Not body of work, but work of body: Bates, Colby faculty perform ‘Avalanche’

The performers in Headlong Dance Theater's "Avalanche," from left: Carol Dilley and Michael Reidy, of Bates College; Todd Coulter, Colby College; Rachel Boggia, Bates; and Annie Kloppenberg, Colby. Photograph by Andrew Simonet/Headlong Dance Theater.

The performers in Headlong Dance Theater’s “Avalanche,” from left: Carol Dilley and Michael Reidy, of Bates College; Todd Coulter, Colby College; Rachel Boggia, Bates; and Annie Kloppenberg, Colby. Photograph by Andrew Simonet/Headlong Dance Theater.

Faculty from Bates and Colby colleges perform a piece by Philadelphia’s Headlong Dance Theater at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 29, in Bates College’s Schaeffer Theatre, 305 College St.

Admission is open to the public at no cost. For more information, please call 207-786-8294.

Titled “Avalanche,” the piece explores the performer’s body over a lifetime of stage work, and the idea of an ordinary life. If you keep performing, “Avalanche” proposes, you find something new — something bigger and wilder, and more ordinary. You find your actual body.

“Avalanche” was directed by Headlong cofounder David Brick with invaluable input from Amy Smith and company dramaturg Mark Lord, in collaboration with the five performers — Todd Coulter and Annie Kloppenberg of Colby, and Rachel Boggia, Carol Dilley and Michael Reidy of Bates.

The piece was developed with support from a CBB Mellon Faculty Enhancement grant, the Bates Faculty Development Fund, and the Dean of Faculty’s office at Colby. This performance concludes a series taking place in Philadelphia; Portland, Maine; New York City; and New London, Conn.

“There’s something about being middle-aged now where I feel my body more, in all ways, including its lumpy, tender messiness,” says Brick. “Somehow it seems important to put that awareness together with the sensation of space itself — the ubiquitous substance that is not our bodies, but that presses against us wherever we are.”

Coulter and Kloppenberg are assistant professors of dance and theater at Colby. Boggia is assistant professor of dance at Bates, Dilley is associate professor and director of the Bates dance program, and Reidy is senior lecturer in and managing director of theater and dance.

The CBB Mellon grant made possible Headlong’s extended residency at the colleges from 2011 to 2013. The faculty were interested in Headlong’s creative approach, which engages artists with fundamentally different training and backgrounds in a process where differences are resources for thinking, but not endpoints of style.

Research is at the center of this hybrid performance that not only combines dance, theater and storytelling, but also represents scholarship and builds on the professional experiences of the cast. As Dilley says, “This piece is a logical continuation of 35 years of performance research.”

The stories in “Avalanche” twist to become at once hilarious and heartbreaking. Ultimately, the piece celebrates and laments the body in ways haunting, visceral and exquisitely formal.

“Bury them in an avalanche of love,” says a dancer in “Avalanche” as she recalls her younger self — “and you won’t ask anything in return.”

“Look across the wings at your friends, say a little prayer to lose 40 pounds instantly and enter.”

Headlong Dance Theater

Brick and Smith founded Headlong Dance Theater with Andrew Simonet in 1993. Informed by a deep commitment to collaboration, humor and formal experimentation, Headlong has won many fans and much acclaim including a Bessie Award and a Pew Fellowship.

Hailed as “fiendishly inventive” (The New Yorker) and “bright and brash” (The New York Times), Headlong’s work has been presented at the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival and the Philadelphia Museum of Art; New York’s Dance Theater Workshop, P.S. 122 and Central Park Summerstage; the Jade Festival and the Kyoto Arts Center in Japan; the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art and the Portland (Ore.) Institute for Contemporary Art.

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