Chris Parker's autobiographical comic dance show

By Dionne Christian

Comic mix of stage and home movies sad at heart, writes Dionne Christian
Chris Parker in his one-person show, No More Dancing. Photo / Supplied
Chris Parker in his one-person show, No More Dancing. Photo / Supplied

"That's him, isn't it?"

As questions go, it's an ambiguous one, but the woman sitting in an Auckland cafe is clearly keen to know whether the lanky, blond-haired boy who just left is "him". Collecting herself after the initial excitement, she explains she means the actor who played TV chef David Halls in the play Hudson and Halls Live!

Establishing it is Chris Parker - him - she breaks into a wide grin and enthusiastic banter about how she loved his performance in Silo's hit comedy and has been watching him on the TV skit show Funny Girls. Her hope is for Parker to be in many more productions, so she is delighted to hear he is reprising his one-person show, No More Dancing in the Good Room.

An autobiographical comic dance show, it premiered at last year's New Zealand International Comedy Festival and won Parker, 25, a Best Newcomer Award. Now he is performing it as part of the Auckland Pride Festival, which aims to strengthen and celebrate the region's rainbow (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, takatapui, fa'afafine, intersex and queer) community.

Though No More Dancing is comic - described as "an unruly mash-up of theatre, dance and home videos" - there's poignancy and nostalgia at its heart. Parker has a library of home-made videos he shot as a child on his father's camcorder and this footage is used in the show, adding to its wistfulness and humour. He would simply set the camera up and dance. He first used it in a graduate show at Toi Whakaari: New Zealand Drama School and says it was an eye-opener.

"Here I was, as an openly gay adult, watching videos of myself as a child and learning so much about myself," he says. "It confirmed a lot about me and made me think about why I was trying to deny certain qualities; the campness, the softness that had always been there."

Parker says No More Dancing is the story of how a gay boy, from middle-class Christchurch, loved dancing but quit when he was an adolescent and starting a new school because "boys don't dance". Slowly the dancing boy begins to realise he's more Lord of the Dance than captain of the 1st XV and that's okay. The title comes from when, dancing in his parents' living room, he accidentally smashed an ornament. From then on, he danced in the garage.

"Dance was about expression for me and bringing how I felt into my body and working it out," he recalls. "It was a way of letting out feelings I had as a child - tension, frustration, happiness - I've always been a dramatic person."

Parker likes to use humour to provoke or open up conversations. He says the piece is essentially about what it means to live an authentic life true to who you really are. For him, that was about coming out to his parents, but he says it doesn't necessarily have to be about sexuality.

"In some ways, we're all trying to live up to other people's expectations or hide who we really are - but what does it feel like to live openly in your skin and be seen as who you really are? In making the show, I felt as if I had a responsibility to 10-year-old Chris Parker dancing in a room. But this isn't only my story, it's other people's stories, too."

Performance

What: No More Dancing in the Good Room
Where & when: Q Loft, February 3-13

Other theatre works in the Auckland Pride Festival include:

Puzzy: Renowned playwright Victor Rodger has assisted Samoan-Filipino Hawaiian newcomer Kiki with her debut play, described as a riotously funny - but also moving - story about one young woman's experiences as a Pacific Island lesbian. February 5-21, Basement Theatre.

Heteroperformative: The trials of being a week-day office queen and a Sunday superette shopwallah. February 9-20, Basement Theatre.

F'You: Fine Fatale Productions fuse physical theatre, dance and music in five solo performances about the reality of life as Fakaleiti, Fa'afafine, Fakafifine and Takataapui. February15-19, Basement Theatre.

Legacy Project 3: Returning for a third year, featuring six new bite-sized plays from some of emerging artists. All celebrate love and connection, family and friendship, understanding and denial, and ask what it really means to be called lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer today. Feburary 9-13, Q Loft.

The Loose Dick Kiddies Show: R18 satire featuring social criticism and sexual politics. February 12 and 13, Q Loft.

Night of the Queer: Performers take to the stage for seven nights of dance, live music, aerial, theatre and comedy. Shortland Street's Adam Burrell hosts and acts include Okareka Dance Company - Tai Royal and Taane Mete, Nancy Wijohn and Kelly Nash, Andrew Laing, Lady Treneyce, Jessie McCall and Bryony Skillington. February 10-14 & 18-19, TAPAC.

- Weekend magazine

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