Parsons Dance delivers stunning performance at Vilar
David Parsons, artistic director of Parsons Dance, aims to open audiences to the wonders of dance, and that’s exactly what he did Thursday night at the Vilar Performing Arts Center.
The company, known for its energetic, athletic (we’re talking uber-athletic) and joyous style, wowed the Vilar audience, resulting in exclamations like “gorgeous,” “incredible” and “impressive choreography” — and that was just during intermission.
The audience had yet to witness Zoey Anderson’s solo, “Caught,” in which strobe lights “froze” her body in midair through series upon series of jumps and leaps, making her appear to levitate across and around the stage in precise, mid-air poses, which remarkably matched each other. Occasionally, she would “land” in an artistically spot-lit center stage, the only evidence of all of her demanding running and leaping visible as her ribcage vigorously moved in and out, in a true cardio feat at high elevation.
Thursday’s performance began with Anderson moving to piano music, then morphed into group and pair dances as the violin and other instruments filled VPAC through its new, state-of-the-art sound system.
Earth tones and rust-colored costuming grounded the choreography, featuring sets of duos and group formations. The control, flow and mastery the dancers showcased were extraordinary, and the emotion, particularly toward the end as one man looked toward the group, which had exited the stage, as exquisite dancer Rachel Harris tried to captivate his attention through dance, was memorable.
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The second piece in the first half, called “Hand Dance,” was exactly that. Lighting supervisor Christopher Chambers delivered imaginative and innovative visual charm, illuminating only hands and arms — no bodies. The optical illusion elicited pleasant laughter from audience members as playful visuals danced on stage, from floating arms altering height, patterns and shapes to tracer-like qualities and fingers signaling “okay,” “hang loose,” “peace” and thumb twiddling.
The first ended with a medley of music by Bill Withers, introduced through narration about life. Having just debuted this year, Parsons Dance performed it for only the second time on stage.
Dancers embodied Withers’ soulful music initially with slower, slinky choreography, then got more funky and even staccato with songs like “Use Me.” Innovative choreography characterized the entire evening, highlighted by moves like one male dancer crawling off stage after Harris suddenly fell on his back in a backbend. The piece also included visceral scenes of the dancers standing in line and falling to the ground as they depicted the war-torn story of “I Can’t Write Left Handed.” Withers’ “Lean on Me” featured two couples flowing through lifts, leans and steps, followed by a slinky reprise.
After intermission and the stunning “Caught,” the dancers closed out the show with a medley by Yusuf/Cat Stevens, including brilliantly interpreted songs like “Trouble” and a slower version of “Peace Train.”
Parsons believes “the arts are a powerful tool for self-expression and communication,” and he strikes a wonderful and refreshing balance in a time where social messages seem so in-your-face.
His choreography is complex, and the dancers perform it so seamlessly that it makes you remember those effortless days of movement — before any injuries, stress or tightness may have restricted certain areas.
Parsons Dance company isn’t just internationally renowned as one of the world’s leading modern dance companies for its bold ensemble work, contemporary dance or emotion and connection with the audience. It literally embodies the best of dance: its emotion, artistry, visceral impact and the joy of movement. It reminds audiences of the amazing kinesthetic delight and seemingly effortless movement of which bodies are capable.
Of course, the intimacy of VPAC, which allows audiences to see every muscle movement so closely, also makes the production special.
“This is the kind of theater contemporary dance companies like ours love,” said artistic director David Parsons at the beginning of the performance.