“Dance theater with a queer sensibility, high spirits, and a spirit of adventure”: An interview with The Bang Group Co-Founder David Parker, performing at Philadelphia’s GayFest! 2016
Laughs abound as The Bang Group [TBG] brings a concert of favorites and new works to Philadelphia’s GayFest!, which tackle romance, rhythm, and humor from a distinctly queer perspective, featuring long-stomping members of the company: Amber Sloan, Jeffrey Kazin, Nic Petry, Tommy Seibold, and David Parker. “It’s going to be amazingly fun!” said Rich Rubin, Quince Productions’ Executive Artistic Director. Going by past experiences with The Bang Group, he’s right.
From their website: The Bang Group is a rhythm based, theatrical dance company based in New York City. TBG has toured to 13 countries and 23 states. Many of TBG’s works have achieved international acclaim. Its Co-Founder, David Parker, is a 2013 Guggenheim fellow and has been honored with a MOVE Award from DTW, an ART + Action Award from Gibney Dance Center, and choreographic awards from the International Competition for Choreographers in The Netherlands, the Kurt Jooss Awards in Germany, and the Monte Carlo Danse Forum in Monaco, and many other organizations. TBG is the dance company in residence at NYC’s West End Theater where it presents a thrice-yearly choreographic series called Soaking W.E.T.
Henrik: Right now, you are rehearsing for the opening of your show at GayFest! 2016 called Stuck on You. Can you let your fingers dance on your cell phone and tell us a bit about the much talked-about The Bang Group?
David: Sure. My professional partner, Jeff Kazin, and I grew up, unbeknownst to each other, in rather bleak suburbs of Boston, both finding possibilities for escape in our love of musicals and dancing, a situation so common among young gay men in the 70s. We met in a dance company in NYC in the 80s and formed the Bang Group in the 90s—based on our live of rhythm and its potential as the basis for a new form of dance theater incorporating a queer sensibility, with high spirits and a spirit of adventure.
What will audiences see tonight and tomorrow at GayFest! 2016?
The program tonight features some Bang Group classics like our notorious (and hilarious) duet for Velcro-clad men called “Slapstuck,” along with song and dances from our exuberant choreographic cabaret works, “Head Over Heels” and “Misters and Sisters,” which we performed for Gayfest! in 2012 and 2014. We also have new experimental work in which the dancers realize new music scores by Steve Reich and Dean Rosenthal as percussive dance—thereby becoming dancers and musicians at once.
When was the first time in your childhood or adolescence that you realized that you liked to dance?
I first became intoxicated by dance as a three year old spinning himself silly along with the June Taylor Dancers who appeared weekly on the Jackie Gleason variety show. This would have been around 1962. I begged my parents to let me take lesson, but they said it was for “sissies.” They were mostly right—thank goodness.
What is the most wonderful aspect of your personal life?
The Bang Group is like my family and we get to travel together doing something we love.
What are your plans for the Bang Group for this year and next?
This season we will travel to Düsseldorf [Germany] and Liège [Belgium]. Then it’s back with more performances in the US: Boston, Portsmouth, Martha’s Vineyard, Providence. After that, we will have a New York season at Danspace Project in March 2017.
Would you be willing to let us in on a secret only your friends know about you?
Only my closest friends know how childish my sense of humor can be and how boisterous my inner child really is.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Definitely: the show has wit and heart, and the dancers are very fine artists who dance across a wide range of genres and styles. We’re also show people. Check out our website.
A warm (make that an air-conditioned) welcome to you and all The Bang Group dancers. Welcome to Gayfest! in the City of Brotherly Love.
The Bang Group in “Stuck on You” plays tonight at 7 PM and tomorrow, August 19, 2016 at 7 PM at The Louis Bluver Theatre at The Drake – 302 South Hicks Street (between 15th/16th, Spruce/Pine), in Philadelphia, PA. Tonight’s opening night includes a reception, catered by Tria. For tickets, purchase them at the door or online.