Colorful mappings of choreographic ideas
Soloing on the page, choreographer Annie-B Parson rethinks choreography as dance on paper. Parson draws her dances into new graphic structures calling attention to the visual facts of the materiality of each dance work she has made. These drawings serve as both maps of her pieces in the aftermath of performance, and a consideration of the elements of dance itself. Divided into three chapters, the book opens with diagrams of the objects in each of her pieces grouped into chart-structures. These charts reconsider her dances both from the perspective of the resonance of things, and for their abstract compositional properties. In chapter two, Parson delves into the choreographic mind, charting such ideas as an equality in the perception of objects and movement, and the poetics of a kinetic grammar. Charts of erasure, layering and language serve as dynamic and prismatic tools for dance making. Lastly, nodding to the history of chance operations in dance, Parson creates a generative card game of 52 compositional elements for artists of any medium to cut out and play as a method for creating new material. Within the duality of form and content, this book explores the meanings that form itself holds, and Parson's visual maps of choreographic ideas inspire new thinking around the shared elements underneath all art making.
Essay "Stuff" • Charts of Works • Issues of Composition • Scores • Notes on Works Pictured • Interview
ANNIE-B PARSON is a choreographer and artistic director of Big Dance Theater. Parson has also made choreography for rock shows, marching bands, symphonies, movies, museums, objects, augmented reality, and people: David Byrne, David Bowie, St. Vincent, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Wendy Whelan, Laurie Anderson, Nico Muhly, Jonathan Demme, and the Martha Graham Dance Co. SIOBHAN BURKE writes on dance for the New York Times and other publications. She teaches at Barnard College.
"I'm a long time fan of Annie-B's work. I see in it the quotidian made extraordinary... the familiar made foreign. This book doesn't tell you what that work looks and feels like—you sort of have to be there—but what it does is allow us inside a very creative person's head, which is like entering an alternative universe. The rules, the grammar, the connections are all new and surprising. Use this as an inspirational handbook."~David Byrne
"Choreography—especially experimental choreography—is nearly impossible to describe before it happens or to capture once it's over. In this book, through drawings and charts and personalized text, Annie-B Parson somehow manages to do both."~David Lang
"Annie-B invited me to the rehearsal of a solo piece she created for Wendy Whelan. I sat in a grey midtown studio and, at a certain part of the dance, watched one of the greatest dancers of our time move a pair of grandmotherly slippers, a few inches to the right. Something about this precise movement still lights me up. Breaks my heart. Fills me with questions and longing. Delights me in its absurdity. Of all the ways to move a body in space, through space, Annie-B creates the stage to have the most beautiful and beguiling ones be seen."~St. Vincent
"What a joy it is to read this enchanting book of boundless imagination. Annie-B Parson, one of the great choreographers of our time, presents the curious reader with an intimate glimpse into a breathtaking, enigmatic world where a braid of hair, and even a stick are animated to reveal secrets about relationships, love, and the meaning of the universe. This book is much more than enthralling charts from past dance performances, but rather a gateway to the Marvelous- a realm where everything, every object, every intention, and every movement is imbued with radical, beautiful potential. I can't wait for everyone to discover this ravishing work!"~Lisa Yun Lee, Executive Director, National Public Housing Museum
"After a dance is gone, what traces are left? For Annie-B Parson, her drawings, charts, and observations of motifs provide a rich afterlife. She has created hundreds of these two-dimensional forms that challenge the ephemerality of dance. They depict the most tangible part of her dances: the objects that float in and out of her enigmatic collaborations with playwright/director Paul Lazar. They are clues to Parson's fertile imagination. Gathered into Darwinian sets of sub-species, they take on an incantatory power."~Wendy Perron, author of Through the Eyes of a Dancer
"Artistic Director of Big Dance Theater Annie-B Parson has a new book. Parson creates work that draws on, disrupts and distils classic texts, both theatrical and more formally literary texts. [She] created a unique collection of visual artworks and intersecting text narratives that traverse her practice and processes as a dance maker. The monograph tangents, and spirals, offering stimuli, and grit for makers to turn to pearls."~Dance Informa
"Ms. Parson creates movement whose intelligence is itself meaning enough."~The New York Times
"In my piece, ballet becomes data, which is what I believe happens to movement when it's not performed anymore. Because if you're not seeing it live—just in films or videos or images—the dance is no longer a physical, kinetic experience. It's just data, which is what I'm proposing we're all becoming."~ArtForum
"Drawing the Surface of Dance: A Biography in Charts is largely a compendium of charts I drew over many years—both charts of the pieces I have made, and charts of dance scores. The book ends with a compositional card game you can cut out and play in order to make new material. Most of the charts I create after a piece is over, as sort of a final and solitary re-thinking of the work on paper."~ArtForum
"Annie-B Parson, choreographer and cofounder of Big Dance Theater, hates 'the ephemerality of performance.When it's over, it's so gone,' she says. The illustrations and diagrams composing the bulk of her bookare attempts to 'draw the nouns' of finished dances She found that drawing the very stuff of a supposedly expired performance can breed a choreography of its own: Residual dramas are made new on the page."~Bookforum
"In this intimately curated volume [Drawing the Surface of Dance: A Biography in Charts], the tirelessly inventive choreographer, and cofounder of Big Dance Theater, charts her body of works by tracing the fil rouge of images, objects, and patterns—laying bare her creative methodologies in the process. Serendipitously, the drawing Parson made for the Rail in 2011, titled "All the Props in my Basement," graces the inside cover of her new book. And, as the pièce de résistance, in the final chapter Parson shares a modified deck of Mexican Loteria cards, repurposing it as a choreographic tool."~Brooklyn Rail
"Parson's opening thoughts reveal her artistic viewpoints and her love of objects. Like footprints, each short paragraph portrays a singular impression to be contemplated on its own."~Laura Pettibone Wright, Journal of Dance Education