Faculty to perform Headlong Dance Theater piece in Portland

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 the Maine premiere of a piece by Philadelphia’s Headlong Dance Theater at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, May 28-29, at Space Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland.

Tickets cost $10, and are available at the door and at the Space website. For more information, please call 207-828-5600.

Titled “Avalanche,” the performance piece explores the performer’s body over a lifetime of performing, and the idea of an ordinary life. “Avalanche” was developed by Headlong lead director David Brick, co-director 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 has been developed with support from a CBB Mellon Faculty Enhancement grant and from the Bates Faculty Development Fund. It will be performed in New York at Danspace June 6-8.

If you keep performing, “Avalanche” proposes, you find something new — something bigger and wilder, and more ordinary. You find your actual body.

“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 an 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 — “the love you have and the love you want.

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

Twenty years later, she tells herself, “Your fingers love texture. Everything in your being loves deep pressure, like being squished by a hat or a partner. When taking a bath you will be tempted to bring the laptop into the bathroom to watch ’30 Rock’ on Netflix.


Headlong Dance Theater

Brick and Smith founded Headlong Dance Theater with Andrew Simonet in 1993. Over the years, Headlong has created more than 40 dances, which often actively involve the audience and are known for their witty views of contemporary culture.

Recent projects include “This Town is a Mystery,” a series of potlucks hosted by ordinary Philadelphians performing in their own homes; “Explanatorium,” an audience-participation meditation on the inexplicable, performed in an abandoned Christian Science church; and “CELL,” a performance journey for one audience member at a time guided by a cell phone.

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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