Simplified: Headlights Theater started as a way to safely perform during the pandemic. Now entering its fourth season, Here’s a look at how the nonprofit is taking a unique, collaborative approach to making performance art accessible.

Why it matters

  • Director Madison Elliott moved back to Sioux Falls – her hometown – from New York in search of a way to create paid opportunities for artists during the pandemic. She founded Headlights in 2020 and quickly realized this type of theater had longevity past the pandemic.
  • Since its launch, Headlights has done 16 performances with dancers from across the country alongside local musicians. Shows take place in parking lots, and the location is revealed an hour before the performance.
  • Headlights' mission is to transform boring parking lots into creative spaces, and the company also works to create theater that is accessible to everyone. Tickets for shows run on a sliding scale, so anyone can come and pay what they're able. The new season will bring four more shows to town with new styles of dance performers and will even expand beyond parking lots, Elliott said.
“But I don’t want to say too much because in order to get it, you have to experience it," Elliot said.

Tell me more about Headlights

Performances come together in less than a week. Dancers get together on a Monday to start working on a performance for the weekend.

  • Typically, dancers rehearse together with recorded music from the band for a few days. Then, the day before a performance, the live band and dancers practice together.
  • Dances are a contemporary style with a mix of choreographed and improvised moves.

When it all comes together, it's vibrant, Elliot said.

But most importantly, performers say, it’s all collaborative.

"There's no one at the head of the room," said Gabriella Sibeko, a dancer based in New York who's performing in Friday's show. "We all sort of filter in our own ideas together, and there's a lot of play."

How can I support this work?

You can help "keep the headlights on" on the nonprofit's website.

The biggest support, though, is showing up.

"Show up for the arts," Elliot said. "And that's not just Headlights."