BY Molly Congdon
CLIFTON PARK — Later this month, major venues in Toronto and Brooklyn will host a first-of-its-kind union between athleticism and art in an event unlike any other — “Contemporary Color.”
The performance event was inspired solely by the marvel of color guard — commonly referred to as “the sport of the arts.”
Ten teams from across the United States and Canada were selected to participate, and each one was paired with an artist who would compose an original piece of music specifically for that team. Then, the color guard team will do their routine simultaneously while the composer rocks out a freshly baked original score.
Shenendehowa’s color guard was one of those teams that was given the chance of a lifetime.
“It’s a great way to bring music and color together,” Shenendehowa coach Scott Snell said. “It will expose the greater population to what we do.”
This dazzling new concept was conceived by David Byrne — musician, writer, photographer, filmmaker and former frontman of the Talking Heads. It was co-commissioned by Brooklyn Academy of Music and Toronto’s Laminate Festival as well as supported by WGI Sport of the Arts.
“Color guards are, well, high school [and college-level] ‘dance’ groups who perform during halftime at football games, and then compete amongst themselves later in the school year — usually in their school gymnasiums,” Byrne said on the website.
“They are, in my way of looking at them, a sophisticated folk art form that flies under the official cultural radar. They never get reviewed in the culture pages of the papers, and most New Yorkers, I would wager, have never even heard or seen them [unless the New Yorkers grew up in one of the hundreds of towns where this culture thrives and evolves]. I think it’s a wonderful, peculiar, underappreciated and very creative art form and that deserves to be seen and experienced — in a slightly different context, by a wider public.”
He continued: “The interesting thing about color guard is that the community is very insular, and I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be kind of great to ask some friends to collaborate with the team’s creative folks to create original music for these guys?’ ”
Shenendehowa was matched with Lucius, a five-piece indie-rock band based in Brooklyn. Rolling Stone described them as “the best band you may not have heard yet.”
“They made a song to serve as the music for our show — like one you’d hear on the radio,” senior Katie Bogardus said. “It was so exiting; they announced Contemporary Color sometime in January; we have a group on Facebook and we all thought it looked so cool and we wanted to go — one parent was planning on buying us tickets to go watch.”
Then, Snell met with the team and parents to share some exciting news — they were in the show. “We freaked out; we thought he as joking,” Bogardus said. “It still doesn’t feel real right now; just the fact that we are in those venues is going to be so intimidating.”
“Being on the national stage will be great for them — it’s recognition,” Snell said. “Sharing that with others is a great honor.”
The teams and composers will debut at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto on June 22 and 23 and then take over the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on June 27 and 28.
The end-goal is to open the eyes of onlookers. “Our primary goal is to enhance an already extremely compelling experience, and bring it to a brand new audience in two of the world’s most visible cultural centers,” Byrne said. “Elaborate costumes, professional athleticism combined with modern dance, and rock stars in their element — all culminating in the biggest glitter cannon show of your life.”