by Debra Danese for The Dance Journal | Photo Credit: Lois Greenfield
Annenberg Center LIVE’s dance series culminated with a brilliant program by Parsons Dance. After seeing most of this season’s performances, I would say Parsons Dance ranked among the best. Five out of the six pieces were choreographed by company Co-Founder, David Parsons. Each one was distinctively different which made the performance interesting and exciting. The sixth piece was choreographed by Paul Taylor and re-staged for this production by Cathy McCann Buck.
Annenberg Center Artistic and Executive Director, Christopher Gruits, took the stage prior to the show to welcome the company and talk briefly about their ongoing partnership, which has spanned over the last 30 years. Gruits asked the audience to kindly refrain my using their cell phones as the light design for several pieces required total darkness. It was disappointing that the request proved too challenging for some, but the overall effect was still stunning. The creative partnership between Parsons and Howell Binkley, Co-Founder and Light Designer, showed a strong union between the choreography and lighting.
The performance opened with the breathtaking, Round My World. The movement theme was circular shapes created with the arms. It was remarkable how Parsons carried this throughout the piece without it looking repetitious. Jumps and turns were executed using different, rounded arm movements. Binkley’s light designed enhanced the piece and gave it a mesmerizing quality. Dancer Zoey Anderson had a presence that immediately drew my eye. She danced as if she was physically translating the music into movement. The company performed in unison with exact synchronicity, with each variation ending in some type of circular pose created as an ensemble.
Hand Dance also relied heavily on absolute unison. This clever piece was done in complete darkness with only the arms and hands seen. The choreography was fast paced and musically dynamic. One wrong arm movement would have ruined the whole number. The five dancers were crisp and precise in their performance. Binkley’s lighting was again an important component to the piece. I found it particularly intriguing because I could not quite figure out how the effect was created.
Another piece that was truly memorable was Caught. This solo piece had Henry Steele performing a multitude and variety of jumps captured by strobe lights. The result was a like a continuous slide show of pictures, similar to a flip book. The collaboration between lights and performer required perfect timing and was achieved with great success. The audience showed their appreciation for this by applauding throughout.
Three additional ensemble works rounded out the rest of the program with Nascimento being the final dance. With music by Brazilian singer-songwriter, Milton Nascimento, this was another faced paced number performed by the full company of eight. Justus Whitfield was outstanding and seemed to embrace the joyful feel of the dance. It was also here that the dancers could really showcase their technical aptitude. The feel of the number was carefree and light and a solid choice to culminate the program.