“Hour Upon the Stage”
David Parker and the Bang Group
Choreography by David Parker
Dance Theater Workshop
New York, NY
May 12, 2007

by Susan Reiter
copyright © 2007 by Susan Reiter

David Parker’s new work was originally to have been titled after the name of a park in Bruges, Belgium, which served as a major inspiration. But he ended up re-titling it with a quote from “Macbeth”’s famous soliloquy of resignation (“Life’s but a Walking Shadow, a poor player/That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,/and then is heard no more”). There was certainly nothing overtly doom-laden, despite some introspective and melancholy moments, about the piece, which does last exactly an hour. But there is plenty of playful cooperation, childlike trust and amiability in the movement and ongoing sound production the eight dancers perform.

When 24 Juilliard freshmen spilled across the stage in a dance Parker created last fall that provided some of this work’s material, their fifteen minutes of robust, vigorous came across as appropriately youthful exuberance playing out in a game-like manner. Expanded and deepened here, it offered numerous variations and possibilities on how dancers can move while creating sound – foot stomping, body slapping, slamming part of the body into the floor, occasional vocalizations, all often mixed in brisk, rhythmic overlays – but its homespun, good-natured presentation began to feel over-extended.

Often, one dancer led off, establishing a rhythm and gets others involved. Jeffrey Kazin, lean and quietly elegant, was initially the leader, summoning up the group energy after the dancers had entered and sank to the floor, each isolated in his/her own circle of light. New passages succeeded each other briskly, as the dances do a lot of rushing on and off the stage, which is stripped bare of wings. Some of the activity wass rough and tumble, given all the interaction with the floor, and the dancers attacked it with game spontaneity.

In quieter moments, Parker imbued the movement with an air of innocent questioning, and though the dancers were exploring how completely to trust one another. An intriguing quintet for Amber Sloan and four men, punctuated by sighs, brought their bodies into close proximity, pushing through and between one another in unexpected ways. Zach Winokur, whose deft, vivid presence was a delight throughout and suggested an endearingly naughty child, and Nic Petry engaged in one of the more developed sequences, in which they were apart, one upstage from the other, but both seemed deeply aware of each other’s presence at all times. Winokur slapped his feet nimbly through what resembled a soft-shoe routine, while Petry seemed beset by demons, struggle to find a comfort zone in his own body.

Kazin’s surprising, out-of-nowhere sideways jump onto Petry’s chest launched a duet in which they whistled “Swanee River” and engaged in uneasily competitive byplay. Actual recorded music was used very sparingly and featured heavily familiar selections: Gounod’s “Ave Maria,” the song “Shenandoah,” and the endlessly irritating “Moon River.” Given the whimsy and wryness Parker has demonstrated in other works, selections like this would seem to cry out for sly, even mocking response, or why use it. But the use of music here, whatever it was meant to signify when most of the evening’s sound was originated by the dancers, didn’t help give the work a stronger focus. As “Moon River” reached its full, schmaltzy climax, Kazin ran up the theater’s aisle and out the door, leaving the other seven to wave wistfully at his vanishing figure. They seemed like kids abandoned by their authority figure, who would now have to confront growing up.

David Parker and The Bang Group. Photo by Jeffrey Ladd
David Parker and The Bang Group. Photo by Steven Schreiber

Volume 5, No. 19
May 7, 2007

copyright ©2007 by Susan Reiter

©2003-2007 DanceView