Swept up in a split second

Parsons Dance returns to thrill and delight audiences in Herzliya and Jerusalem.

December 10, 2010 15:19
3 minute read.
Parsons Dance company.

parsons dance_521. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Our days are made up of big events and tiny moments, some important, others less so. Often, the small slices of time or instances can define our mood. In the performing arts, the same holds true. In the midst of a wild, whirling stream of movements or a giant monologue, one glance or gesture can capture our hearts.

For David Parsons, dance is all about these moments. Now in its 26th season, Parsons Dance is a force to be reckoned with on the international dance scene. The company will make a return visit to Israel this week for four performances at the Herzliya Performing Arts Center and one at the Jerusalem Theater.Although his company of 11 dancers is based in New York City, Parsons spends much of his time traveling around the globe to set his pieces. He has created more than 70 works for Parsons Dance and has choreographed for international troupes such as Hubbard Street Dance of Chicago and our own Batsheva Dance Company.

A quarter of a century of work was ignited by a split second, which convinced Parsons that dance was his calling, he explains. “I was raised in Kansas City. My first piece had a trampoline on stage. At the end of the work, I had the performer reach up and grab a pipe that ran above the trampoline. As he pulled up his legs, I had them close the curtain,” he recounts in a recent interview with The Jerusalem Post. “It was so wonderful to see the audience’s reaction. Those moments can be addictive.”

Tricks like that one are staples in Parsons’s repertoire. In Caught, which will be performed in a mixed bill Parsons prepared for this tour, a strobe light illuminates the stage in shocking bursts. Timed perfectly with the flashing beam, one dancer leaps around the stage seeming never to land, creating the illusion of flight.

Joining Caught in the program are five other works from the company’s repertoire: Wolfgang; Swing Shift; In the End; Kind of Blue; and Brothers. Each piece was made in a different setting to very different music. “The range I’m dealing with may seem like a mixed bag,” says Parsons. “It’s a journey, and it really works well for my company.”

His diversity and dynamic programs seem to be major factors in keeping audiences hooked on Parsons Dance. “It’s a new era for dance. You have people doing amazing things like in Cirque du Soleil. If we want to survive, it has to be exciting,” says the choreographer.

Music is an integral element in any Parsons creation. For example, Brothers is a duet created in 1982 to music by Stravinsky. Originally, Parsons performed the piece with collaborator Daniel Ezralow, who toured Israel with his own ensemble two years ago. The piece has been passed on to two of Parsons’s deft dancers but retains the intimacy and intensity of familial closeness that Ezralow and Parsons embodied.

In the End is one of 20 works in Parsons’s repertoire, with an original score by Dave Matthews. Other artists that have put their musical fingerprint on the company are Michael Gordon and Brazilian musician Milton Nascimento.

Aside from the joy Parsons derives from seeing audiences respond to his work, he is passionate about extending a hand to less established peers. One of the many young choreographers who received his encouragement is Robert Battle, newly named artistic director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Years ago, Parsons recognized Battle’s flair for composition while Battle was dancing in his company. This year, he has chosen two talented emerging artists to promote back home.

“I get a real kick out of letting people do their thing,” says Parsons.

Parsons Dance will perform at the Herzliya Performing Arts Center from December 15 to 18 and at the Jerusalem Theater on December 19. For tickets and information, visit www.parsonsdance.org.

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