Communicating emotion: Parsons Dance Company.
Egg, Albany, Feb. 8
world of modern dance is broad and inclusive, allowing the
mild and obvious alongside the provocative and subtle. David
Parsons is able to straddle both extremes with movement that
is fierce, deliberate and joyful. During their recent performance
at the Egg, Parsons Dance did not overwhelm the audience with
complex messaging or too-nuanced gestures. Instead, the company
and its choreographer were content with broader, more accessible
themes of trust and relationships expressed through physical
energy and visual impact.
Having founded the company in 1985 with lighting designer
Howell Binkley, David Parsons showcased his dancers with playful
lighting cues in two very entertaining pieces. Hands Dance,
as the title suggests, placed five company members on a blackened
stage with a cluster of 10 hands illuminated by a waist-level
beam of light. What initially seemed like an unimpressive
mime act proceeded into a hilarious feat of elbow-to-finger
coordination. Set to a rapid bluegrass arrangement, wrists
flicked about in unison like a heated poker game or a nasty
duel of rock-paper-scissors. At one point, all fists were
fused together while 50 fingers fanned open like giant eyelashes.
Parsons’ second light-featured piece took a more sober approach,
featuring Miguel Quinones as the solo male who controls his
reality with a handheld strobe light switch. Titled Caught,
the work remains one of Parsons’ most technologically original
and visually striking productions. The piece exhibits an impressive
series of jumps and leaps across the darkened stage. At the
height of each execution, a flash of light captures the suspended
body, frozen in a weightless field. The viewer never sees
the body return to the ground. While the concept is rather
simple, one witnesses with awe the striking potential of an
unburdened human form.
originally was danced by Parsons himself in a somewhat slapstick
comedy routine; Quinones applied a darker, brooding quality
that was intensified by droning techno music. Taking on the
persona of a peaceful warrior, Quinones negated gravity with
calm discipline. As a humble athlete, he jumped up into a
runner’s stride, alternating legs as if taking laps effortlessly
on an elevated track. Moments later, a powerless target, Quinones
collapsed his chest cavity inward as if absorbing a forceful
punch. The impact propelled his body backward through space
as if a cannonball had been driven through his concave shape.
In contrast to these two spatially focused pieces were four
full-ensemble works that captured the company’s communal essence.
The evening opened with Closure, a sleek urban piece
set to a score of dramatic organ chords and a quick snare.
Black mesh tops were pulled tight across the dancers’ torsos,
revealing sensual confidence. Couples took athletic risks,
leaping with abandon into each other’s arms while others formed
overhead lifts with little anticipation. Closure was indeed
felt when the ensemble gathered center stage in a pulsing
ring that eventually burst open with exhausted relief.
Beyond this chic, almost pretentious environment was the earthy
streetwise celebration of community expressed in Nascimento
Novo. Set to the Brazilian percussion of Milton Nascimento,
the piece featured several duets and trios that highlighted
the dancers’ interpersonal strengths. Eye contact and physical
intimacy between the various couples was convincing and flirtatious.
A moment of stillness was felt when the silhouettes of ten
dancers with limbs interlocked created the letters L-O-V-E
across the dim stage. Just as the image was acknowledged with
applause, the assembled bodies melted out of formation. What
followed was a poignant duet between Miguel Quinones and Julie
Blume, embracing desperately and concluding the piece in an
erotic, yet innocent, entanglement, fading to the sound of
a distant church bell in the background.
The concert closed with a fun-loving marathon of a piece set
to a selection of Dave Matthews songs. A sentimental journey
of friendship and a life well-lived, the piece reinforced
the physical rigor and dynamic expressions of the dancers.
During an excerpt of “When the World Ends,” three solos depicted
the energy of a storm cloud descending on a fearful community.
Thrashing about recklessly with fiery eyes and clenched fists,
each dancer seemed in full control of his or her destiny.