Friday, January 13, 2012

Parsons Dance

Ian Spring, and Melissa Ullom in
David Parson's Round My World
Photo: Krista Bonura

Let's cut to the chase: David Parsons' piece Caught is stunning, impressive, and magical. I see it at least once a year, and it never fails to delight me. A thrilling athletic solo, it is far more successful than any CGI in convincing you that a man can fly. It's part of every performance at Parsons Dance; if you haven't seen it, give yourself a treat and go. (Parsons Dance is at the Joyce through January 22.)

And the rest of the evening isn't shabby either.

Parsons Dance is currently premiering Parsons' Round My World, an entertaining, often beautiful piece set to music by Zoe Keating. As you can see from the picture above, Parsons means "round" literally, and the shape is threaded liberally throughout, in formations, poses, and gestures. The first movement pulsates; the second features insane lifts that are sometimes more interesting as mechanical contraptions than dance; the third utilizes arms and pelvises to create a sort of Rube Goldberg cascade of movement; and the forth consists of flowing waves of changing shapes. While Round My World is a pleasure to watch, the whole is not greater than the sum of its parts. It comes across as a very thorough exercise--do everything you can with roundness--rather than a fully realized dance.

This is a complaint I have with Parsons' work not infrequently--and with that of Paul Taylor, for whom Parsons danced for years, and who was definitely a major influence. Both men have endless amounts of creativity. There isn't a part of the body they haven't mined for all its gestural potential. They are never boring. Many of their pieces are visually and emotionally whole, and wonderful--but many others just don't add up.

This problem reappears with Swing Shift, Parsons' 2002 piece to music by Kenji Bunch. Again, Parsons' imagination and skill can't be faulted, and there is much that is lovely, but the choreography is almost semaphoric in its use of the dancers' bodies, with little flow between defined almost-tableaus.

The evening also features Katarzyna Skarpetowska's piece A Stray's Lullaby, to music arranged and performed by Kenji Bunch in a Tom Waits' growl. Skarpetowska's choreography ably presents the challenges and aspirations of a quartet of lost people in a grim city. These characters' tensions and despair resonate in their every muscle, and the choreography offers a unique spastic grace.

Unfortunately, the program update I received did not specify who danced which piece. But since the Parsons Dance dancers are so often amazing, I'm glad to simply list them all: Eric Bourne, Sarah Braverman, Steven Vaughn, Melissa Ullom, Christina Ilisije, Jason MacDonald, Ian Spring, Elena D’Amario, and apprentice Christopher Bloom.

(press ticket; last row orchestra)

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