the New York manufacturer of fine dance apparel
for women and girls. Click here to
see a sample of our products and a list of web sites for purchasing.
With Body Wrappers it's always performance
at its best.
Go back to Flash Reviews
Flash Review 2, 11-13:
The Quite Bearable Lightness of Being Parsons
By Susan Yung
Copyright 2000 Susan Yung
Poor David Parsons; he's
damned if he does, and damned if he doesn't. He and Robert Battle
make likeable -- even loveable -- dances (seen Saturday at the New
Victory Theater) for the Parsons Dance Company that can please the
most jaded dance viewer but are simultaneously accused of choreographing
for the lowest common denominator. The company signs on through
November 26 as part of The New Victory's "Step Lively" program,
geared toward a young audience, which can at once be viewed as a
move to entertain and educate young people about dance, but also
as a sly marketing tactic to reach a whole new demographic, and
hopefully retain them as they age. Not unlike tobacco or soft drink
marketing, from the most cynical purview.
Then again, what's wrong
with being addicted to something so pleasurable and life-affirming
as this company's performances? And why do I perpetually ask myself
this after seeing the company perform? Is it simply because the
works presented don't threaten to topple existing dance paradigms,
either conceptually or technique-wise? Why the tendency to castigate
entertainment and laud the sometimes unbearably tedious, but iconoclastic
work of others? Surely there is enough room in the heart's caverns
to embrace both, possibly even a physical necessity. Even with so
much justified yak flying about the impoverishment of culture in
this country due to popular (and thus government mandated) indifference
-- even hostility -- toward arts funding, politically and economically
we are in a very comfortable place, even with no president-elect.
So we yearn for challenges in other milieus, such as culture, leaving
popular forms a bit by the intellectual wayside. No war from which
we need distraction.
The program at the New
Victory was indeed filled with choreographic pleasantries to live
music performed by a chamber group from New Haven, the Elm City
Ensemble. An enjoyable 75 minutes, the evening was peppered with
remarks by associate artistic director Jaime Martinez, who aimed
to provide some context for the very young audience. Four pieces
by Battle showed that he has definitively earned co-billing with
Parsons as company choreographer. Battle used slapstick humor to
riff on a goofy sixties mating ritual between Martinez and Elizabeth
Koeppen ("Two"), and satirized the canon of modern dance history
in "Strange Humors," in which a male duo (Henry Jackson and George
Smallwood) mow down Horton, Dunham, even Taylor, reducing the iconic
contraction to hysterical convulsions. I fear most of the dance
jokes flew over the little heads in the audience, or I hope they
"Bitter Jig," an excerpt
from "Mood Indigo," seemed just that, a part of a larger whole.
Martinez and Katarzyna Skarpetowska bared their fangs and claws
in a frenetic confrontation revealing the complexities of a relationship,
to a strident score by company composer John Mackey. The most satisfying
work on the program was Battle's "Rush Hour," an ensemble piece
to Mackey's percussion-heavy music. The dancers flung themselves
in half, lurching forward and back; slit the air with windmilling
arms, landing in a back attitude position; and evoked the passage
of time with arms imitating the hands of a clock, or by eating up
quarter-turns with fourth position echappes.
Parsons's world premiere,
"Beach," was performed in bathing suits by a quartet; two women
lay onstage, basking in the hot lights and turning themselves occasionally.
While the implication of frivolity was made, the stage was too small
to let this piece breathe. Did limited space force Parsons to make
fussy, baroque movements in order to make up for grandeur or lushness?
The other three works
by Parsons dated from the '80s. "Three Courtesies," to Bach, used
the seeming arbitrariness of manners to upend social behavior. This,
the most Taylor-esque of the evening's program, showed technical
boldness with a funny bone. "Caught" (1982), the company's "signature"
work in which the dancer seems to fly and walk on air, was performed
by Koeppen. It dazzled the audience even though its illusion secret
was revealed by Martinez in preceding remarks. Finally, "The Envelope,"
from 1986, showed how Parsons can successfully fuse a simple dramatic
premise -- in this case, a rebellious envelope that refuses to be
discarded - in combination with terrific lighting (all by Howell
Binkley); wonderful all-black, unisex, hooded costumes by Judy Wirkula;
and athletic movement with an eye for the photo op. Still, this
program exposed the weakness of Parsons's recent choreographic efforts
in contrast to his work from the '80s, and also in comparison to
Battle's laudable efforts. No doubt Parsons is a busy man, but is
his own artistic creativity suffering at the hands of his company's
enormous popularity and world-wide exposure? Are audiences in unprecedented
quantity worth such a sacrifice? At least Robert Battle is receiving
a wonderful opportunity to flourish. Let's ask him.
Parsons Dance Company
continues at the New Victory through November 26. For more information,
please visit the
New Victory web site.
back to Flash Reviews