The Charts and Scores of Annie-B Parson

Movement Score for "Here to Dance" at La Mama, by Annie-B Parson, 2017
Movement Score for “Here to Dance” at La Mama, by Annie-B Parson, 2017

 

Annie-B Parson co-founded Big Dance Theater in 1991. She has choreographed and co-created over 20 works for the company, ranging from pure dance pieces, to adaptations of found text, plays, and literature, to original works combining wildly disparate materials. Her work with Big Dance has been commissioned by Les Subsistances in Lyon, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, The National Theater of Paris/Chaillot, The Japan Society, The Walker Art Center, and many others. Outside of Big Dance, Ms. Parson has created choreography for operas, pop stars, television, movies, theater, ballet and symphonies.

 

How would you characterize how these visuals serve you in the making of the performances?  

A-B P: In fact these pieces were all made after the pieces were finished. It’s as if in order to “chart” what occurred onstage, I am making a visual indexing for myself.

 

I love the appearance of a system in the colored dots…is there a system? What is it?

A-B P: The system is: What are the facts of the piece? What is the materiality of the work? Are there repetitions of facts? How many times do these things occur? The dots are simply to emphasize the grand elements in the work.

In the case of the movement score, that was entirely different. It was born out of an assignment from LaMama, asking me to write a sharable score, so I decided to draw it. The intention is for others to make dances from the score, and since the language I selected is so “relevant,” I was afraid it would be viewed from a single, political lens, without ambiguity. I wanted to introduce visual non-literal ideas to the choreographers, in order to make the verbs more dimensional. Its a bit subversive in that way.

 

Chart of props from "Big Dance Short Form," 2016
Chart of props from “Big Dance Short Form,” The Kitchen, 2016

 

Are there visual artists whose work has inspired you in the making of these? 

Years ago I was asked to create a visual piece based on my dances by Claudia LaRocca, and I think Suzanne Bocanegra suggested I make a chart.

 

Chart of props from "Lazarus," by David Bowie directed by Ivo Van Hove with choreography by Annie-B Parson, 2016
Chart of props from “Lazarus,” by David Bowie, directed by Ivo Van Hove, with choreography by Annie-B Parson, 2016

 

Anything else?

A-B P: When I finish a chart,  I feel a great sense of closure that dance never gives. Because in dance there are so many mitigating factors for anyone to see your work and for the work to be seen as it was intended to be performed: a dancer can be injured, a dancer can turn away from your work, a new production is usually out of reach, things can go wrong on any given night and make the piece not the piece, the house can be empty, the house can be full, the tickets are priced out of reach of your audience, etc.

 

Chart of props from "Another Telepathic Thing," Big Dance Theater, 2000; film by Jonathan Demme, 2015.
Chart of props from “Another Telepathic Thing,” Big Dance Theater, 2000; film by Jonathan Demme, 2015.

 

What’s next for you?

AB-P: I’m working on a piece for The Company of Elders at Sadlers Wells in London (which will run June 23 and 24), and then a work for BAM.

 

Thank you, Annie-B!