Even when she is sitting, it is obvious that Lily Kind is a dancer. It’s not because she has her hair in a bun (rather, it’s short and spiky on top), and it’s not because she’s all decked out in rehearsal clothes (she’s actually in a floral-print dress). It’s not because she’s incredibly thin, or humming Swan Lake. It’s not even her posture. Rather, it’s her hands, which dance along to her words in virtually choreographed gesticulation as she talks in a Hampden coffee shop. This informal evidence corroborates her contention that everyone is born to dance. “Most people like music,” she explains over an iced tea. “Most people have bodies . . .” Her palms twist up as she says, “People want to dance.” They swipe across the air as she explains, “We’re just trained not to, instead of being invited to.” Finally, her hands turn over and her fingers straighten. “Which is crazy!”
As a choreographer, dancer, and founder of Baltimore’s Effervescent Collective, Kind has made it her business to change this. Through the weekly classes and numerous collaborative works among dancers, musicians, visual artists, and even skateboarders, Kind and company have spent five years bringing dance to the city. And all the work has paid off: The company has put out impressive choreographic works, established an enthusiastic audience base, and been awarded best dance company for several years in a row both by Baltimore magazine and City Paper (ever the evangelist, Kind actually wrote a letter to City Paper last year—which she describes as "sassy"—justifiably complaining that, while Effervescent won the readers' poll, there was no best dance company category in the editorial awards).
Much of Effervescent's success comes from an unusual operating procedure. Unlike most companies which adhere to dance techniques such as Denishawn or Limon, Effervescent doesn’t enforce one single methodology. Part of this eclecticism is motivated by Kind’s own challenge to learn dance in the established, memorization- and direction-based method. “I have tattooed ‘left’ and ‘right’ on my feet because I don’t know which way is which,” she says through laughter. Her experience training in Israel in Gaga technique, which is similarly eclectic, further informed the company’s aesthetic.
Effervescent is also different from other dance companies in its economic organization. “I didn’t want to participate in a paradigm that I think is problematic,” Kind says, choosing her words carefully. “If you look at how dance companies are run in this country . . . I just don’t think it makes sense"—especially the economic structure. Whereas most other companies rely on grants and ticket sales, and pay their dancers “a pitiful amount of money,” Effervescent accepts no foundational support, relying instead on private donations and good old-fashioned volunteerism. No dancers in the Effervescent Collective are getting paid. “And that works,” Kind emphasizes, “because we’re doing it as volunteers, and we’re doing it as a social experiment.”
While obviously not lucrative, this social experiment has proven itself a success the last few years, which is why it is somewhat surprising when Kind says she’ll be leaving the company at the end of the summer. Not that she is doing so without some wistfulness. “Oh, it’s a bummer to leave!” she exclaims, her hands dancing somewhat more melancholically now. But she has her reasons. Kind will be pursuing an MFA in dance at the California Institute of the Arts in Los Angeles, where she will be focusing on dance education, choreography, and integrated media. Her cheironomy picks up tempo as she discusses her plans on how to apply those skills. “I want to get really good at what I want to do so I can come back. And also, when I'm able to make more of a career, when I have a more diversified product, so to speak, it will be easier to come back and do fun stuff here.”
Still, regardless of the changes Kind hopes to bring Baltimore in the future, her departure is already causing some big changes. Effervescent Collective will begin to produce works by other companies instead of focusing on its own productions. “My experience and the group’s collective knowledge, and also the resources that we’ve amassed, and the energy that’s been invested in us, will be maintained and then it will be dispersed to folks that are doing projects that we are excited about," Kind says. If you’re still a little fuzzy on what that means, you’re not alone. Even Kind admits that “there are a lot of nuts and bolts lying loose,” but she has confidence that the change will be a good one.
Though it is called a collective, Kind has certainly been at the center of the Effervescent universe. "We all knew there would be an eventual major shift," collective member Clarissa Gregory says via email. "Every summer and new season we adapt to minor shifts with new crew joining, old crew departing, wildly new projects balanced with a weekly dancing regimen. We're excited to try different ways to pursue movement collectively alongside celebrating Lily's adventure to the west coast." Gregory envisions the collective's future goals as "inviting guest artists, locating a reliable studio, and envisioning a new project/performance."
Finding a reliable space has always been one of Effervesvent's biggest dilemmas. Kind worked with five other performance companies to create a proposal to buy for 408-414 N. Howard St. Effervescent's involvement in the project is now up in the air, but Evan Mortiz of Annex Theater, who has spearheaded the group, says in an email that they have begun "to work with some other members of their company to get them involved in this."
Kind’s final performance in Charm City takes place July 12 at Sanctuary Body Works in Fells Point, a venue which Kind believes is appropriately named because “it’s warm, it’s clean, it’s safe," qualities which Effervescent was seeking in a permanent space, and which they have often foregone in the past. This performance, a collaboration among three dancers and three musicians, is actually not an Effervescent project. The piece, "3x3," is part of a series created by Babette McGeady, in which a number of dancers and musicians improvise together to create a unique and spontaneous show.
Kind compares the piece to a sporting event, because, like athletes who can never truly anticipate what will happen on the field, the performers can never accurately guess will happen on the stage. According to Kind, this is what makes the show so pleasing for audiences who otherwise may not “get” dance. “What’s going on is very transparent and we try to make everything very clear to the viewer,” she says. “You know what the rules are, and what makes it interesting is watching us fail and succeed. You know, it’s not the score at the end of the game, it’s the plays, the goals, it’s the shots, right?”
Because she has fought so hard for Baltimore's dance scene, Kind is a bit nostalgic about her departure. “It’s my last performance before I leave so it’s also a little bit of a celebration, a little bit bittersweet.” Still, Kind is grateful that she is able to perform for, rather than with, her Effervescent colleagues. “Putting on a show is a lot of work, so this definitely feels like a sort of going-away present I’m both getting and giving at the same time."Copyright © 2015, Baltimore City Paper