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The Bang Group
'Pop', 'Slapstuck', Show Business', 'The Boogie Shoes Project'
by Marshall Huntenberger
March 31, 2004 --
Winter Garden, World Financial Center, New York, NY
Each time I see The Bang
Group as the years pass, I am delighted by the invention and sheer creativity
of David Parker's choreography. I've come to expect his wit and brilliance
so I have a high standard for Bang Group performances. I wasn't at all
disappointed on this occasion.
The Bang Group had a residency at the Winter Garden for most of March.
Parker was charged with a daunting challenge in this commission –
to create an original piece using six non-professional dancers recruited
directly from passers-by at the Winter Garden in the World Financial Center
in Manhattan. The six finalists were just wonderful with their hard work
and delight showing through in their performance on Wednesday night –
more about that later.
It's important to note that the Winter Garden is across the street from
the World Trade Center site inside a concourse that joins a large cluster
of buildings. The space is an enormous glass enclosed area where people
bustle from appointments to luncheons and meet to discuss business deals.
There are a dozen 60-foot-tall Royal Palm trees in the center of the terrazzo-floored
Winter Garden with a large sail-shaped canvas suspended at one end to
close the area for the stage. The audience sits so that the dancer's feet
are at eye level. That prospective isn't always best for appreciating
Parker's work which often goes horizontal.
Amazingly, the space is wonderful
nevertheless. When the passers-by were rerouted and the area roped off,
the great sound system and good lighting worked very well. The audience
was some place between 800 and 1000 lucky people for the performance.
The program started with David Parker and Jeffrey Kazin dancing to one
their oldest standards, “Critical Mass.” Together, Parker and Kazin are
just dynamite. They know each other so well that the comedic genius of
Parker and the fluid electricity and Kazin form a dance plasma. When Kazin
spins, it reminds me of a light bulb being screwed in. “Critical Mass”
touches many interpersonal feelings and topics with intelligence, humor,
dexterity and skill.
Next, Amber Sloan performed “Pop” for the 1st time. “Pop” is a solo piece
where the dancer uses bubble wrap as a foil, or obstacle or percussive
instrument. I have seen this piece twice before performed by other dancers
and have liked it each time. Amber Sloan brought a new dimension to it.
As she painfully maneuvered around, carefully avoiding the bubbles, and
then eventually stamped, rolled, punched and elbowed those damn bubbles,
I was overwhelmed with emotion. Sloan is developing into one of the finest
modern dancers I have had the privilege to see and this performance just
amazed me. I checked with others to make sure it wasn't my delusion; she
really was as good as I am describing her, probably better. Bravo, Amber
“Slapstuck” is Parker's trademark these days, although not my personal
favorite of Bang's catalog. Jeffrey Kazin and David Parker wear velcro
costumes that enable them to become variously stuck and unstuck with motion,
percussion and deft attacks upon each other. Are they adversaries competing
for the same space, or are they old friends intertwined and trying to
step back so they can see each other? There were children sitting behind
us at the performance who delighted in the seeming magnetism of the costumes.
The work that Kazin and Parker do in “Slapstuck” involves the audience
to the point where everyone is leaning and rocking to help them become
finally unstuck. This is a classic example, but only an example, of Parker's
genius. The costumes make the work unique but Kazin and Parker make it
substantial and entertaining.
Emily Tschiffely does a fine job in her short piece, “Show Business.”
Set to Ethel Merman's classic singing, Tschiffely adeptly lets us know
that the show must go on and that indeed, there is no business like show
The finale, “The Boogie Shoes Project,” used six pieces of music with
New York themes and the entire company along with the non-professionals
recruited during The Bang Group's residence at the Winter Garden. The
opening, a fabulous, energetic, joyous interpretation of 'Stayin' Alive'
from “Saturday Night Fever” (the original London cast) was just fun! The
amateurs were so cleverly used by Parker that they were just perfectly
integrated into the complex choreography. They may not be professional
dancers, but the woman Parker picked showed a professional attitude and
obviously worked very hard to hit their marks. They didn't make mistakes
and contributed greatly to the piece by their sheer joy and fun attitudes.
Kazin enjoyed this piece so much that his joy and energy just electrified
the audience. As a matter of fact, this is one of the few dance performances
I can recall where the audience were so delighted that they spontaneously
broke into applause. Three cheers for an audience of common people who
appreciate what's fun for no reason at all.
“The Boogie Shoes Project” progressed through many iterations of dance
and music, all delightful. Mary Cochran's green dress, a nod to the Statue
of Liberty, was especially fun. 'Autumn in New York' was particularly
appropriate somehow touching the audience in all the right places. Amber
Sloan and newcomer Laura Pocius were joyous and engaging throughout.
The Bang Group is an incredibly special modern-dance troupe. David Parker
continues to grow and change and find new ways to express his overall
love of humanity and delight in experiencing that humanity. Keep your
eyes open for their upcoming performances.
Edited by Malcolm Tay
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