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Dance Review

Parsons Dance turns Bach on its head, moves to Miles Davis, dazzles in strobe light.

Parsons Dance onstage at Annenberg

Merilyn Jackson, For The Inquirer

Posted: Saturday, December 6, 2014, 3:01 AM

The 1993 Bachiana showed early influences that Parsons took with him from his days in Paul Taylor's company. Lots of skipping steps, jumping jacks, a fractured Swan Lake quartet for the ladies and headstands for the guys that turned Bach's music on its head and left Sarah Braverman holding her partner by the ankles as if he were a giant fish she just caught.

Choreographer Trey McIntyre devised a duet for the company in 2007 called Hymn, danced Thursday night by Braverman and Elena D'Amario - a spicy little dance that had the two tight in with each other while they romped.

Kind of Blue premiered at the Annenberg in 2002 in Too Many Cooks, to a Miles Davis medley. Cool head rolls, hiply swinging hips, shoulder rolls, and goosenecking mark it.

The program included an as-yet-untitled work by Parsons collaborator Natalie Lomonte to celebrate Parsons Dance's 30th anniversary. It too was jazzy, but I couldn't get a clear bead on what it might be. Perhaps it's still too new to see its shape.

The demanding signature piece, Caught, where the strobe catches the dancer in midair, is a marvelous optical illusion and, really, inimitable. At least two women have performed it; Elizabeth Koeppen and Sumayah McRae danced it here in Parsons' visits in the early 2000s. I first saw Parsons dance it in Scottsdale, Ariz., in 1993 and again in Philadelphia in 1998. I've seen several men do it, including company veteran Miguel Quinones. Audiences hunger for it, and they got their fill with Ian Spring's muscular rendition and breathtaking ballon. Audiences may never tire of it, but the strobe light seemed pooped as it fought to sync itself with Spring, which it soon enough did.

Whirlaway (2014) had its Philadelphia premiere after opening in New Orleans with the luxury of Allen Toussaint's music played live on stage. No such luck here, but even with the recording, I felt the dancers' pulse beat more vividly than it had through the evening. The women wore flared '50s dresses and the men suspendered trousers. It was bluesy, funky, and fun, with men flying in pairs around the stage and several charming duets to "Southern Skies." It ended on a high as Braverman dropped her hanky and lights dimmed to "Yes We Can Can."