Headlong Dance Theater's study in domestic life was both cerebral and immediate

Arts Review


Rollins Studio Theatre

Jan. 29

If you've ever pondered the meaning of life while vacuuming – and who hasn't – you can relate to Headlong Dance Theater's more., a study in domestic life overhung by the subconscious' questioning of it all.

Co-directors David Brick, Amy Smith, and Andrew Simonet created the hourlong piece, in collaboration with the six dancers, under the mentorship of pretty famous New York-based choreographer Tere O'Connor. According to the program notes, the Headlong directors, after working together for 15 years, engaged in a two-year conversation with O'Connor to invigorate their material and methods. Having never seen the Philadelphia-based company pre-O'Connor, I can't attest to any transformation, but I can tell you that more. was a weighty piece, both cerebral and immediate. While my reaction to the piece as it was being performed was to distance myself from its retro-cool facade and stark movement, I found that with time, more. stayed with me, the images loosening into a contemporary archetype that I recognized not so much with the mind but with the consciousness.

The work began in silence as a female dancer, androgynous in a gray suit, introduced the type of percussive movement that continued throughout the show. The movement was repetitive and characterized by the momentum that drove it. For example, the flapping of a single hand gained momentum until the hand reached the other arm, pushing it outward, and the arm pulled the body to the floor. It seemed organic in a real carbon sense: The movement seemed purely of the body, not of emotion. In contrast, there were times when a dancer broke into a completely free, twirling type of dance with arms upstretched, as if representing near-freedom from the body.

While the stage was bare at the beginning of the work, the dancers soon began to haul in furniture to create the living room that was the set for much of the piece. In an exploration of domesticity and ritual, the dancers arranged and rearranged themselves on the turquoise vinyl couch (set and costume design by Maiko Matsushima). One dancer removed a medical boot from her foot and performed strengthening exercises with a Thera-Band; another vacuumed the rug. An iPod appeared, and a recorded voice attempted to explain their state of existence: "You seem to have a lot of questions about what goes away and what stays. Body parts go away, but the heartbeat stays." They took turns changing the soundtrack, and various relationships evolved and disappeared. Even within the seemingly cozy limits of the living room, nothing was stable.

Often, ritual was familiar yet bizarre. One dancer performed acupuncture on another, and large tree branches were placed around the furniture, transforming the space. A microwave appeared, and everyone stood and waited as one dancer heated, and ate, a frozen quiche. Up until this point, the piece was contained in the living room, giving it the confinement of a television sitcom. But here the dancers carefully disassembled the living room, bringing each piece of furniture to a pile downstage right, and the quiche-eating dancer added herself and the remainder of her meal to the pile.

After the careful upending of couch and tables, the gray-suited dancer, having shed a couple of layers of restricting costume, began peeling off strips of the marley floor, revealing a bright-green subfloor and a completely new environment. Those remaining brought in lengths of wood and constructed a fence around the green area, containing her. Looking over the fence as if observing a baby farm animal, they chanted, "Hip, hip, hooray!" before exiting the stage. The enclosure was clearly a lightening transformation for the now-alone character, as her movements, still stark but no longer tight, showed rejoice in release from the limitations of objects and customs.

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more., Headlong Dance Theatre, Dance Umbrella, Tere O'Connor, David Brick, Amy Smith, Andrew Simonet

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