Season of Dance Interview with Wayne Parsons

2 Nov 2018

Wayne Parsons is a choreographer who can seamlessly combine movement and text in what is a truly distinctive approach to storytelling. Wayne Parsons Dance will soon be presenting a double-bill of shows, Vestige & Meeting, at the Gulbenkian.

To get us all prepared, we sat down with Wayne Parsons to get his insight into the show and his career!

Who are you and what is your role in ‘Vestige & Meeting?’
My name is Wayne Parsons. I am a choreographer and the Artistic Director of Wayne Parsons Dance (WPD).
I also perform in Meeting, one of the works we are presenting in the double bill. Before turning to choreography, I spent 13 years working as a dancer for companies like Sydney Dance Company, Mark Bruce Company, Richard Alston Dance Company and NDCWales. 
My work as a choreographer spans the theatre and dance worlds and I regularly work on productions at Shakespeare’s Globe as well as at Theatre Royal Stratford East and the Embassy Theatre, London.

How did you first get into dance?
I first got into dance at the age of 14. My school was the only school in my county (Hertfordshire) to offer both GCSE and A-Level dance (a rare thing then and unfortunately an even rarer thing now) and that was how it all started.

What style of work does the company present?
My work is narrative dance-theatre. One of the central investigations in my work is the analysis of where we find the truth: is it through movement or text? As a result, I work in close collaboration with writer Ankur Bahl who creates written script for the works we present. My work seamlessly blends movement, text, set and costume design, and sound scores in a distinctive approach to dance-theatre.
The result is a layered, multidisciplinary approach to storytelling that sees performers in one moment acting, the next dancing, or oftentimes doing both at the same time! It’s a huge challenge for the performers, so I have hand-picked a world-class, talented and experienced cast.
Dancetabs described it as: ‘Riveting…text and dance are so seamlessly interwoven…one doesn’t notice whether the performers are dancing or talking’.

What new ideas and questions would you like the audience to be left with after the show?
The entire evening is based on the theme of memory.
Meeting sees two people- a couple perhaps- negotiate the retelling of a shared memory. Imagine your mum and dad or two friends telling the same story but they have remembered it differently. We’ve all seen that happen right? That’s exactly what I’ve tried to capture in Meeting. It’s humorous at times, serious at others, there is a constant negotiation between the couple.
Vestige touches on celebrity culture, gossip, fabricated truths and our desire to feel connected to famous people. The work focuses on the life of a deceased fictional celebrity, named Livia. She’s a fashion icon, art collector, it-girl who captures the imagination of everyone she meets. We are introduced to three other characters: Suki, a curator who’s creating an exhibition of Livia’s belongings; Cath, an artist who’s painted a portrait of Livia; and Killian, an author who’s written a biography about Livia, who was also his wife. Vestige is all about how Suki, Cath and Killian’s versions of Livia collide and how their personal agendas play out through their portrayals of Livia. At its core, Vestige is all about how easily the narrative of your life becomes manipulated once you’ve passed, especially if you’re famous.
The whole evening is all about how we remember and what/who we remember.

What is unique about this show?
The two works are quite different. Meeting is a story told purely through movement, Vestige on the other hand is a story told through movement and text You very rarely find a two distinctly different formats of work in one programme by one choreographer/director anymore.
The combination of new writing, original composition, original stage design and the high quality of performers makes this evening stand out.

What is your favourite thing about touring a show?
Seeing how the work connects differently with different audiences. Each time we present this double bill it gets a different reaction and it’s fascinating to watch and feel the vibe in the theatre.

What advice or little piece of wisdom would you give a young person who wants to get into the dance industry?
There are many ways to be involved in the industry but I think you always need to have persistence, a tough skin and a real commitment to what you love. If that love is there then you will find a home in the industry (and oftentimes it might not be in the part you first thought you’d be drawn to) and it can be the most rewarding and varied of industries to commit yourself to.

And finally, how would you sum up your show in 5 words or less?
Riveting, cinematic, virtuosic, multi-disciplinary storytelling.

Remember to book your tickets to come and see Vestige & Meeting so you don’t miss out on these fabulous shows!