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Jennifer Wesnousky
Performance Reviews
The Joyce Theater
United States
New York City
New York
New York, NY

Parsons Dance - Ring Around The Rosie, Caught, Wolfgang, Hand Dance, Nascimento Novo

by Jennifer Wesnousky
December 10, 2006
The Joyce Theater
175 Eighth Avenue (at the corner of 19th Street)
New York, NY 10011
PARSONS DANCE's performance at the Joyce Theater on December 10, 2006 consisted of five completely different yet equally memorable pieces. With a variety of movement from balletic to tribal, throbbing to serene and modern to acrobatic, including impossibly high jumps, rolls about the ground and lifts above clumps of dancers in constant movement, choreographer David Parsons showcased his remarkable eye for detail and the ability to create unparalleled onstage scenes. Parsons' visions, of course, could only be enacted by the likes of the PARSONS ensemble, who displayed remarkable passion and endurance, union despite Parsons' infrequent use of unison movement and apparent technical perfection.

RING AROUND THE ROSIE opened with an eerie rendition of its namesake, including somber children's singing and a mother's lament upon the deaths of her sons. The spotlight shone upon the male "WANDERER" (Jeremy Smith) and his female counterpart, the "PEST" (Malvina Sardou), appearing spider-like in black bodysuits while executing sharply-coordinated movement as surreal as the soundtrack. Suddenly, Renaissance revelry interrupted their ominous exchange with the entry of an ornately adorned ensemble including a winsome, dreadlocked groom (Tommy Scrivens) and his stunning blonde bride (Abby Silva). Their wedding party's celebratory commotion turned increasingly staccato and aerobic, incorporating Parson's signature brilliance: groups of dancers in motion, appearing remarkably aesthetic despite the fact that each and every person was executing a completely different move. While the black-clad figures initially participated in the celebration, their strangely symbiotic relationship (with her riding atop him on piggyback), movement and costumes suggested their presence in another dimension, a notion confirmed when a touch of the groom's mouth by the WANDERER sent him writhing on the ground in despair as the devastated bride sought to revive him. In the end, the couple in black skulked off triumphantly, having left most lying dead while one embracing couple crawled offstage. While the figures' representation of mass death and destruction was clear, the program further illuminated the title and content of the piece: the little known fact that the children's tune, "Ring Around the Rosie," originated during and described the dire effects of the 14th Century European bubonic plague that killed more than 20 million.

The charismatic groom reappeared for the stunning solo, CAUGHT. Moving from spotlight to spotlight with a variety of gyrations, ripples and other stellar moves, Scrivens seemed to appear out of nowhere on various sections of the otherwise pitch-black stage. While his choreography was initially grounded, he began to strategically leap and jump in perfect sync with the strobe lights that began to illuminate him, making him appear as if he were walking on or floating through the air. While difficult to describe this effect, which must truly be seen to be believed, audience members could be spotted in search of some non-existent cables attached to the apparently airborne dancer and applauded wildly.

WOLFGANG then began as a delightful, balletic corps number with a modern slant. The girls dressed in chocolate-and-red corsets and tutus and the men in sleek brown, the piece seemed at times like a comedic take on dancers as the company allowed their individual personalities to shine through playfully, scurrying about and fluttering past one another in creatively crafted formations. Set entirely to Mozart, the twists on classical ballet made the audience smile especially during insertions of sharp, African-inspired choreography into rather serene songs. The piece ended with a sudden blackout, leaving the leaping dancers illuminated in midair.

In the ultra-creative and musically precise HAND DANCE, only the dancers' arms and hands were visible, backlit against a pitch black stage. In yet another enchanting yet difficult to explain special effect, ten hands were witnessed clapping, moving up, down and sideways in every possible combination, making waves and executing a multitude of movements from pretending to play instruments, waving, dancing and drumming at speeds slow, fast and in between. The cast's incredible adeptness (and surely countless rehearsal hours) was evident, and, the effect inspired chuckles from members of the audience as well as their awe-stricken gasps.

In the final number, NASCIMENTO NOVO, standout soloist Abby Silva emerged onto the orange-lit stage leading an ensemble dressed in modern, khaki cargo pants and sheer white shirts. Parsons' organized onstage chaos was again praiseworthy with a mélange of ever-cohesive movement set to the rhythms of Brazilian artist, Milton Nascimento. African-influenced moves were tinged with jazzy, sharp steps and contractions as well as technically challenging stag jumps and turns. The dancers played off one another in a kind of ceremonial dance, reaching for the sky as well as shimmying low to the ground within unified, musical movement. A trio of percussionists emerged, and soloists performed one after another in the midst of a circle of supportive onlookers with apparent illusions to Capoeira, the Brazilian martial art. In slower sections, the dancers' shadows loomed up huge behind them in yet another one of Parsons' and lighting designer Howell Binkley's compelling lighting effects.

Whether dancing crisply or classically, sensually or serenely, the PARSONS DANCE dancers were so technically adept that they not only allowed their individuality to emanate but never seemed to take themselves too seriously as they captivated the crowd. When, throughout the performance, dancers being lifted and spun about the huddle appeared to float, it was hard to believe mere human beings to be capable of such ethereal effects. And yet, with its choreographic originality, visually apparent musicality and breathtaking onstage effects, this top-notch modern dance troupe did it time and time again.

Artistic Director: DAVID PARSONS

Associate Artistic Director: ELIZABETH KOEPPEN

Lighting Designer: HOWELL BINKLEY


Executive Director: DAVID HARRISON

Associate Executive Director: MANNY ROMERO



Stage Manager: BARB DOMUE
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