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Parsons Dance Strikes it Hot

by Taylor Gordon
January 13, 2008
The Joyce Theater
175 Eighth Avenue (at the corner of 19th Street)
New York, NY 10011
212-242-0800
www.taylorgordononline.com
David Parsons is one of those few contemporary choreographers whose name suffices to make their own dance troupe successful. Parsons Dance is presenting its 2008 New York Season January 8-20 at the Joyce Theater with two separate mixed-bill programs of all Parsons' choreography. Saturday evening's performance of Program B was an upbeat treat.

The Parsons style remained consistent throughout the evening. He uses a distinct set of jumps and lifts that are only mildly altered for each dance. Many of the works appear to be very systematically choreographed, with the patterns of dancers perhaps being more interesting than the movement itself. Lots of sharp head movements plague the dancers, and they all have a tart element of showiness that alludes to genuine enjoyment.

Though that quality identifies his dancers, it's a bit over the top in the first two dances of the evening - the group opener "Bachiana" and the male duet "Brothers." In fact, the program would have been better with these and "Union" (from the second act) eliminated. What remains of the director's choreographic sample is worth the wait through these mediocre pieces.

The first work to really strike it hot is Nascimento Novo, a Latin jazzy number for the whole company set to music by Brazilian composer Milton Nascimento. The dance is packed with energy and has visible influences from African dance. It is here that the playfulness of the dancers' personalities makes sense.

A brightly colored backdrop, changing for each segment, enhances the spicy mood and livens up the look of the performers, who wear white shirts and khaki bottoms (pants for the men, knee-length skirts for the women). It would have been fun to see them in more creative costumes. The company is strongest as an ensemble, as seen here and in the final dance "Shining Star," where the dancers groove together to feel-good music from Earth, Wind & Fire.

The exception to this is dancer Tommy Scrivens, who performed the solo "Caught" on Saturday night. The work is the only one to be included in both programs of the season. Parsons uses a strobe light in this piece to make the dancer appear as if constantly in the air. Each time the light is on, Scrivens is mid-jump, moving gradually across the stage while touching ground only when the light is off. The resulting image is like a flip book of still photographs of the dancer literally defying gravity.

Periodically, most likely to give the exhausted jumper a break, a center overhead spot shines on him standing still, strobe light off. Time after time, the audience cheered at the sight. Like a bolt of lightning, Parsons has truly illuminated a masterpiece with this crowd-pleaser.
Parsons Dance - Nascimento Novo

Parsons Dance - Nascimento Novo

Photo © & courtesy of Yi-Chun Wu


Parsons Dance - Nascimento Novo

Parsons Dance - Nascimento Novo

Photo © & courtesy of Yi-Chun Wu


Parsons Dance - Nascimento Novo

Parsons Dance - Nascimento Novo

Photo © & courtesy of Yi-Chun Wu

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