Founded in 1991, Big Dance Theater is known for its inspired use of dance, music, text and visual design. The company often works with wildly incongruent source material, weaving and braiding disparate strands into multi-dimensional performance. Led by Artistic Director Annie-B Parson, Big Dance Theater has delved into the literary work of such authors as Twain, Tanizaki, Wellman, Euripides and Flaubert, and dance is used as both frame and metaphor to theatricalize these writings.
For more than 25 years, Big Dance Theater has worked to create over 20 dance/theater works, generating each piece over months of collaboration with its associate artists, a long-standing, ever-evolving group of actors, dancers, composers and designers. Big Dance Theater received New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” Awards in 2002 and 2010; the company was awarded an OBIE in 2000 and BDT company members have received 5 other “Bessie” Awards and an OBIE award for their work with Big Dance. In 2007 the company received the first-ever Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award.
Big Dance Theater has been presented around the world including France, Italy, Belgium, The Netherlands, Brazil and Germany and in the USA in venues including the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Dance Theater Workshop, The Kitchen, City Center, The Performing Garage, New York Live Arts, The Chocolate Factory, Classic Stage Company, Japan Society, Under the Radar, American Realness, PS122’s COIL Festival, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago), Walker Art Center, Yerba Buena, On the Boards, UCLA Live, ICA Boston, American Dance Institute (ADI), Fusebox Festival/Austin, CounterCurrent Festival/Houston, and Spoleto Festival USA. Recent commissions have been from Les Subsistances in Lyon, Chaillot Theatre National in Paris, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Walker Art Center, Carolina Performing Arts, and the Old Vic/London.
Additionally, in 2013-2014, the artistic directors and design team were invited to create a commission featuring Mikhail Baryshnikov, and under the Big Dance Theater creative umbrella in partnership with ArKtype & Baryshnikov Productions. Man in a Case toured nationally to Hartford Stage, Shakespeare Theater in D.C., Berkeley Repertory Theater, the Broad Stage in L.A., ArtsEmerson/Boston, and the MCA/Chicago.
by Big Dance Theater
Choreography by Tendayi Kuumba, Annie-B Parson,
& Donna Uchizono
World Premiere: December 2023, Perelman Performing Arts Center / PAC|NYC
What happens when we dance together? And what happens when we don’t
An evening of contemporary dance in three parts, presented in-the-round. Created by an intergenerational trio of acclaimed choreographers, Tendayi Kuumba (recently seen in David Byrne’s American Utopia and For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf), Big Dance Theater co-founder Annie-B Parson (David Byrne’s American Utopia), and Guggenheim Fellow Donna Uchizono (State of Heads) who have joined forces to interrogate our very human compulsion to move together in time. How does it change us, shape us, deepen us, and lift us? How has it been used, weaponized, sexualized, and politicized? What is the power of moving in precise unison? What happens when we dance together? And what happens when we don’t?
Co-commission with PAC NYC, American Dance Festival, Spoleto Festival USA and The National Center for Choreography at The University of Akron (NCCAkron)
Traveling Personnel: 17
Running time: 90 minutes
The Mood Room
Conceived, Directed & Choreographed by Annie-B Parson
Based on the work of Guy de Cointet
Music by Holly Herndon
Video by Keith Skretch
Set Design by Lauren Machen
Sound Design by Tei Blow
World Premiere: Fall 2020
From Annie-B Parson:
“Sometimes you find an artistic soul mate in the simple act of opening a book. This is what happened to me when I read the late 20th c. “plays” of visual artist Guy de Cointet. You see, they are not really plays, they are visual events with texts that bask in the hot mess of the non-narrative posing as narrative– a state I would call living! Here is where de Cointet and I intersect: he is devoted to detours, departures, tonal shifts, and the unconfirmed. An atmosphere of codes, exits, and non-results permeate the writing. He quotes without substantiation or reason, he is a-historic, is liberated from achieving even a glimmer of resolution, and his authorial voice is intentionally cracking. His theater is both textual and visually based, without any hierarchy for language, truth, or the answer– and the physical objects in the texts have no stable meaning throughout the play. No one changes; no one learns anything. The Mood Room will work specifically from the text of de Cointet’s (1982) text “The Five Sisters”. The Five Sisters very lightly references Chekhov’s Three Sisters with both a hilarious disrespect – and with a recognition of the internal intention of the regret, despair and relational complexity in the Chekhov text. The departure from the original Cointet production will be my staging and visual design, as The Mood Room will utilize Cointet’s words and his tonality without directly referencing his staging and visual design. In The Mood Room, the stage will be framed in a curtain of pink bubble wrap, and staged using dance and the abstraction of bodies in space. Specifically, the physical life of the stage and the text will encompass two concurrent realities on stage. This is a way of working and thinking that I have been exploring since I began, and in this case the physical life will serve as a “secret” motor, an undisclosed reality underneath the words. Listening is central to the text that Cointet wrote, and I plan for the physical life on stage to be a specific reenactment of all of Jesus’s modes of listening recounted in the New Testament.”
Guy de Cointet was a French-born visual artist who first settled in New York City in 1965, where he shared a studio with Warhol’s muse Viva, and then relocated his practice to Los Angeles. Coming from the Parisian world of advertising, this transgressive, enigmatic artist wrote and staged early performance pieces in art spaces and museums. These pieces were intense visual events where objects and language played a central and equal role. With elaborate sets and props, he translated his genius for collage into his linguistic investigations, and he combined his homeland’s “high literature” with mundane dialogues and soap opera scenes. Cointet was part of the LA arts scene throughout the 70’s, where he was known as the city’s Duchamp, until his early death in 1983. In the Art Forum summer issue of 2008 dedicated to Guy de Cointet, Marie de Brugerolle writes:
“(…)a figure nearly as inscrutable as the wealth of encoded drawings and books he produced; and as uncanny as his plays incorporating snippets of television soap operas, Baudelaire, Mexuican radio and conversations on the street as dialogue .”
Stage: Black Box / Proscenium
Traveling Personnel: 11
Running time: 80 minutes
Created and Performed by Paul Lazar
Choreographed by Annie-B Parson
“Paul and Annie B’s Cage Shuffle is one of my favorite pieces ever. The cage stories are good to begin with, amusing in a zen kind of way, but when further randomized and amplified with the dance, and with Paul’s voice- well, it becomes no longer a rarified cage piece but is transformed into something that is accessible to everyone. Beautiful, profound and hilarious- as all things should be.” – David Byrne
In Cage Shuffle Paul Lazar speaks a series of one-minute stories by John Cage from his 1963 score Indeterminacy while simultaneously performing choreography by Annie-B Parson. The stories are spoken in a random order with no predetermined relationship to the dancing. Chance serves up its inevitable blend of strange and uncanny connections between text and movement. With live tape and digital collage scored and performed by composer Lea Bertucci.
The sequence of the stories is random.
The sequence of the dance is not.
The performer follows Cage’s original performance instructions: “Read stories aloud, with or without additional musical accompaniment, paced so that each story takes one minute. Read all stories in order or select a smaller number, using chance procedures or not.” -John Cage
Traveling Personnel: 1-2
Running time: 60 minutes
Performance space: Open