Los Angeles / Tour Dance Review: PARSONS DANCE COMPANY (Valley Performing Arts Center)

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by Myra Joy Veluz on March 26, 2014

in Theater-Los Angeles,Tours

OUT WITH THE NEW AND IN WITH THE OLD

The popular saying “out with the old, in with the new” certainly does not apply to Parsons Dance Company, seen last Saturday at Valley Performing Arts Center. Choreographer David Parsons’ older repertoire well outshines his newer works, which lack ingenuity. Because four successful works (three from the Eighties) are sandwiched between two recent lackluster works, this production reminds me of a Dance 101 introductory class final project where there is little thought put into setting a logical pace to the show. Sadly, the new choreography brought down the parsonsdanceexcitement of the old, so the program as a whole gives little justice to Parsons’ remarkable talent or to his troupe of dancers, all of whom have highly reputable and extensive dance experience.

David Parsons is no novice in the world of modern dance. For nine years, he was a leading dancer with the Paul Taylor Dance Company. In 1987, he co-founded Parsons Dance Company with Howell Binkley and has since created over seventy works for the company. He has received several commissions to work with New York City Ballet, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and the American Ballet Theatre, to name a few. He also holds an MFA from Jacksonville University.

Parson Dance Company's THE ENVELOPE - photo by Enid Bloch.Whether intentional or not, the thing that sets his 1980s choreography apart from his recent work is his uncanny ability to incorporate storytelling into dance. The execution of both The Envelope (1984) and Brothers (1982, in collaboration with Daniel Ezralow) are indicative of Parsons’ witty and quirky creativity, resulting in delightfully whimsical entertainments. Set to Charles Gouse’s delightful arrangement of Rossini Overtures, The Envelope involves a letter which consistently manages to elude—whether by human or godlike interference—all who attempt to snatch it or purge it. The confident dancers—Sarah Braverman, Steven Vaughn, Christina Ilisije, Ian Spring, Elena D’Amario, Geena Pacareu, Omar Román de Jesús—captured Parsons’ awkward gestures with precise physical comedy. In the physically intertwining and captivating duet, Brothers—danced to Stravinsky’s Concertino for 12 instruments—the relationship between Misters Vaughn and Miguel Quinones in CAUGHT by Parsons DanceSpring (both highlights of the evening) fascinated as we are left to wonder about this ambiguous relationship: Are they truly brothers or passionately in love with each other?

The most compelling piece of the night is Caught, a solo created and danced by Parsons in 1982. Utilizing Robert Fripp’s “Let the Power Fall” and Howell Binkley’s strobe light effects, Miguel Quinones must execute more than 100 jumps to make it seem as though he was floating above the ground the entire time. This is exactly the type of riveting and visual ecstasy that is sorely missed in today’s mundane displays of modern dance.

Sarah Braverman and Steven Vaughn, Parsons Dance Company - photo by Lois GreenfieldThe Parsons dancers are well known for their athletic ensemble work but the opening and closing pieces, Introduction (2014) and Nascimento Novo (2006) are both oddly deficient when it comes to showing off their skills. The constant walking and spinning become redundant and the dance tricks look straight out of TV’s So You Think You Can Dance. There is some superb solo work (hence the name Introductions), but when placed together the dancing becomes mundane and disharmonious, mostly due to certain cast members looking completely out of place—namely the women. Swooping their hair around like cheerleaders becomes extraordinarily distracting, and I wonder if their “hairography” and bimbo-inflected movement was intentional or if the female dancers were genuinely trying to be sultry. As my dance colleague described it, “It’s like they’re dancing in the Valley for the Valley.”

I am left to question what the future of modern dance will look like. If Parsons’ older dance repertoire is strong enough to stand on its own, then so be it. Why is there a need to create something new if it does not embellish what already exists? As traditionalist as it may sound, giving patrons the best of the best is often better than presenting something new and leaving them disappointed.

Parson Dance Company - POSTER

photos courtesy of Parsons Dance

Parsons Dance Company
Valley Performing Arts Center in Northridge
played on March 22, 2014
for future events, visit www.valleyperformingartscenter.org
for more info, visit www.parsonsdance.org

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