Andrea Parson, who has just been named one of six U.S. dancers to receive the prestigious 2010 Princess Grace Award, (founded by Princess Grace of Monaco, aka, Grace Kelly of the silver screen), may already be familiar to many in Portland, as the waif who took a dousing and kept on dancing.
In a recent conversation with Culturephile, Sarah Slipper, the serendipitously-named founder and artistic director of Northwest Dance Project, positively could not shut up about Parson, her protegee. Slipper oozed and effused about Parson’s presence, energy, skill, and subtlety—particularly in last fall’s performance of Not I, a do-or-die avant-garde number in which Parson held the audience spellbound.
"She gets up on stage and she’s just making little movements," Slipper mimes, "and then, out of nowhere, a gallon of water drops on her! And she dances for fourteen minutes, to spoken word, in the puddle. The floor is soaking, she’s soaked, and there’s a video camera watching every move she makes, like an eye. And it zooms in right on her face, and we have three televisions at the front of the stage projecting her face from the neck up, and it’s just this incredible, brilliant, absurdist stream-of-consciousness monologue, done by Juliet Stevenson, just nonstop about this woman reflecting on her life."
"To sustain a stage for fourteen minutes—it’s a phenomenal task. You don’t know if that’s gonna work. You might just go, ‘Oh, it’s whatever.’ But I think it stunned the audience. First of all, they had no idea that this little waif was going to get doused. It shocked them. And then the stream of brutal nonstop verbiage, and just watching this woman struggle. I didn’t know what it was gonna do. We kept hearing the rehearsals and Scott [NWDP’s Executive Director] said, ‘Oh, god. Halfway through there’s this wrenching scream that happens, and then it happens AGAIN. I can see the audience just walking out.’"
"I said, ‘If they do, they do. We’ve gotta try it.’" recounts Slipper. "So we tried it here in Portland, and I’ve had nonstop feedback about this solo. The audience was stunned, in tears, so moved—I heard it after, she got this amazing review, she held the stage, and that was a risk."
It would seem that for Slipper, Parson, and Northwest Dance Project, recent artistic risks have paid off—in this case, with a generous fellowship and an invitation from The Princess of Hanover to NYC for the Princess Grace Awards Gala.