Headlights Theatre to present fewer but larger shows, expand community programme

Headlights Theatre to present fewer but larger shows, expand community programme

Madison Elliott doesn’t need to go back to Sioux Falls.

That’s what she did in 2020, when the pandemic halted the start of the South Dakota-born New Yorker’s career as a professional dancer and moving home made the most financial sense.

He’s back in Brooklyn now, but he returns to Sioux Falls in the summer. Today, there are other motivations: continuity and community.

Elliot is the founder of Headlights Theatre, whose fifth season of shows in Sioux Falls will begin Saturday with a dance performance by local band Thought Patrol at 108 S. Dakota Ave. The show will also feature live paintings by local artist Joe Schaeffer. As always, the show will be illuminated by attendees’ headlights.

What started as a way to keep the arts alive during a time of social distancing has grown into a full-fledged nonprofit with a long-term future in the community since its first season in 2020.

“It’s becoming bigger than any one person,” Elliott said. “Yes, I’m the one who started it and did the initial work, but now we’re a team and we’re trying to figure out how this can be bigger than any one of us.”

There are a few key differences between this summer’s demonstrations and the ones from the past few summers. The differences are mainly about scale and frequency: fewer but larger demonstrations.

Elliot and the nonprofit’s board want to do two important things by adjusting their approach. First, they want to make sure the organization can continue if its founders leave. Putting on shows is a lot of work for any one volunteer, and Headlights doesn’t want to burn anyone out.

Secondly, Elliot said they wanted things to remain things.

“We want it to remain a rare, special gem, first and foremost, but we’re also asking, ‘How can we make one night incredible, rather than a bunch of nights being mediocre?'” he said.

Following Saturday’s premiere, the troupe will bring back a group of dancers who, like Elliot, left Sioux Falls to pursue professional careers but now want to showcase their talents for their hometown.

The music for the August 10 show will come from Soleil, and the dancing will be supported by artists from South Dakota Aerial & Arts.

The local aerial arts group has also partnered with Headlights to create a bungee dance lessonbilled as a boon for those looking to move their bodies without the wear and tear and impact of dance. These classes are a new addition to Headlights’ catalog of workshops. The group has courses For those who want to be dancers And young artistsand a series dance at home educational videos.

Bringing together diverse groups of artists in Sioux Falls is important for the city as a whole, according to Headlights board member Andy Howes. A group like Headlights helps create the kind of cultural scene that draws people into a community and opens doors for artists who might otherwise feel they have to leave to pursue art.

“In the past, the people who were doing interesting, creative things in Sioux Falls were people who would maybe leave and never come back,” said Howes, owner of local record label Different Folk. “And what we’re seeing is a lot of creative, extremely talented artists and people who are operating in that area and have chosen to call Sioux Falls home or have chosen to do interesting things here, even if they don’t live here year-round.”

It’s a message that resonates with Joe Schaeffer. The University of Sioux Falls graphic arts professor will paint on multiple canvases during his Saturday performance, and the works will be sold after the show.

Proceeds will go back to Headlights. Schaeffer feels strongly about the importance of artists getting paid for their work, but he feels equally strongly about creators being generous and supporting each other.

“I talk to my students about giving and also believing in generosity,” he said. “And I think that kind of giving aspect always comes back to you.”

Schaeffer hasn’t painted to music like the spastic indie rock of Thought Patrol, but he’s looking forward to it. In the past, he’s painted to performances by jazz artists and the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra, always with a canvas spread out on stage.

This time it will be different because the paintings will be upright and visible, also because of the specificity of the place and the coming together of art forms.

“The Headlights team is very invested in intuitiveness and also in the chaos that comes with a short or limited time frame,” Schaeffer said. “So I’m playing around with that to see what works in the end.”

Elliot also feels strongly about generosity and community building. Brooklyn is once again home base for her professional dance career, but she feels an obligation to continue Headlights and the impact it has made on the Sioux Falls arts scene.

She moved to New York at age 15 to pursue dance, but her experience at Headlights showed her the value of returning home and giving back to the community.

With any luck, young people like him will find a place in their own communities and perhaps gain insight into how their communities contribute to the wider world of art.

“No matter where my home is, I will always be a Sioux Falls artist,” he said.