Review: Parsons last but not least in PS/21 season

Parsons Dance’s annual run at PS/21 always marks the sobering end to the summer dance season.

Parsons Dance’s annual run at PS/21 always marks the sobering end to the summer dance season. Though Parsons is last on the three-month schedule of wonderful events, it is not the least — thanks mainly to the inspiring abilities and artistry of the Parsons ensemble.

As in the past six annual visits, Parsons Dance gives it all in a program that features two new works as well as some audience favorites. And, as in years past, the company, led by Artistic Director David Parsons, delights its faithful followers by wowing them with its trademark energy and physical beauty. It all rises to a gratifying evening of dance.

Of course, over the years, Parsons has endured much prodding — criticized for lacking depth. In the art world, Parsons’ wide-open accessibility has been dubbed “not arty enough.” But frankly, it’s refreshing to see a company that pours its heart and soul into music and steps. These dancers do it so well.

Moreover, Parsons continues to stretch himself thematically — simply in “Round My World” and more politically in “A Stray’s Lullaby.”

“Round My World” opens the evening of six works with a whirlpool of activity. Here, Parsons dancers swirl and swirl. Circles appear everywhere: as they run together holding hands, embrace each other with arms, legs or full body wraps or just in the shape of their port de bras — rounded limbs with their fingers tips touching.

The endlessly moving arc hypnotizes as the music of cellist/composer Zoe Keating rises and falls, propelling the dancers’ boundless and ingenious revolutions. The work ends with a lovely moving tableau — three women held aloft on their sides by three men as one turning vortex of mesmerizing symmetry.

“A Stray’s Lullaby,” to songs arranged and performed by Kenji Bunch, depicts the downtrodden desperately seeking an avenue out of misery. Jason MacDonald distinguishes himself as the pugnacious and disturbed fellow, slapping himself in the head trying to shake off his insanity. As he races to the edge of the stage, a single light from below making eerie shadows on his face furthers the feeling of anguish.

Elena D’Amario and Ian Spring expand on the sorrow in a duet that is both needy and scrappy. Parsons syncopates the movement, ratcheting up the sense of agony. The piece ends as it begins, with a quartet looking confused as the sounds of city traffic swooshes and blares. “A Stray’s Lullaby” is a disturbing portrait of today’s difficult times.

The program is rounded out by a wiggly and playful duet from “Step Into My Dreams” with Eric Bourne and Melissa Ullom; “Kind of Blue,” a delightfully jazzy ensemble piece to Miles Davis’ “So What”; and “Swing Shift,” a moody and cleverly composed crowd pleaser. In this latter work, Abby Silva Gavezzoli stands out as the afflicted, gyrating at the rim of the stage.

Of course, like every Parsons program, “Caught” inspires cheers. Bourne dances the tour-de-force solo, almost as well as the man who originated the role — David Parsons. Bourne, as he soars through the air, seemingly never touching the ground, sports a frisky side that absolutely charms.

Needless to say, PS/21 saves the best for last, leaving its audience eager for next summer.

Categories: Entertainment

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