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David Parsons Previews Wolf Trap's Face of America: Spirit of South Florida logo
A scene from
Face of America
(© Andrew Propp)
Life in the United States' national parks might not seem the first subject that comes to mind when creating dance-theater, but since 2000, the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts in Virginia has been doing that.

On September 8, they will unveil their seventh installment in the series, Face of America: Spirit of South Florida, featuring choreography by David Parsons, visuals by film producers Blue Land Media, live music from Grammy Award nominees Tiempo Libre, and recorded music from multi-instrumentalist Andrew Bird's album, Useless Creatures.

The work showcases the landscape, wildlife, and people of Biscayne National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve, Dry Tortugas National Park, and Everglades National Park -- from tropical fish to alligators -- and Parsons and his company had a great time filming on location.

"We did it all in 10 days, and it was a lot of ground to cover," says Parsons. "But I had done my research and storyboarded it in advance. I also watched a lot of the previous series on video to see what my colleagues had done and the best way to stage it."

Still, Parsons took advantage of the parks and what they had to offer once he arrived last winter. "Once we were on location we became aware of so many elements in the environment that were important, the arc of the sunlight, the water drops," he says. "Working in nature like this takes a lot for the dancers to pull it off. But it was great to feel the beauty of nature."

The final piece will be divided in two acts, with each one being very different. Parsons took six performers with him to Florida, although there will be eight dancers used all together.

"I knew exactly which members of my company I wanted to use," he says. "It's an interesting mix. There will be some sections where the dancers will be on the stage of Wolf Trap looking at the screen, and some of the dances were improvised -- or I should say structured improv. I wanted the work to have a spontaneous edge, but it's highly choreographed."

As proud as Parsons is of his work, it's the total package that he thinks audiences should be looking forward to. "Everything here melds together and the components are all good," he says. "It's just a great collaboration."

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