This is how NPR’s ‘Fresh Air’ might look as a dance


This weekend, a Philadelphia performance troupe will dance to NPR.

A dancers will perform a choreographed work to a soundtrack of whatever happens to be broadcasting over the radio at the time. Choreographer Meredith Stapleton will tune the dial to 90.9FM, WHYY.

“Since I’ve been working on this project, I’ve definitely been listening to NPR more,” said Stapleton. “In the back of my head, I’m wondering, ‘How would I move to this?'”

“Refract Reflect Absorb” has been performed in different iterations, in different places — from a four-hour improvisation in a North Chinatown art gallery, to a three-minute interlude between jazz sets. This performance, at the Iron Factory in Kensington, will be a fully choreographed, 15-minute piece for a trio of dancers.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

The timing of the performances — Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 7 p.m. — coincides with the WHYY broadcast of “A Prairie Home Companion” and “Fresh Air Weekend.” Stapleton has no idea what the content of those shows will be.

Her dance is less about the content of the radio, more about the act of listening to it.

Like a lot of people, Stapleton is a distracted radio listener: she normally tunes in while she is doing something else, like cooking dinner or driving a car. She found that her attention was constantly zooming in and away from the radio stream; she wanted to see if adding dance that list of multitasking experiences also distracts from the experience of listening to NPR, or enhances it.

“I’m really curious how we process live radio,” she said. “The way we process live radio – or any music or sound – when we are focused on a creative experience like dance, has got to be different.”

“Refract Reflect Absorb” is presented by the small company Lyons and Tigers in a program — called bricolage — of four short works, at least one of which is overtly political: company director Darcy Lyons’ untitled piece is a reaction to the election of President Donald Trump.

Stapleton’s piece may also appear to be political, but only by proxy.

“How we interpret media is kind of a hot topic right now, ” she said. “This piece allows me to explore that, maybe not with direct content, but in thinking about how we listen and share stories.”

For more information on the show visit Lyons and Tigers website.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal