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  • Writer's pictureKimberly Laberge

Parsons Dance (by a non-dancer)

Recently, I was lucky enough to come into some tickets for Parsons Dance, a New York based modern dance company on tour. I'll admit, I'm not so much of a dancer myself, so I wasn't sure what I had signed up for. I think I was picturing something like this:

"Choreography", White Christmas

What I actually saw was far from the bizarre number above. Parsons Dance brought an eclectic mix of music together with the distinct choreography of David Parsons, making for a night of expressive, impressive entertainment.

Photo: Krista Bonura

David Parsons, Artistic director, founder, and choreographer for Parsons Dance, has an incredibly distinctive style. His dancers showcase his technique beautifully, mixing primitive movements of the arms, isolated limbs, and scarce group synchronicity for a mood that can only be described as hypnotic.

The group is known for having a large repertoire, and having a different set of numbers each night. Every piece had a different character with different music and choreography to match. Parsons managed to meld the many distinct parcels of the evening into one cohesive, enjoyable evening. Some highlights I had the gift of viewing included "Train", "Slow Dance", and "Caught".

"Train" is a group number filled with intensity. The dark and ominous drumbeats may be leading the dancers on a technical level, but the dancers performed with such ferocity that it truly could've been them rattling the space. Alternating from nearly dystopian levels of group mindset and collectivity, to singling out one dancer in a tight spotlight and watching them suffer and collapse under the excruciating conditions, the tension in this piece is undeniable.

"Slow Dance" is performed and contained in a 12 ft. by 12 ft. square of light center stage. With three men and three women paired together, "Slow Dance" is passionate, intimate, and tense. Both the music and the emotional themes were akin to Dario Marianelli's composition for the 2012 film adaptation of Anna Karenina. Usually, I'm not too emotional at shows, but this piece was so exposed, even I felt it tugging at me. This piece was so raw, one could feel the entire audience holding a collective breath.

And then, of course, there is "Caught". It would be blasphemy for me to not give this piece a special mention. It is a conceptual piece comprised entirely of leaps timed perfectly with strobe lights in such a way that it seems the dancer is flying, never touching ground. The entire audience was enthralled by this, and that most definitely includes me. The whole number is surreal, and it's genuinely challenging to comprehend the realness of what is onstage.

Every piece had this special element that, when you're not specifically seeking it, may be easy to skip over. The lighting designer for Parsons Dance is Tony award winning Howell Binkley. He uses minimalistic styles that compliment the dance, but still has genius originality he brings to every number. The entire show was lit from the stage and wings (not the house or catwalk), which gave the dancers a dreamlike essence. The dancers were incredible, but without Binkley's lighting additions, it wouldn't be the same production quality.

Whether you're a dancer or just a fan of the arts, Parsons Dance is not an experience to miss. The bold dance team does not disappoint.

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