Think about the types of entertainment that make you want to get up and dance, and it’s unlikely that either “New Yorker” articles or documentaries about modern philosophy would be very high on the list.
But those are exactly the sources of inspiration for two new pieces that the New York-based Seán Curran Company will bring to Philly this weekend.
“When you’re a young choreographer you have lists of titles and dances and pieces of music you want to work with,” explains choreographer/artistic director Séan Curran. “When you’re older you often have to go looking for inspiration. So I have my artistic antennae out in the world.”
“Social Discourse,” set to the music of Thom Yorke and Radiohead, will open the show, presented by NextMove Dance. It will mark Curran’s return to Philly following his recent work with Opera Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Singers. The piece was sparked by a single sentence in a review of English dancer Akram Khan by “New Yorker” critic Joan Acocella. “She said that when he dances he looks like the letter ‘S’ turning itself inside out,” Curran recalls. Intrigued by that image, he immediately suggested it to a group of dancers with whom he was working.
“The results were so astonishingly weird and different. Nobody moved from the spot they were in and it was very articulated, joint-driven noodling that really felt fresh. So I abandoned the piece I was going to make and decided I was more interested in tickling the eyeball with this eccentric movement.”
An even more unlikely beginning for a dance came when Curran saw the Canadian documentary “Examined Life,” which features interviews with eight influential philosophers in New York. “I wasn’t into philosophy but at the end of the movie I said, ‘I want to make that dance,’” he says.
The result is “Left Exit: Faith, Doubt, and Reason,” though it’s more often referred to by Curran’s company as “The Atheist Dance.” Curran, raised in a strict Irish Catholic household in Boston, based the piece on his own personal struggles with faith.
“I wanted to make the point that if religion is how we organize a chaotic world, art can be religion for some people. At least it is for me.”
IF YOU GO
Séan Curran Company
Through April 10
The Prince Theater
1412 Chestnut St.