Review: Parsons Dance brings ‘kick-ass dance’ to the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek
Special to the Daily
Plenty of dance companies promise to engage and move audiences, all while elevating the art form. But Parsons Dance stands out as one of the best in the world; cofounder and choreographer David Parsons seems to intuitively know how to relay the joy of human movement through dance.
The New York City-based company garnered more than one standing ovation from the Vilar Performing Arts Center audience, and the dancers deserved every accolade.
One of the first things that stands out in all eight dancers is their incredible muscle tone and athletic abilities. Sure, all dancers have amazing bodies, but the four men and four women in Parsons Dance are chiseled in a way that makes a statement. When they performed their first piece, “Round My World,” the aesthetics of the circles they continually morphed in and out of with their arms created fascinating, textural sculptures.
Parsons is a master of fascinating shape-making; in each of the five sections of “Round My World,” dancers swirled, twirled, twisted and stretched over and around the circles they formed, ending with gorgeous, three-dimensional sculptures, often in a unique circular form.
Lighting and minimal fog effects by Tony Award winning light designer Howell Binkley (who’s currently working on “Hamilton”) made the artistic forms even more stunning. At each pause, audible nods of appreciation sounded throughout the audience.
While some modern dance companies choose to elicit deep emotion through atonal, and sometimes screeching music, Parsons selects upbeat, joyful music. The one atonal piece came in “Caught” and was a brilliant choice because it made dancer Zoey Anderson’s perfectly executed routine even more astonishing.
“Caught” has been a stunning signature piece of Parsons Dance since 1982, because it just never gets old. A strobe light “catches” the solo dancer in the middle of a specific leap, making it appear as though the dancer is literally floating across the entire stage in midair. The precision needed to time the seemingly still-life moment is measured in inches: If Anderson’s legs were not fully extended when the strobe illuminated her, the illusion would have been marred. But her uncanny ability to reproduce the exactness of her legs extending during multiple grand jetés or her body jumping and forming the same shape exactly when the strobe illuminated her, over and over across the stage, was mesmerizing. Add to that the fact that she didn’t have a rhythmic beat to hit each mid-air pose due to the atonal music, and it makes the feat even harder to pull off impeccably, as Anderson did.
Anderson stood out among the dancers with her facial expressions and total embodiment. She exuded joy through her entire body and had a remarkable way of looking into the audience and connecting with just about everyone.
She and Joan Rodriguez delivered a beautiful, flowing dance to soft, melodic piano music in “Finding Center.” Rodriguez held, cradled, lifted, spun and hung Anderson inches from the floor in a continual visceral connection, as if the two were one.
“Eight Women” ended the first half in a soulful medley, which included “Spanish Harlem,” “A Natural Woman,” “Do Right Woman Do Right Man,” “I Say a Little Prayer” and “The House That Jack Built.” Once again, Parsons made appealing artistic choices, such as allowing two women to dance to “A Natural Woman” rather than casting a man and woman as is typical.
“Microburst” brought a tribal and humorous vibe to the second act as two male-female duets got to know one another, and later, the two women watched the men and comically commented upon their movements.
The way each dancer effortlessly performed the choreography and jumps, which seemed to suspend them in midair before landing, brought an airy feel to the pieces. Parsons’ choice of shapes, patterns and the alternating number of dancers moving on and off stage punctuated his choreography, resulting in a performance that truly felt fresh and alive.
Before the athletic artists took the stage, Parsons introduced the evening as “kick-ass dance,” and he wasn’t exaggerating. Pure joy radiated through the dancers with each movement, inspiring viewers to celebrate the body, its abilities and the freedom that dance offers everyone, on and off the stage.