Dance Matters: From Swamp to Stage
Christina Ilisije and Elena D’Amario of Parsons Dance at the Big Cypress National Preserve. Photo by Andrew Propp, Courtesy Wolf Trap.
“No dancer was eaten alive, either by mosquitoes or alligators,” quips Barbara Parker, director of artistic initiatives at Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts in Virginia. She is referring to the 10 days Parsons Dance Company spent shooting video in the varied terrain of four different South Florida national parks, from the Everglades to beaches to remote islands. As part the “Face of America” series, Parsons Dance will incorporate the footage into a live performance at Wolf Trap on Sept. 8.
Beginning in 2000 with the breathtaking aerial dance of Project Bandaloop rigged on mountains in Yosemite, “Face of America” has featured the Olympic synchronized swimming team performing underwater at Coral Reef National Monument, along with a work by Donald Byrd in Virgin Islands National Park; gone underground at Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave National Park with Doug Varone and Dancers; simulated human flight at the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kitty Hawk, NC, with daredevil Elizabeth Streb; scaled volcanoes with Halau O Kekuhi at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park; and traversed the Going-to-the-Sun Road with Trey McIntyre Project in Montana’s expansive Glacier National Park.
David Parsons and his dancers took inspiration from the natural settings and wildlife. “We got primal and it really shaped a lot of the choreography,” he says. They spent entire days immersed in swampy water last November to capture the vitality and variety of the landscape.
Seventy miles off the coast of Key West in the remote Dry Tortugas islands, Parsons was astounded that Cuban refugees continue to land there. “You really get the sense of urgency when it comes to the plight of the Cuban people,” he says.
Parsons continues to feel the effects of this meeting of art and park in the forests, beaches, and swamps of South Florida. “This collaboration between our lands, our filmmakers, our choreographers, our dancers, and our musicians is a powerful premise,” he says. “I hope all of these elements inspire people to go visit these places.”