Founded in 1993 by David Brick, Andrew Simonet, and Amy Smith, and now under the co-direction of Brick and Smith, Headlong is one of Philadelphia's most audacious performance groups, having created over 40 dance works. The group creates collaboratively, with a focus on process, formal experimentation, audience engagement, and site-specificity. In 2011, with Center support, Headlong presented This Town Is a Mystery, a project that brought dance directly into four private homes of Philadelphia citizens—where the members of those households became the dancers. In 2016, Headlong received Center support to present The Quiet Circus, a year-long series of participatory practices conceived as an ongoing public performance at Washington Avenue Green, a one-acre site on the Delaware River waterfront.
This grant provided support for Improvisation Lab, a project that included working with choreographer Miguel Gutierrez and Dan Rothenberg, co-artistic director of Pig Iron Theatre Company, rehearsal time with company members, three public showings, and a workshop series for Philadelphia dancers. Rather than relying on a single dance style or technique, Headlong Dance Theater develops a unique movement vocabulary for each new piece drawing on the co-directors' eclectic movement backgrounds. As a founding member and co-artistic director of Pig Iron Theatre Company, Rothenberg has studied theater and mask at Ecole Jacques Lecoq and Shakespeare & Company and has led workshops for actors and dancers with a focus on ensemble playmaking and Lecoq's techniques. Gutierrez, a former dancer with John Jasperse, challenges and complicates conventional notions of communication, improvisation, listening, and development by delving into the primary, movement, energetic, and creative senses.