The wonderful Parsons Dance in David Parsons "Round My World"
Everybody loves Parsons Dance.
And among its greatest fans are those living in the northern end of Columbia County where for the past 14 summers Artistic Director David Parsons and his finely tuned ensemble of dances have stayed and performed at PS/21 in Chatham.
The audience’s affection, on display Friday night at the theater, is well-placed. This group of dancers is always keenly on – athletic, sharp, expressive and often, playful. This year’s showing was especially astonishing because the Parson’s company is now only eight dancers strong. (I fault and decry politicians who have chipped away at arts funding for so long that it is basically nonexistence.)
While the company’s number might have decreased, its might has not. Actually, it has grown in stamina as the same dancers perform each piece of robust choreography without any hints of exhaustion. This octet is made up of sensations.
The evening featured the usual line-up of endearing Parsons’ pieces – the sublime “Round My World,” the upbeat “Nascimento” and everyone’s favorite, “Caught.” What made the night unusual was Parsons also generously shared his bill with Trey McIntyre who produced a new work for the company to music by Aretha Franklin. Parsons also revived a 1975 work by his mentor Paul Taylor, the mysterious “Runes.”
Put together, it showed that Parsons has decided to enlarge the ensemble’s scope by including compatible choreographers. Personally, it revealed to me that Parsons as a choreographer can stand alongside the best contemporary dancer makers in the world (dead or alive) and come out on top.
Certainly, you can’t judge Taylor and McIntyre on one work. But the comparison underscored Parsons’ abilities, which are sometimes unjustly underrated.
It was interesting to see “Runes” again. Next to Parsons and McIntyre’s work, the piece in which a full moon glides across the sky felt dated. But it’s construction, especially with dances gliding in and out of the center stage imperceptibly demonstrated Taylor’s genius.
McIntyre’s work was a pure celebration of the Queen of Soul. Titled “Eight Women,” the piece elevated six songs such as “Natural Woman”” and “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man.” But it felt like it was only a start. I would love to see the piece expanded to go deeper into her songbook.
Parsons’ “Round My World,” to music by Zoe Keating, was a perfect opener to the show, with the dancers cast in blue, and encircling each other and the stage. Zoey Anderson and Shawn Lesniak stood out as they devoured the space in their duet.
The sunny “Nascimento,” to music by Milton Nascimento, closed the show. The flirty and fun dance always bring smiles, leaving the audience skipping home.
No evening of Parson would be complete without “Caught.” Danced by Henry Steele on Friday night, the high-flying solo to strobe lights didn’t disappoint.
This program will be repeated tonight, Saturday, Aug. 24, at PS/21. If you miss it, I would recommend seeing this phenomenal group on Friday, Nov. 8, at The Egg in Albany. I guarantee you will enjoy the show.