Bang Group creators Jeffrey Kazin and David Parker have been dance partners for 26 years. As Parker told the Philadelphia audience at their performance of Stuck On You, a selection of old and new material, they are also professional husbands. This marks their third appearance at GayFest!, and they delivered a mix of some of their strongest short repertoire tap pieces, along with a broader rhythmic dance template. The dances are wrapped in cabaret song-and-dance-concert style and general zaniness.
Stuck on You alludes to dance partners and LGBT relationships and friendships. Parker, the company’s choreographer, is a seasoned old-school tapper, not averse to letting his closet ballerina come out, and in this setting, he speaks to his joy as a liberated gay dancer. Kazin mixes jazz and tap, and he’s ready to put on the red shoes when not in taps. They are both, of course, veteran dancers always a step away from an all-out musical number.
Wit and surprises
Longtime company members Amber Sloan and Nic Petry open with a strictly ballroom number that hints at Parker’s choreographic wit. It has tightness in the up-close confines of the intimate theater, but this couple smoothes out any brittleness with arched backs and arch looks, gliding into Parker’s witty phrase variations.
During this number, Parker and Kazin are seated behind them in hoodies, with frozen smiles. The tableau suggests that they were inspired by similar Astaire/Rogers magic of the past. They channel themselves as young gay boys dreaming MGM-musical dreams in their rooms. This is all a setup for the reveal under their sweats: Parker wears a plus-size purple sequin miniskirt and Kazin a black cocktail dress with pointe shoes. Kazin holds an impressive balletic line as he piqués around Parker with some fleet pirouettes, then joins Parker on his own turf; Parker is a tap classicist, with precision and sustained artistry, particularly clean when he is also in comic moments. They catch their breath crooning to each other with Irving Berlin’s “Sisters.”
Sloan and Petry return in “Slapstuck.” In what initially looks like a comic sketch, with the sound of their hands slapping different parts of their bodies as they move in increasingly intricate positions, they add foot stomps. Their body percussion communicates their intriguing chemistry. They are also ‘playing’ their bodies while performing composer Steve Reich’s “Clapping Music.”
Parker’s choreographic comedy smolders during “Conga Suite,” with Sloan and Petry taking the floor until dancer Tommy Seibold appears and goes into a deep lunging position with Petry. It happens. Sloan might be odd woman out now, but it’s not going to chase her off the dance floor. The three are locked into a hilarious and sexy Latin trio scored to Josephine Baker's “La Conga Blicoti.”
Something old, something new
When Kazin and Parker reprise “Stuck On You,” their best-known piece, Parker enters dressed in a hairy suit, and flings himself into a basic time. Kazin shadows him, and after being pushed away, hurls himself onto Parker as though he’s stuck. They repeat the trick with various inversions, lifts, and awkward positions, and might even be having Velcrosex, but by this time the choreographic fabric is stretched mighty thin.
“Moving Right Along” is a song and dance number about the man you fall in lust with until dealbreakers emerge. Petry, Kazin and Parker’s three-part harmony describes the fun of pre-Grindr gay male dating — too greedy, too needy, too preeny, too meany, too preppy, too Johnny Deppy — before flying into a fine-tuned soft-shoe duet that recalls Gene Kelly.
Parker’s most intriguing choreography is a preview of “Turing Test,” with Dean Rosenthal’s austere, agitated original music, prerecorded for this preview performance. (For its New York premiere, it will have live violin accompaniment.) Parker’s intricate modern tap and jazz fusion has Kazin, Seibold, and Petry in limb-locked patterns, with breezy solo breaks. Seibold, the troupe’s newest member, is as strong as Kazin and Petry in this technically demanding ballet.
The Bluver Theatre floor has tap-friendly acoustics and is perfect for the closing piece, “12 x 4,” a sublime a capella tap number (music by Steve Reich). With Parker’s geometric choreographic patterns and tight grouping, it has a Deco-era look. The pulsing, percussive drive of their synchronized footwork shows this company at its best.