Philadelphia Citypaper

Head On. Headlong Dance Theater, Feb. 7, Performance Garage

by Janet Anderson

February 10, 2009

There were two palettes in use at Philadelphia Dance Projects’ opening performance weekend — Headlong Dance Theater worked in the light, using humor, sketchy moves and weird ideas. Keely Garfield, eminent New York experimenter, used darker tones, extravagant lighting, music, staging and sooo much stuff. Garfield opened with an appetizer staged in a theater alcove where fake grass was surrounded by lights, a folding chair, a dog statue and a window. The audience sat while Garfield moved about with a toaster on her shoulder, speaking inanities while being videotaped. Then everyone shifted to the theater for the main event.

Six early Headlong members were together again: David Brick, Andrew Simonet, Amy Smith, Nichole Canuso, Heather Murphy and Christy Lee. Their excitement and sense of pure fun was contagious. Canuso and Murphy starred in Universal Humanoids, putting themselves in an audition situation where they knew well the experience’s comic parameters. Take 3 was first performed in 1994 by Brick, Simonet and Smith. With Walkmen attached to their waists, they could hear the music but we couldn’t. Using droll language they described what they did and why. Smith corrected patriarchal word usage, pointing out her Walkperson. The Future of the Futureechoed Headlong work created over many years, including plays on words, jolting movement and unexpected reactions. These are fantastic, funny movers whose work stands the test of time.

Garfield’s epic Limerence is Andrew Lloyd Webber’s kind of experimental dance: huge, with oversized emotions, continuously changing music and onstage lights moving around frenetically. Garfield and gorgeous Omagbitse Omagbemi danced out an unhappy relationship fighting and doing arabesques, while the latter kept coughing. Eventually Garfield dumped the suffering Omagbemi. Lighting techs wheeled big lights around the stage, often aiming them at the audience. For more emotional warfare, lighting guy Brandin Steffensen leapt onstage with Garfield, going after her with boxing gloves and whamming her against the wall. Finally Steffensen rapidly peddled a stationary bike while Garfield stood on the bike seat with her clothing and hair blowing like an enraged goddess Athena. Frankly, Garfield could use a good editor. Her most interesting moves and ideas tended to get swallowed up in sound and fury. Perhaps she should paste “less is more” on her refrigerator.