By Rebecca Martin.
In September Melbourne’s The Space Dance and Arts Centre brought US dance icon Adam Parson back to Australia and New Zealand for a series of workshops. Whilst down under Adam also conducted The Space’s full time course auditions and appeared as a guest teacher at the popular Australian Dance Festival in Sydney.
Having travelled the world a number of times over, Adam is an exceptional dance teacher, choreographer and performer from Kenya who is now based in Los Angeles. He founded and is the Artistic Director of ‘Commonality Dance Company’ with an impressive CV of commercial credits including Pepsi, Prince, 3rd Rock From The Sun, and So You Think You Can Dance.
Dance Informa spoke to Adam during his visit.
You began dancing at a later age than most. What inspired you to start dancing?
I was a 26 year old computer systems analyst and accountant working in a prestigious computing firm in Washington DC when my sister asked me to take one of her friends to dance class. Dropping them off I heard this BOMP! BOMP! BOMP! along with a high pitched voice yelling “5, 6, 7, 8, get those legs straight, catch her, higher, fight for it!” I had to go in and see what was going on! I walked in and saw these girls and boys jumping, dropping, turning, kicking, grooving and thumping along with a pulsating beat coming out of the speakers. My eyes widened, my head clicked and that was that. I saw this strong bossy lady (Terry Peyton) who would later become my master. I went straight over to her and said “I want to do this!” She looked at me and asked me how old I was and what I did for a living and after I told her, she said “Wow, you make good money in a good job, just stay there and be happy.” I told her I was going to dance either way so she might as well help me. Not only did she help me, but if I hadn’t gone to her there’s no way I’d be where I am today.
Was it challenging starting at the beginning when many of your peers had been dancing for decades?
No. I knew that this is what I wanted to do and there was nothing that was going to get in my way. The fact that these guys had the jump on me only amped up my desire to be better. When someone did it better, I’d study them like a hawk. I went to shows, I studied videos and I read books. I would drive my teachers crazy with all of my questions. But the teachers that always answered me are the ones I still take class from – Keith Clifton, Terri Best, Helene Phillips, Cindera Che, Natsuo and Charles Anderson.
What keeps you inspired these days?
Knowledge on all subjects (did you know that dancers live longer and suffer from fewer long term health problems than non-dancers?), wanting to be a better person, teacher, and human being than I was yesterday, and seeing the young generation of dancers. They are helping elevate the status of dancers to what I call the artistic athlete!
You’ve been to Australia a number of times now. Do you notice anything different about our local dancers?
Oh yes! I LOVE Australian dancers! They have an inner drive that’s almost a hunger in their dancing. I’ve had several Australian dancers in my dance company ‘Commonality’. My friend, Aussie Lachlan McCarthy, has been in the company for almost eight years now and has to be hands down one of the most amazing dancers I know. Australian Shannon Holtzapffel toured with the company to Europe. I picked him over 40 other American boys because of his ability to inhabit a style or movement; he’s really good at that. My good friend Abby Crossley (director of Global Dance Convention) was one of the most amazing dancers I’ve known. The list goes on!
What’s on your must-do list for this trip down under?
Take in some Australian dance shows, get my mother yet another batch of Darrell Lea Mango Liquorice, eat at Pancakes on the Rocks, surprise Ramon Doringo, visit my good friends Jo Bolden, Juliette Verne, Veronica Beattie, Joshua Horner, and my Melbourne favs Deb Cantoni and Ariel Bud!
What’s it like to take part in one of your workshops?
I know how to get the most out of a dancer. With insight, diligence and focus I make sure each dancer I encounter gets the right kind of information. I connect to dancers to help them find their strengths, direction and balance. We work, learn, have fun, and dance our butts off!
Photos: courtesy of Adam Parson.