Parsons Dance Company

October 18, 2005

Parsons Dance Company in David Parsons’
Photo by Janet Levitt, courtesy Parsons Dance Company


Parsons Dance Company
Joyce Theater, New York, NY

October 18–30, 2005

Reviewed by Valerie Gladstone


Whether spinning in pirouettes, leaping across the stage, carrying each other on their backs, or rolling like balls, David Parsons’ versatile dancers looked thrilled to be performing his rambunctious, often whimsical, and witty dances during the company’s recent season at the Joyce Theater. They outdid themselves in a program of six pieces that included the new, rollicking DMB, a show-stopping finale set to the rock songs of the Dave Matthews Band that was commissioned by the Ferguson Center for the Arts in Newport News, Virginia, where it premiered last September.

Starting with the joyful Bachiana (1993), Parsons’ wide-ranging talents were on view. A high-spirited romp to Bach orchestra suites, Bachiana had the dancers weaving back and forth and dissolving in patterns that reflected the music’s counterpoint. If the piece too closely resembled works of Paul Taylor, with whose company Parsons performed for many years, he can be forgiven. In the other works on the program choreographed since then—Kind of Blue (2001), Swing Shift (2003), Slow Dance (2003), Hand Dance (2004), and the new DMB—he showed that he is entirely his own man.

In Kind of Blue Mia McSwain, one of the most eloquent dancers on the modern dance stage, and sensual Katarzyna Skarpetowska tantalized their partners, the buoyant Brian McGinnis and Jeremy Smith. With provocative shifts of their hips and slinky walks, the women luxuriated in the blues grooves of Miles Davis.

The most ambitious piece on the program was Swing Shift, stunningly lit by Howell Binkley, to a haunting score by Kenji Bunch. Though in need of some editing, the intriguing dance created a mysterious ambiance as a lone woman was alternately joined and abandoned by the other dancers.

In the exhilarating DMB, Parsons created complex jazzy sequences that had his dancers breaking off into pairs and groups at such high speed that it was hard to tell where one movement began and another left off.

Parsons loves a good physical joke, and in Hand Dance, in which the dancers’ hands emerge from the dark curtain, dance together, and even get into arguments, he proved that he’s as good at slapstick as choreography, a gift in the sometimes glum modern dance world. See