Headlong Performance Institute Platform in Philadelphia Tonight

I was starting an essay on the characteristics of contemporary performance when I got this email from outgoing Headlong co-director Andrew Simonet announcing tonight’s showing of work from the latest crop of students from The Headlong Performance Institute. I will eventually finish writing my version, but Andrew says it so well I would be remiss not sharing:

The HPI approach boils down to these two sentences:

Make something real. Then make it good.

In a lifetime of seeing dance and performance, I can say: it’s the first step that’s usually missing. I see (and sometimes even enjoy) a lot of well-polished pieces with no authentic origin. Pieces that are imitating other pieces, pieces that proceed thoughtlessly from, “It would be so cool if we……”

So before you polish it, before you make it cool, you have to make something real.
That means:

1) Something you are genuinely curious about. (Different from Something I Like.)

2) Something that can be performed, that exists in action. Talking about my concern for a political issue while dancing around is not action; that’s sprinkling a little meaning on top of some movement.

Curiosity is the start, because as we say in HPI:


Make a piece of art when you don’t have (or even need) clear conclusions. You are provoked and curious. You are awake. You bring to your rehearsals the same qualities a good audience brings to a show: attentiveness, openness, playfulness, and comfort with complexity and absurdity.

This is the hardest task in training to be an artist. There are many places and people that will teach you how to step two: making it good. But not nearly enough opportunity to nakedly and fearlessly discover what you are truly curious about, what your voice is.

This is what we have been doing with these nine artists since September. They’ll be showing pieces at the Arden Theatre’s First Friday tomorrow as they get ready for their Final Show next week. We’d love to have your eyes and hearts and minds in the room and hear what you see in this work.

If you’re in Philadelphia, check it out:

First Friday at the Arden
2 showings at 6:30pm and 7:30pm
Fri. December 7th
@ Arden Theatre Company
40 N. 2nd Street
Old City Philadelphia
A free event

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