Saturday, April 21, 2012

"Caught" In The Act with Parsons Dance

The athleticism on display at Thursday's performance by Parsons Dance was a sight that could only be believed after seeing it live. Parsons Dance is a contemporary dance company run by choreographer/director David Parsons. The performance featured six pieces with a range of two to eight dancers and a variety of lighting and music to enhance the movement. Regrettably, the evening was only two-thirds successful.

The performance got off to a slow start with the clunky "Round My World." Punctuated by plodding, digitized music from cellist and composer Zoe Keating, the only bright spot in "Round" was the lighting. Howell Binkley's ethereal lighting design created planes of light such that it began to appear that the dancers in the background were dancing behind a translucent screen. At the end of the piece, the dancers were lit from the front of the stage creating shadows on the backdrop and thereby increasing the dancing figures on stage from six to twelve. Alas, the lighting alone was not enough to start the evening off on an intriguing note.

The two-dancer jazz piece "Step into My Dreams" passed quickly, only to give way to "Kind of Blue," which proved to be the second piece of the evening that seemed to be never-ending. 

The pieces following intermission were the evening's highlights. The second act kicked off with Parsons' 1984 piece "Envelope." The lighthearted portrayal of losing identity within an organizational structure with the passing amongst the dancers of an almighty envelope was welcomed by the audience, at times with uproarious laughter. Commenting on the loss of identity with an exercise that requires conformity is Parsons at his best.
"Caught" is arguably Parsons' most well known piece and rightfully so. The performance features a single male dancer performing more than 100 leaps timed precisely with strobe lighting to create the illusion of flight. And if there was any doubt that dancing is an extremely difficult art, watching the dancer's stomach and chest heave in and out during the pauses between the leaps will prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt.

If only "Caught" had finished the evening. Another never-ending piece, "Nascimento," wrapped up the evening and was the fourth piece that failed to engage. "Nascimento" was long, featured bizarre musical passages, and needed to be edited for length even more than some of its' predecessors. 

Nothing can diminish the talent of the dancers. All were fluid and rarely was there any noticeable lapse in synchronization. Unfortunately, the talent got lost in the midst of long and underwhelming selections. The dancers held the evening together and their skill will continue to draw crowds that will overlook the disappointment of some of the pieces to focus on the display of raw talent.

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