Go Deeper

More more. 3 WAYS: Q&A with Headlong’s Andrew Simonet

Posted September 10th, 2009

To celebrate tonight’s opening of Headlong Dance Theater‘s new piece more. at the Live Arts Festival, we thought we’d talk to the principals involved: Amy Smith, Andrew Simonet, and David Brick. more. was put together in a much more individualized way than Headlong normally works, with Amy, Andrew, and David conceiving their work separately, before sharing it with each other for the first time at The Big Reveal in April (images here). Then, the melding began.

For a piece with a tripartite origin, we decided to present three separate Q&As—with the same set of questions—from the people who shaped more. Previously: Amy Smith. Below: Andrew Simonet

What were a few things about working with Tere O’Connor that changed how
you thought about your own projects? And why did you, personally, agree or decide it would be a good idea to work separately at the beginning of this project?

To rediscover ourselves and our collaboration. Using Tere’s tools, I got to go in the studio and follow my own curiosity and rhythm, without having to reach consensus or tie everything into a story or starting point. It was like automatic writing at first, seeing things come out that were at the same time surprising and totally familiar. Like discovering your nose. Of course it’s there, you’ve just never looked at it. Or the way a relationship can shed light on part of yourself that is so close to the surface, so deeply entwined in your everyday thinking that you’ve never seen it directly.

The hardest thing about seeing each other’s work for the first time at the Big Reveal?
The sense that I am keeping my collaborators from making the work they need to make.

How far apart (or close together) did you feel aesthetically? And tell me about a sacrifice you had to make, in order for more. to come together.
It’s a bit like asking: How close do you feel to your lover or spouse? Compared to the rest of the world, incredibly close. But when you are that close artistically, small differences can feel like cavernous distance. That’s how I feel with David and Amy. Incredibly close with huge differences.

Why did you take a retreat this summer? Did anything that fundamentally shaped more., or your idea of more., come out of that trip?
Our retreat at the Silo helped us find this fourth piece, helped us push parts of our individual research into a set of questions and images that was distinct, collaborative. Spending time in nature (and with horses) was a big part of that. Every night, we did a Secret Rehearsal: 9:05-9:27. 22 minutes, no more. We’d already had dinner, maybe some wine. And we all went to the studio and someone gave the dancers instructions to run a 22-minute version of the piece improvisationally. Then we all left the studio promptly at 9:27. No talking, no analyzing, no warm-up. Just a fast and off-the-cuff proposal. It was amazing, and crucial for finding the piece.

What was the biggest challenge for you when integrating your work?
Going far enough into anyone’s image or idea to really feel it. When you make performance, there’s never enough time. When you collaborate, there’s not enough time cubed.

What elements did you like best about the work of the two others?
The pure sexual heat that radiates out of their movement.

What’s the most surprising thing we’ll see come out of this process?
A obsession with aging, dying, and loneliness.

Using the music of Phil Collins.

A love of unison.

more. opens tonight at the Arts Bank, 601 S. Broad St., Philadelphia, and runs through Monday, September 14.

–Nicholas Gilewicz