Imagine the feeling you get when you take that first sip of coffee on a sunny morning, excited and ready to conquer the day. This is Parsons Dance.
Artistic Director David Parsons has created more than 75 works on the New York City born modern dance company, three of which made their premiere in Philadelphia at the Prince Theater last week. Even after 32 years, Parsons Dance does not show one wrinkle or gray hair; the company is more energized and youthful than ever. Parsons Dance revitalizes modern dance with a shot of espresso, a splash of positive vibes, and a breath of fresh air.
Thursday night’s performance included robots, floating, and partying.
The Machines (world premiere) – Eight small green lights reflected on the cyc like laser pointers. Darkness came next, followed by a large flash of light. The light illuminated two floating drones in the middle of the stage. The dancers moved with caution around these unfamiliar objects. With each swift directional change of the robots, the dancers lost control of their own bodies through pushing and pulling, rising and falling as though they were being manipulated by the drones. Red lights, screeching sounds and frantic interweaving suggested an alien invasion. The piece concluded with the movers running in circles under the drone, unable to escape from it’s reign, or possibly unable to escape from technology that is taking over society. Parsons collaborated with Dr. Youngmoo Kim and his team of engineers from the ExCITe Center (Expressive and Creative Interactive Technologies Center) at Drexel University. Following the piece, the team explained some of the technological secrets behind the movement and tracking of the drones. Parsons and Kim hope to have just as many drones as dancers on stage one day. “Great art inspires technology,” Dr. Kim said passionately as he explained that this project is just the beginning of something groundbreaking in both art and science.
Hand Dance was both an intricate and simplistic piece that explores various human activities using only hands. The lighting by Tony award winning Howell Binkley largely contributed to the success of the piece. The floating, body-less hands that disappeared and reappeared into blackness created clever images such as a man walking down a hill, twiddling thumbs, rowing a boat, and dancing to country music.
Finding Center- Inspired by the artwork of Rita Blitt, this playful piece explored feelings of falling in love, being youthful and having fun. The music guided the Paul Taylor inspired movement displayed seemingly effortless swinging, wrapping, under curves and spiraling in and out of the floor, one melting right into the next. Partner work displayed beautiful lines and shapes that oozed into the next flawless turn, topped with refreshing smiles and expressions of genuine happiness. I felt that mid-morning buzz of coffee hit me.
Ian Spring majestically performed the famous 1982 solo “Caught.” Although I had seen this piece a few years ago, I was equally as enchanted by the snapshot imagery and evolution of each image displayed by Spring in the air as he disappeared and reappeared around the stage with each flash of the strobe lights. “It is really a duet between the lighting designer and the dancer,” Spring said when an audience member asked him the secret to his “floatation powers” during the talk back. The most impressive part of this piece was Spring’s silent landings.
In The End- “It’s a piece about partying,” Parsons said with a snicker. The work was casual appearance and movement, “chill” as the millennials would call it. As a dancer I know how difficult it is to remain “chill” while constantly turning in different directions, flying through partners, falling to the floor and springing back up again, and sharply accenting the music while making it look like I am at a party being careless and fun…not to mention in jeans and with my hair down.
Parsons delivered the perfect length of diverse repertory that entertained us with some original classics and some new refreshing work that excites the future of the company. David Parsons continues to passionately drive his work forward; he recently launched GenerationNOW fellowship, in which young choreographer’s enroll in a one-year mentor program with Parsons and then joins the company on tour the following season!
Parsons dance breeds refreshingly effortless, athletic, and delightful movers that inspire not just dancers but all people to take a deep breath, smile and get moving.