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Review 2, 10-7: On a Clear Night
Parsons Christens Skirball (with a Little Help from Some Friends)
By Susan Yung
Copyright 2003 Susan Yung
NEW YORK -- New York
University's Skirball Center for the Performing Arts opened Thursday,
celebrating with a swell-filled house and a program by Parsons Dance
Company featuring sparkly guest artists Jenifer Ringer and Angel
Corella. Kevin Roche, John Dinkeloo & Associates designed the 850-seat
theater, to be used by NYU as well as for music, dance, and theater
performances open to the public. L. Jay Oliva, executive producer
of the Skirball Center (as well as president emeritus of NYU), in
opening remarks noted that "theaters are like religious places,"
and so began an evening filled with pleasant offerings to the culture
NYU's real estate holdings
seem to increase all the time, in other parts of Manhattan as well
as around its native Village area. (Its latest brush with neighborhood
sensibilities, ousting The Bottom Line as a tenant, has provoked
the nastiest publicity yet.) The Skirball Center lets the university
share this prime location (Laguardia Place at Washington Square
South) with the public for the price of a ticket, as the center
can be rented for bookings in addition to the university's institutional
use. However, the stage is on the shallow side for any dance company
larger than the eight which were the most Parsons had onstage at
one time, making the house's capacity fairly ambitious financially
for small to mid-sized companies. The architects added details to
impart a rich feel: two enormous spiraling, gilded columns flank
(or should I say outflank) the proscenium; the wall panelling is
elaborately carved wood; and the seats are opera house red. The
orchestra section sightlines are all good as the house is also shallow,
and the upward rake begins not far from the apron.
Ringer, a principal
with New York City Ballet, performed with David Parsons in the 1999
piece "On a Clear Night," set to music by Ennio Morricone. Ringer
wore pointe shoes, while Parsons wore street shoes rather than jazz
shoes. This was fitting, as Parsons in recent years has spent a
great deal of time pounding the streets, building his company as
a viable enterprise, rather than on stage, where he made his name
as a dazzling Paul Taylor dancer before forming his own company
in 1987. Parsons's reductive ballet sequences posed no great technical
challenges for Ringer or himself, but allowed him to demonstrate
a protective tenderness toward her. Seeing Ringer in such an intimate
setting was a pleasure, and watching Parsons perform once again
reminded me of his powerful stage presence.
Corella starred in "Caught,"
Parsons's signature solo in which the dancer appears to be flying
through the use of a strobe light. Not surprisingly, Parsons added
some multiple pirouettes to the beginning sequence for whirling
dervish Corella, and further highlighted the American Ballet Theatre
principal's considerable physical skills by adding a series of jumps
with his leg orbiting near his ear. Corella could have used more
rehearsal to sharpen the timing of the strobe as he was not always
at his zenith when the bulb flashed. But again, it was interesting
to see such a magnetic and skilled dancer stretch his boundaries
a bit more as he has in recent years with collaborations with Parsons
and Mark Morris.
The program featured
additional "best of" highlights from the Parsons repertory. The
company crisply performed "The Envelope," a witty piece about a
persistent letter; Parsons sprinkled the virtuosic modern movement
with memorable visual one-liners. "On a Clear Night" ended with
Ringer nestled downstage for a nap that lasted through "Sleep Study,"
an amusing, rhythmic enchainement of sleeping poses. "Nascimento"
was titled in a nod to Milton Nascimento, who created the score
as a gift to the company after seeing it perform. Despite a dated
feel and a sense of forced gaiety, the work struck an appropriately
celebratory tone for an evening filled with promise, if few surprises.
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