An Unexpected Obsession
Big Dance Theater’s Paul Lazar and Annie-B Parson
explain their fascination with baseball.
For me, baseball is a long-form tone poem. The
structure itself is poetic: The game is built around
threes—three bases, three strikes, three outs. The
“music” of the game plays in slow motion, with
quick, dynamic accents.
I love how the
batter who hits
a home run will
casually jog around
the bases, a direct contradiction to the muscular
power he has just displayed. The catcher’s
gestural language, told in the proscenium of his
crotch, is a coded, specific and complex system
of signs that only the pitcher knows, which has
a shelf-life of just one game.
But the painful part, the tragedy that is sewn
As I observe all of this, my body
into baseball, is how deeply human it is. Even
the most graceful outfielders will stumble and
drop the ball. Virtuosic hitters in their prime
statistically fail more than they succeed, literally
swinging at empty air. The greatest pitchers
will suddenly and inexplicably crumble, and get deposed from their thrones,
in full view of us all. They walk away, shrunken and self-hating, or reluctant
and raging. This is high tragedy. They stand in for us, for our own strivings,
successes and failures.
sympathetically knots and unknots, and happily,
guiltily exhales. Because it’s only a game.
—Annie-B Parson, choreographer
and co-director, Big Dance Theater
It’s all about the batting stances for me. I could
reenact the stances of any of the players I really
love, starting from about 1971. Batters are all
trying to do the same thing, more or less: hit a
very small object, moving at high speed, with a
narrow stick. And yet each of them approaches
it in a unique way, right? Each batter has his own
strange, bizarre way of preparation. They’re widely
varied, like tropical birds.
Both pitchers and batters are, to me, the pinnacle of an alert readiness
that’s right at the threshold of motion. That transition from alert stillness, into
motion, back into stillness, back into motion—it’s a substantial amount of
contained energy that’s just looking for a vessel, for a moment of opportunity.
Kate Valk, of the Wooster Group, and I made a little dance project once
and, during the process, I enacted a few of these batters’ stances, which ended
up making it into the piece, called Relaxing Classical Bach Exercise. As soon
as you assume someone’s body posture, you can start becoming them, from
the outside in. Simply emulating one’s physicality can bring all sorts of insight. I
like the idea of “reverse
in that way.
Big Dance Theater
My kids first tried to get me to watch “Dance
Moms“ three years ago. Of course I refused
at first. Then I lost a bet, agreed to watch an
episode and, right away, I was hooked. Abby
Lee Miller says things to parents and students that
dance teachers can only dream of saying.
—Winifred Haun, artistic director, Winifred Haun & Dancers
Sydney Skybetter produces the Conference
for Research on Choreographic Interfaces
March 4 and 5, at Brown University.
Big Dance Theater performs Short Form at the
Fusebox Festival in Austin, Texas, April 7–8, and
premieres This Page Left Intentionally Blank April
13–17 at CounterCurrent in Houston, Texas.
of flash mobs.
Music starts, one
all alone, and
the other people
What is that
Then another person joins, and then a third, and a fourth, and everyone
gradually becomes aware of what’s happening. It’s often a combination
of older and younger people, people of color, business types and people
in sweatshirts, and look: They’re all dancing together! It expands into
an almost utopian moment, a fleeting glimpse at something shared and
serendipitous which, inevitably, ends just as soon as it began.
Flash mobs were of course quickly co-opted, and used to spread
the most commercial choreographic dreck. But even the worst flash
mobs carry within them some connection to that idealism. When I’m in
a horrible place like Penn Station, I often find myself wishing—hoping—
Please, let a flash mob start happening right now.
—Sydney Skybetter, choreographer
and arts management consultant
Abby Lee Miller
in “Dance Moms”
London’s “Dance the Dream” flash mob
Parson and Lazar