headlong dance theater, walmart nature trail, justin jain, christina zani, site specific, dance, philadelphia

The rule breaks of W*LM*RT Nature Trail

In June, we performed a rebellious new piece for one audience member at a time called W*LM*RT Nature Trail. It started on a bench outside the South Philly Walmart, took the audience member on a journey through the Walmart box store, along an adjacent nature trail on the Delaware River, and out onto an overgrown pier. Throughout this process we were interested in how the piece could break the “rules” (both explicit and implicit) that usually guide an artistic process and product.

Only 70 slots were available to attend the show, which sold out in 24 hours, but we hope this email will help us share the thinking behind the piece. Each audience member had their own singular experience within a 60 minute journey that was a metaphor for a life journey. The piece encouraged mindfulness through paying attention to the natural world and all sentient beings. “Notice what you will. This is a place we were meant to be lost.”

Below are some of the ways W*LM*RT Nature Trail defied the rules.


RULE: rent a venue or be presented
BREAK: found/free venue

RULE: perform in a place that people know
BREAK: perform in a place that is unknown/scary

RULE: raise $ for creation
BREAK: make cheaply

RULE: ticket sales important piece of budget
BREAK: pay what you will

RULE: perform for a group
BREAK: perform for one audience member

RULE: press invited
BREAK: no press release

RULE: public invited
BREAK: no marketing

RULE: lower barrier/get people to come
BREAK: make it logistically hard to attend

RULE: control over piece/space
BREAK: lots of accidental/random aspects

RULE: contribute to society
BREAK: question/attack societal norms

RULE: lobby
BREAK: no lobby

RULE: continued life/touring
BREAK: impossible to tour

RULE: cast predominately white
BREAK: cast 50% people of color

RULE: hate Walmart
BREAK: love Walmart

Watch a trailer of the W*LM*RT Nature Trail journey HERE.