David Brick
(Director of HPI, Founder and Co-Director of Headlong)

Creative Process

 David Brick is Co-Director of Headlong- a platform for performance and art research based in Philadelphia; and Director of the Headlong Performance Institute, an immersive training program for creating experimental performance. He collaborates broadly in creating performance, participatory installations and community. The experience of growing up as a hearing person in a deaf family continually influences David’s interest in the body as an active manifestation of culture. Moving between deaf and hearing worlds provides a vantage for seeing the body and its perceptions squarely at the crossroads of action and thought, imagination and necessity, individuality and community. In the spring of 2015 Brick will be in residence at Dance Place in Washington DC to begin work on Island of Signs a performance that explores his role as an agent within both deaf and hearing worlds. In residence with him will be Carolyn Brick, his 78-year old deaf mother who attended nearby Gallaudet University and was featured in a 1959 Academy Award nominated documentary film about her experience at the university for the deaf. Island of Signs will take as its starting point a language shared and one that isn’t.

Headlong is a platform for performance and art research based in Philadelphia.  Since 1993, Headlong has created over forty dances performed nationally and internationally at places like the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival, Dance Theater Workshop, PICA's Time Based Art Festival, Mass MoCA, PS 122, Washington DC’s Dance Place and the Yale Festival of Arts and Ideas among many others.  The wide range of Headlong's work springs from a deep commitment to collaboration, humor, and formal experimentation.  Notable Headlong works include This Town is a Mystery, an intimate series of performances by non-artists performing in their own homes; Cell, an urban performance journey for 1 audience member at a time; Hotel Pool which takes place in and around a hotel pool; and Star Wars and Other Stories for which they won a Bessie (New York Dance and Performance) award for choreography. Headlong’s work has been supported by numerous NEA grants, Creative Capital, the Rockefeller Foundation MAP fund, The New England Foundation for the Arts/National Dance Project, the Wyncote Foundation, The William Penn Foundation and the Pew Center for Arts and Culture,  and many others.  Fellowships awarded to Brick include a Pew Fellowship in the Arts, an Independence Foundation Fellowship and a 2012 Creative Artist Fellowship from the Japan-US Friendship Commission.

Since directing Headlong’s Hotel Pool in 2004, Brick’s concerns have focused on the choreography of presence and perception and the porous boundary between the ordinary world and that of performance. These ideas have been explored in Headlong works such as Pusher, Cell, Explanatorium, More, Warp and Weft, Situations for Unlikely Bodies and This Town is a Mystery. Other relevant works in this research include Pig Iron Theater Company’s Love Unpunished, which he co-created and choreographed and features performers travelling up and down stairs and falling—ordinary actions taken to a heightened and dilated extreme; and Wind-Up, a piece he directed through the Atelier program at Princeton University in collaboration with Dan Rothenberg of Pig Iron and MacArthur Fellow Mimi Lien, working with ideas from Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami and Viet Nam war writer Tim O’Brien. More recently he worked with Dan Rothenberg on the US premiere of Toshiki Okada’s  The Sonic Life of a Giant Tortoise (2014).  In 2012 he directed a workshop of Island, performed in Tokyo at the International House of Japan.  Island emerged from research as a Creative Artist Fellow of the Japan-US Friendship Commission, working with visual designer Maiko Matsushima and six Japanese performers between the ages of 24 and 74. Island is a choreographic ode to the rhythm of the Japanese inland sea, the sensation of space and the luminous quality of the ordinary. In June of 2016 work on Island with an cross-generational cast of six will continue in residency at The Yard in Chilmark Massachusetts.

In 2008 David co-founded the Headlong Performance Institute, a training program for creating experimental performance.  David directs the program and a constantly evolving curriculum that trains artists to research, create and embody performance worlds that grow from insight and imagination. Other teaching includes improvisation with Ishmael Houston Jones at the American Dance Festival, teaching at The Volcano Conservatory in Toronto and the Whenever, Wherever Festival in Tokyo in addition to extensive residency work and ongoing open classes in Philadelphia.  Recent classes and workshops are Making and the Circle of Insight, The World is Choreography, Good Boring/ Bad Boring, Art Party/ Dance Research and Luminous Presence and the Sensation of Space. He teaches contact improvisation with a special focus on engaging sight and the sensation of space.  He has taught Dance Composition at Bryn Mawr College since 1998.  And he serves as the mentor to artists every summer at The Yard as part of The Bessie Schonberg Choreographic Mentorship Residency.