By Walter Rutledge
Parson Dance is concluding their New York season this weekend at the Joyce Theater. Artistic Director David Parsons is presenting five works including two premieres; Dawn To Dusk, a multimedia work by Parsons and Black Flowers by former Parsons Dance member Katarzyna Skarpetowska. The evening featured a total of five works including Wolfgang (2005), Caught (1982) and In The End (2005). The varied program was well paced and engaged the enthusiastic audience on many levels.
Dawn To Dusk was conceived, commissioned and produced by Wolf Trap Foundation and was part of FACE OF AMERICA, a series of performances honoring American national parks. FACE OF AMERICA: SPIRIT OF SOUTH FLORIDA, a full evening work originally premiered on September 8, 2012 at the Wolf Trap National Park. An abridged version of the full evening work (Dawn To Dusk) is being presented during New York season.
Dawn To Dusk is Parsons’ latest multimedia offering. The work opens with a brief narrative about the South Florida national parks and the eco-systems they encompass, it is set to an arresting backdrop of video images. A solo dancer enters from upstage right and is pursued by an on screen alligator. Reptilian chorus of six dancers appear and weave their way around the stage.
The developing dance is a balancing act as delicate yet as powerful as the eco-systems they portrays. To Parsons’ credit the video and movement were not in tandem. This allowed the two mediums to complement, as opposed to compete with each other; it also gave both mediums opportunities to be in the artistic foreground.
There were long stretches of time where there were no dancers on stage and the video was able to take us on the journey. Wildlife; flying or perched birds, swimming reptiles, clouds, the wind moving wheatgrass and tree branches, and human bodies moving through water or from behind tall grass created a visual symbiosis with the onstage movement. Andrew Bird score and the sounds of nature blend seamlessly to the environmental sensory experience.
The only time the onstage dancer and dancer’s video image were in sync was a solo dance section performed both live and simultaneously on screen by Abby Silva Gavezzoli. Gavezzoli danced the mirror image of video; for most of the section her back was towards the audience, and we had to rely on the video image to see her face. This simply but clever twist gave it a freshness and intrigue to what could have become predictable and hackneyed.
As dusk approached we leave the tranquility of the Everglades and travel down Route One and Biscayne Boulevard into the heart of Miami’s South Beach section. Now we are confronted with a different type of creature, the party animals of Ocean Drive. The dancers, accompanied by the music of Tiempo Libre, slink through Salsa infused movenent, and leave us with high-energy fun.
The world premiere of Katarzyna Skarpetowska’s Black Flowers was in total contrast to Parsons’ Dawn To Dusk. The dance was set to the music of Polish composer Frédéric Chopin utilizing four of his works; Etude #3 Opus 10, Prelude # 24, Prelude 13 and Etude #10 op.25. Skarpetowska explores her Polish heritage presenting a mystic lamentation and a mourning ritual in which women always appear in a universally sacred trio.
The opening was a somber dramatic work. It featured six dancers, three men in white and three women in black, slowly moving upstage in a pool of sepia toned light with their backs to the audience. The section develops into a series of solo statements performed in a downstage column of light primarily by the women.
The second section is a solo performed by Steve Vaughn. The solo used an extensive amount of floor work, which included rolling, sudden falls and leaps to the floor and knee crawls. These were balanced against explosive leaps, cascading multiple turns and controlled extensions.
A duet performed by Eric Bourne and Jason MacDonald followed. The duet relied on suspension and exchange of weight between the two men to create strong sculptural imagery. The shapes and choreographic subtlety produce a masculine eroticism that thankfully avoided overt sexuality.
The final section conjured images of a Macbethian triumvirate. Core based movement organically extends to the extremities never betraying it’s source or the underlying dramatic intent. Finally the three women fall to there knees consummating their covenant.
Parsons’ Wolfgang set to the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart displayed great choreographic restraint. Here the emphasis was on structure and design, the steps became the means to this end. Parson used symmetry, pedestrian movements, perspective and a keen sense of the music to his full advantage.
It is hard to believe that Parsons’ solo Caught is over thirty years old. This movement tone poem is a study of light and the moving image. The work used a high-speed strobe light that created the optical illusion of suspended movement similar to photographic images. Steven Vaughn danced the work with the required energy and aplomb and received a standing ovation from the audience.
The program closed with the jazzy and playfully energetic In The End. The ensemble, clad in pastel colored tank tops in shades blues and purples, blue jeans and black jazz shoes, performed with joyous abandonment, which in turn showcased their individual virtuosity. The production value throughout the concert was noteworthy but in this work the vivid and deep saturated colors on the cyclorama produce a real “wow” effect. Teal, burnt orange, cobalt, violet, salmon and primrose provided a striking backdrop.
If you haven’t experience Parsons Dance recently this is an excellent opportunity to see a diverse program of audience friendly modern dance works. The performances run through Sunday January 27, with a special family audience program on Saturday at 2pm. For tickets call JoyceCharge at 212-242-0800 tickets can also be purchased at the box office and online at www.joyce.org.
In Photo: 1) The company 2) Steven Vaughn 3) Company 4) Eric Bourne and Jason MacDonald 5) Christina Ilisije, Lauren Garson and Melissa Ullom
Photo Credits: 1) Krista Bonura 2) Andrew Propp 3,4,5) Eric Baniero
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