Kayla Collymore and Donna Crump’s dance and video collaboration Hypoxia is an acknowledgment and delayering of all the tension from the last year.
Hypoxia, a gorgeous dance and video collaboration between Kayla Collymore and Donna Crump, begins with visceral thuds. The dancers’ brown, masked bodies fall to the floor with disturbingly good impressions of lifelessness. While this introduction unequivocally makes reference to events of the last year, the rest of the piece celebrates respiration, recovery, and resilience.
“For me, movement and everything begins with breath,” says Collymore, an accomplished dancer and yoga instructor. “Watching so many lives taken away on TV really started to sit in my body during the pandemic. I couldn’t sleep.”
“This project is like a reset, a cleaning of the slate,” says Crump, a choreographer, dancer, actress, and director of Houston-based Good Dance. “We wanted it to feel like peeling away layers—a delayering of stereotypes, ways of feeling bound, all the tension from the last year.” The piece does feel like a ritual healing.
The Hypoxia choreography emerged from improvisational movement research grounded in breath, interconnection, and response. The dancers are often in contact with their backs. This communicates strength and support, but it also says volumes about Collymore’s and Crump’s creative connection. Their timing is phenomenally synchronous, despite not being visible to each other. It looks like they’ve been dancing together for ages.
All the more impressive, then, that this partnership actually formed in 2020. The dancers met at a Brown Girls Do Ballet Calendar photoshoot last October and crossed paths months later in Houston, where they are both currently based. “The personal connection was magic,” says Crump. “Art started pouring out of our relationship and we’re continuing to move forward.”
“I was not expecting this at all, especially during the pandemic,” says Collymore. “Our movements complement each other. She’s fiery, strong, feisty. I’m more like the flow. It’s very yin and yang.”
In addition to the organic, regenerative quality of the dancing, Hypoxia also makes meaningful use of video editing. There’s a strong theme of interwovenness throughout the piece. Near the end of the video, the screen breaks into multiple view boxes, showing the dancers’ entangled legs as they crawl purposively together. The visual effect creates spidery multitudes of tightly related bodies and directions.
Hypoxia continues to be a work in progress. The piece will be presented in September in Houston and New Orleans as a live, immersive, multimedia performance. The experience of seeing it in person is sure to be a powerful one. “We hope the audience takes away a sense of balance,” say Collymore and Crump.
Houston, TX | @kaycollymore | @gooddance1984
Hypoxia: Direction/choreography/performance by Kayla Collymore and Donna Crump. Videography: Kamm Myers, Paradox Productions. Production: Lolita Rodriguez & Martha Diaz, Collectively Classic. Edited by: Kayla Collymore.