Theater archives

Rhythm Renegade Sucks His Way to Success


Nancy Dalva: Is your work about gender?

David Parker: My work is primarily about movement and rhythm. However, I frequently present myself and my performers as people who move outside of conventional gender paradigms. In Hind Legs a male dancer wears pointe shoes. He is not attempting to be a woman; he is attempting to move, to stand, to balance. Literally. The dancer, Jeffrey Kazin, reminds me of Kafka’s cockroach, Bambi learning to walk, or any person coping with a physical limitation. His situation is basic; it’s merely the pointe shoes that refer to anything that might be called “gender bending.” In my solo Half Full, I wear a dress and high heels. I do not wear a wig or false breasts to create the illusion that I might be a woman. I make music on a wine glass and drink the contents. What the audience sees is a man dressed as a woman, neither a drag queen nor a “real” woman, but someone who is askew in many ways. That this dance suggests alcoholic behavior flows from these facts. In my trio for two men and a woman all wearing pointe shoes, the dancers are on literally equal footing. Their partnering is awkward and perilous, in part because no one is particularly stable. Metaphors abound in all these situations, but the most direct route to them is to take in the full value of what’s literally before your eyes. An audience can be rewarded by concentrating intently on the movements and rhythms of the human body.

How do you reconcile theatricality and formalism?

Highly developed and clear formal values are extremely theatrical. I especially love formalism when it’s applied to vulgarity, flamboyance, even triviality. I’m often interested in transgressive behavior. But I’m not interested in transgressive art unless it’s complex, formal, and witty enough to serve as a fabulous alternative to nontransgressive art. I made a duet for Kazin and myself called Suck. We engage in partnering based on mutual thumb-sucking while we dance to Tchaikovsky’s Grand Pas de Deux from The Nutcracker. It’s an almost clinical exploration of the uses to which thumb-sucking can be put, set with delicacy and precision to the score. We lift, turn, support, and wrap around each other all the while sucking on each other’s thumb. The fact that all this is being done by adult males may be considered transgressive and the fact that it’s being done to Tchaikovsky’s music may seem to put too fine a point on it. But I don’t see it as transgressive. I see it as a vivid example of the lifelong desire to suck flesh presented in objective formal terms.

What is your work about?

I wish I could be Balanchine and say, “This one’s about 20 minutes.” I’m interested in making work that uses rhythm to create a physical syntax with the clarity and immediacy of speech. My work is also about me, of course.

Parker and his Bang Group perform at Dance Theater Workshop September 22, 30, and October 1, 9, and 10.