A Night with Big Dance Theater: Experimental Performance Art Comes to The New School
The Art Work Talk series, a forum in which theatre professor Bonnie Marancha invites experimental performing artists to speak at The New School, presented Annie-B Parson and Paul Lazar, artistic directors of Big Dance Theater, to Wollman Hall on October 25. The audience, made up primarily of New School dance and theater students, listened to the husband-and-wife team discuss their art-making process and their work from past to present.
Established in 1991, Big Dance Theater is a company that presents interdisciplinary productions that marry dance and theater. “I don’t think plays are even true if they don’t have dance,” said Parson in the presentation. The duo translates text, be it classic novellas like Gustave Flaubert’s “A Simple Heart” or contemporary scripts like Mac Wellman’s “Antigone,” into dance theater. The co-directors also shared with the audience short video clips of “Comme Toujours Here I Stand” (2009), and their latest work “Supernatural Wife,” which will premiere in New York at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on November 29.
In the robust question-and-answer session, students asked the directors about potential challenges and revelations in cross-disciplinary collaborations. Parson is the choreographer, while Lazar is responsible for analyzing the text, and they both work closely with the set and costume designers. Parson and Lazar also revealed that they use performers who are strong dancers who can also sing and handle text.
In its fifth season, Art Work is curated by Bonnie Marranca, a professor of theater at Lang and the editor for PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art. “The guest artists from theater, dance and media are the creators of the downtown performance scene,” she said. Marranca believes that bringing the world of experimental downtown theater to the students should play an essential part of an arts education. She has noticed that as the arts division at Lang grows, attendance at these events have become a requirement for many arts classes.
Kayla Yoder, an arts and social engagement major at Lang, attended the event for her Introduction to Choreographic Research and acting classes. She feels that the events allow her to see the community her teachers are involved in. “It almost feels like networking, but at the same time it is a learning experience,” said Yoder.