February 3, 2015
The work amassed into Program B of Parsons Dance’s Joyce season flows in a unified sensation that is hard to name – that is, until Elena D’Amario takes the stage in the 1982 landmark, Caught. Parsons is a trickster, yet avoids the mischievous and tasteless connotations of the term. His trickery stems from a curiosity to flush out simple ideas most wouldn’t give the same time of day. As D’Amario teleports through a mid-air manege, Robert Fripp’s back-fed tones seem to pin her to her next destinations. We are reminded of Parsons’ eclectic collaborative habit – he keeps a comprehensive deck of cards.
Guest choreographers outline a flexible movement language that extends the collaborative sensibility. Trey McIntyre’s affectionate Hymn is essentially a petit allegro, the challenge being to make each moment of contact enough, no matter how fleet. Ian Spring and Omar Roman de Jesus catch each other with no extra commentary and surrender to gravity knowing their partner is there. They function in a tender system to assist each other, as gratified to be lifting as when they are suspending in space.
Train gives us a glimpse into Robert Battle’s pre-Ailey process. A Parsons alum, his lineage is clear as he explores the act of bursting from various bonds through what are initially cells of movement strung into complete phrases only by the very end. Applause in the recording of Pankaj Udhas’ percussive marathon goes unedited. Battle chooses to have this loaded sound accompany the dancers’ quieter moments, allowing virtuosity to read as something more necessary than pure flash.
The most notable trick bookended the program. On the opening end, Parsons premiered Whirlaway and closed with 1990’s Nascimento. The premiere felt familiar. Analyzing the structures, it becomes apparent that the pieces are fundamentally the same. Twenty-five years after Nascimento, Parsons recycles his spatial configurations of groups dividing into thresholds to primary foci. Quick passes of brisk movements in separate paths converge in harmonizing patterns. They are equally confusing in expressing concept. Whirlaway shows us a group of ostensibly white people as an example of Allen Toussaint’s vision of peaceful living while Nascimento shows the same group dancing to Brazilian pop as if they were on the Ed Sullivan Show.
Individual qualities still surface. Whirlaway examines social dancing, tapping into the sensation of the partying self. Abby Silva Gavezzoli dances long solo sections while isolated duets execute patterns of grands jetes, highlighting the border between independence and aloofness in social gatherings. Nascimento is more visually inventive. Phrases contrast the South American rhythms. Arm patterns are kaleidoscopic and multiple tempi are danced at once, distilling post-modern devices into pleasant imagery. Both have the ensemble sitting to watch whoever is meant to be watched from behind, despite that person performing for us. Perhaps they are watching their colleagues. Perhaps they are watching us watch as well.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews