PRESS: Philadelphia Inquirer

By Lisa Kraus

Explanatorium. As in last year’s Cell, performed for one audience member at a time, Headlong Dance Theater asks us to be active watchers in the new Explanatorium. Semi-choreographed movements for the audience – forming a giant ring in the vast, circular Rotunda space, and walking along a labyrinthine path – are all part of this look at the supernatural and unexplainable.

The six performers in orange stand out in the mingling crowd (asked in advance publicity to wear blue). They speak to us informally and confidentially, giving directions, sharing commentary on their internal lives as they dance, and describing personal experiences of the paranormal. The space figures centrally as a natural locus for thinking about spirit. Mark O’Maley’s lighting tinges its soaring dome and arched windows blue or rose.

Explanatorium includes the most beautiful dancing moments I’ve seen from Headlong. Performing a repetitive minimalist walking pattern, the dancers accompany themselves on long and short pipes (borrowed from the pipe organ?). Later, duets morph into slow rolls descending along the raked floor as Amy Smith sings an exquisite rendition of a Sufjan Stevens song.

While some may find the work’s warm fuzziness cloying, most seemed to enjoy being asked to participate and grapple with big questions. “We’re all in this together” the piece seems to say, “and who knows what’s really behind it all?”