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Flash Review, 2-4: The Thumbsuckers' Proxy
Parker & Co. Bang the 'Nut'

By Maura Nguyen Donohue
Copyright 2004 Maura Nguyen Donohue

This Flash Review is also sponsored by Lydia Johnson Dance. Want to sponsor a Flash? Click here for more information.

NEW YORK -- David Parker and The Bang Group opened Dance Theater Workshop's Carnival Series this past weekend with a little less explosive wit than I'm accustomed to from them. Admittedly Parker and his muse Jeffrey Kazin hit all of their moments with perfect panache, reminding me in some moments of the antics of loveable Saturday morning cartoon characters. But the other, ferociously female spirit of this once wicked trinity, founding company member Kathryn Tufano, was notably absent and not easily replaced.

The first half of the program consisted mainly of familiar works from the past two years. "Friends of Dorothy" was a more expansive version of "Rainbow Down," seen at Joe's Pub last spring, and previously Flashed here. "Slapstuck" was the Velcro duet portion of "Bound Edition," already Flashed, along with "Enough," at Danspace Project a couple of years ago. Placed between these three works were two brief snippets titled "Inter 1" and "Inter 2." Marta Miller, Amber Sloan and Emily Tschiffely performed in the fleetingly brief sketch "Inter 1" to Sinatra's "I Fall in Love Too Easily." "Inter 2" had Tschiffely hamming it up in a frothy light blue dress to Ethel Merman's "There's No Business Like Show Business."

The company performed excerpts from "Cracked," showing less than half of the 22 divertissements and interludes that comprise the full version of Parker's "Nutcracked," a full-evening version of "The Nutcracker" using unusual American arrangements of the Tchaikovsky score and the traditional orchestral suite. The sound recordings, by Duke Ellington, Glenn Miller, and Fred Waring are fantastic. Parker and Kazin tap and sing about "maidens whirling" and a "mighty swirling." Parker's Sugar Plum Fairy is a pair of sneaky point shoes tiptoeing forward in the beam of a flashlight. Once they enter a small downstage circle of light they begin a tap routine on pointe before creeping away. Then for another interpretation, the sugar plums are three dancers in sunglasses, saturated in green footlights. Marta Miller appears in a conductor's jacket and twirls a finger for the Dance of the Mirlitons. When the rest of the dancers join her a sparkling flash of slices, twists and leaps from Kazin confirms him as the crowning jewel.

A hilarious variation for the Trepak variation includes the Hustle and the Chicken but the Mother Ginger sequence, featuring Kazin dancing with point shoes on his hands and feet and two women interlocking thighs, seems to be borrowing an entire section directly from "On the tip of my tongue," an earlier Parker work. I'm beginning to feel like most of the evening has been too much of a rehashing for me to bother reviewing, but when Parker and Kazin begin sucking each other's thumbs for the Grand Pas de Deux I feel renewed. And though this too might be a bit from days past, it is new to me and perfectly timed to a comedy unfolding in my own home life. So I love it. I can feel the triumphant satisfaction when one gets the other's thumb or even his own into his mouth, which is more than I can say for my desperate 3-month-old. It is chock-full of interesting partnering, with Parker and Kazin diving onto one another's thumbs or Parker spinning Kazin around like a top attached at the thumb. This is pure Bang Group genius. A strange and sexy twist to ballet and comedy. A great gag milked to its most satisfying end.

David Parker and The Bang Group continue this Friday and Saturday at Dance Theater Workshop. For more information, please visit the DTW web site.

Maura Nguyen Donohue is the artistic director of Maura Nguyen Donohue/inmixedcompany.

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