surface of the piece when Upin joins Kelley in a mock chorus line, where the pressure for perfection and timing is at its greatest.
The final piece in the show, A Tribute and Reflection on the Relationship, is the piece that started it all. Tribute was choreographed in New York City a month before Kelley relocated to Asheville, and after receiving an invitation to present a piece in Food for Thought, a concert presented by Danspace Project and staged at Saint Mark’s Church in Manhattan. “We got into the studio and created a true timeline of our friendship,” says Kelley. “As personal as it might seem, it isn’t. Collaboration was so natural for us.”
“Ratio,” Kelley says, “is going to be a dance performance like no other.” She smiles, slams her fist on the table and declares, “We’re dancing machines and we’re here to show our stuff — here to show our stuff!” As for Kelley’s future as a choreographer in Asheville: “This,” she says, “is only the beginning.”
— Aiyanna Sezak-Blatt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
what: A silly, somber and theatrical concert of modern dance
where: BeBe Theatre, 20 Commerce St., downtown Asheville
when: Sunday, Feb. 26 (7 p.m., $12/$10 for students. 917-972-6127, http://lindseykelleydance.com or www.acdt.org)