“David’s sensibility is so rare,” Parson says. “He introduced the idea of alienation to my generation. Detachment and estrangement from the self, and seeing the world as something unfamiliar. He brought me up as an artist. I was there, I went to his concerts, I sang those songs, I felt that way. It changed the way I made dances.”
She and Byrne share a distanced, wondering view of the body, an ability to see its parts moving separately from its environment, and they both play with that disconnection. “There’s a certain paradox with David in his lyrics and the way he moves onstage when he performs,” says Lazar, “like he’s a spectator inside his own body. It’s a dual effect.” Dispassion and heat, expressed together.
Byrne is also a riveting dancer (remember, baby boomers, his jiggly moves in that half-empty Big Suit?), and that’s another source of inspiration for Parson. “Jesus Christ, give me a break. Has there ever been a performer like that?” she gushes.
She muses on the fleshly chain that links her major work over the past few years, most of which she’s been developing simultaneously. It stretches from Byrne’s body — from moves she created for his Love This Giant tour — to “Here Lies Love” and then to Baryshnikov. And it circles back; some moves she created for Baryshnikov found their way into “Here Lies Love.”
“To me, it’s all one piece, basically,” she says.
The chain continues in Big Dance Theater’s current project, called “Alan Smithee Directed This Play.” Parson and Lazar are deconstructing the text and movement of several iconic films; the result will premiere in March in Lyon, France. During a recent rehearsal, two dancers repeated a simple, boxy sequence of steps, as if they were tracing fragments of a foxtrot side by side. Two others stood in front of them, staring past each other in an attitude of airy indifference, reciting lines they were hearing through earbuds.
It’s the typical Big Dance Theater process. True to Parson’s belief, dance (and even body position) is the most important thing in the room.
“We don’t sit and read through scripts,” she says afterward. “Never. It’s not how we treat text. We work on movement, and then we bring the text in.” The performers “are never sitting there with scripts, because the posture of that is horrible.”
“A dance company wouldn’t think of us as a dance company,” she continues. “But to us, we’re a dance company. Or a dance-theater company. We just take from everything. We’re omniverous. Philandering. Greedy.” She laughs.
“Let’s just say, may the best genre win.”