Big Dance Theater

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 Co-Artistic Directors Annie-B Parson and Paul Lazar, Big Dance has delved into the literary work of such authors as Twain, Tanizaki, Wellman, Euripides and Flaubert, and use dance as both frame and metaphor to theatricalize these writings.

For over 20 years, Big Dance Theater has worked to create over 15 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 Creativity Award from Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.

Big Dance Theater has been presented internationally and nationally at theaters including: Brooklyn Academy of Music, Dance Theater Workshop, The Kitchen, Classic Stage Company, Japan Society, Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, The Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago), Walker Art Center, Yerba Buena, On the Boards, UCLA Live, and The Spoleto Festival. Internationally, the group has performed at many festivals and theaters in France (Nantes, Rennes, Brest, Mulhousse, Paris, Lyon), Italy, Belgium, The Netherlands, Brazil and Germany. Most recent commissions have been from Les Subsistances in Lyon, BAM Next Wave Festival in New York, Chaillot Theatre National in Paris and The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.

Big Dance Theater has been supported by individual donors, as well as the National Endowment for the Arts; the New York State Council on the Arts; Rockefeller MAP Fund; National Dance Project of the New England Foundation for the Arts; NYFA’s BUILD Program; The Greenwall Foundation; FUSED, a program of the French US Exchange in Dance in partnership with the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the US, Culturesfrance and NEFA/NDP; Altria Group, Inc.; The Association of Performing Arts Presenters Ensemble Theatre Collaborations Grant Program, a component of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Theatre Initiative; Asian Cultural Council; Mental Insight Foundation; Mid Atlantic Foundation's US Artists International, with support from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; The Tobin Foundation; The JPMorganChase Regrant Fund and the Edith Lutyens and Norman Bel Geddes Foundation at A.R.T./NY; the Bossak-Heilbron Charitable Foundation; the New Generations Program, funded by Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and administered by Theatre Communications Group, the national organization for American Theater; LMCC Swing Space Program; Jacob's Pillow Residency Program; and Baryshnikov Arts Center Residency Program.

Hatchery Project Artist | September 16 - 22, 2013

Alan Smithee Directed This Play

Big Dance Theater used their time in residence to develop "Alan Smithee Directed This Play," which treats iconic film scripts from from the 1960-80s as found texts and uses them as choreographic source.  “Alan Smithee” is the pseudonym used by members of the Directors Guild when a director, dissatisfied with the final product, leaves a film for lack of creative control, effectively erasing his participation on the project.

With this new dance/theater work, Director/Choreographer Annie-B Parson and Director Paul Lazar liberate film scripts from their narrative moorings to reveal a stunning series of pure film tropes, which meld pathos and politics from iconic films of the American 70’s and Cold War Russia.  On a stage littered with fur coats, lawn chairs, and telephones, decades merge; renegades draw guns on their adversaries; astronauts self- congratulate, revolutionaries pontificate; tragic lovers bid farewell under the threat of nuclear war; and American suburbanites grapple with abortion, debt and divorce. Using a flurry of mind-bending dance and theater fragments, Big Dance seeks to create an irrational – and highly entertaining - Dada landscape where 1918 Moscow mingles with 1970s America in ways which evoke our own 21st century moment.

While at MANCC, Big Dance mined film/utilize scripts primarily for stylistic tropes, acting styles, movement and emotionality, rather than narrative. Alongside movement generation, Parson and Lazar focused on developing and integrating the sound components of the work.  The company invited interns from the School of Dance to see how the directors structure rehearsal, generate and edit material and integrate dance and theater into a cohesive piece.  In addition to working with interns, Parson also presented a lecture-demonstration entitled “The Virtuosity of Structure: Tools for Understanding Abstraction” to students, faculty and staff from across campus and the  community during the School of Dance weekly forum.  Utilizing the history and theory of post-modern dance, Parson discussed abstraction in nature, science and business, offering both viewers and art-makers a broadened perspective on abstraction inside and outside the art world.  Big Dance ended the residency with an open rehearsal in which they shared nearly an hour of material to a mixed audience of School of Dance and School of Theatre faculty and students.

This residency is part of The Hatchery Project, a collaborative residency initiative with The Chocolate Factory (Long Island City, NY), RED Arts Project (Philadelphia, PA), Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography at Florida State University (Tallahassee, FL), and Vermont Performance Lab (Guilford, VT) and is made possible with major funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and additional support by the National Endowment for the Arts.

  • Chris Giarmo and Aaron Mattocks
  • Cynthia Hopkins, Tymberly Harris, Kourtney Rutherford and Elizabeth Dement
  • Annie-B Parson reviews material with Harris
  • Aaron Mattocks and Tymberly Harris
  • Annie-B Parson and Paul Lazar in rehearsal
  • Aaron Mattocks
  • Parsons provides <i>The Virtuosity of Structure</i> Lecture-Demonstration

Collaborators in Residence:Chris Giarmo, Aaron Mattocks, Cynthia Hopkins, Tymberly Harris, Kourtney Rutherford, Elizabeth DeMent [performers], Tei Blow [sound designer], Brendan Regimbal [production manager]. Slideshow photos by Chris Cameron.

Featured Artist

Faye Driscoll

February 22 - 24
Carolina Performing
Arts, UNC Chapel Hill


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