From Mozart to Dave Matthews, the Florida Everglades to the Joyce Theater, David Parsons, artistic director and co-founder of Parsons Dance, stated that his goal for Wednesday evening’s program was to create variety, to make sure it was all different.

Dawn to Dusk © Eric Bandiero
Dawn to Dusk
© Eric Bandiero

The opening piece, Wolfgang surprised long-time fans of the company with classical music and traditional ballet movement. David Parsons' choreography to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Symphony No. 25 in G minor” was first created on the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet. Wolfgang’s phrasing and style are well suited for a ballet company, but Parsons' dancers attack the steps giving the whole piece a thrilling and modern energy. The grand lifts and pas de deux inspired partnering grows more wild as Wolfgang progresses. In one section the three pairs share the stage, stark lighting dividing the stage into thirds with each duo in their own column of light. During a crescendo the women fly from the lit space into the darkness and their partners waiting arms. Parsons and lighting designer and co-founder Howell Binkley work so precisely together that each woman is caught in mid-air for a split second before being whisked out of sight while the man supporting her remains invisible to the audience.

This season also marks the world premiere of a new work by former company member Katarzyna Skarpetowska. Black Flowers, to music by Frederick Chopin, was a natural progression from the classicism of Wolfgang. Expressive and dramatic, the dancers swelled with the melody opening their chests and back in high release. The company proved their athleticism again, this time springing through powerful, graceful floor work and more grounded partnering. Black Flowers’ed with a stunning final image: the three women kneeling in a line as their rigid arms and fists slowly soften.

Dawn to Dusk, excerpted for this program, was originally choreographed as a full length work. It was also part of the “Face of America” series commissioned by the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts as a unique way to highlight America’s lesser-known national parks. Gorgeous footage of Florida’s Everglades provides the backdrop for Dawn to Dusk. An alligator glides through the water spanning the length of the stage while a line of dancers mimic his lithe body. At times the dancers on stage mirror themselves in the footage, other times they blend into the swamp life, dancing in waist high (‘gator-infested) water. They blur the line between man and nature in the most beautiful way.

At this point it’s clear that no two pieces from this program are alike. It’s as though Parsons instructed his company to hit a reset button and reinvent themselves during the quick-changes between each dance. Caught fits into this program of outliers perfectly. Steve Vaughn gave a tremendous performance as he was caught mid-leap, mid-stride, and in every levitating shape imaginable. It’s hard not to wonder about Parsons' mental state when he was choreographing Caught. The painstaking work required to synch choreography, music, and strobe lighting to achieve this concept would drive a lesser man, and lighting designer, over the edge.

In the End closed the program on a cheerful note with contemporary music by the Dave Matthews Band. Throwing their arms overhead and beaming bright smiles at one another, it feels like the dancers are celebrating a successful night. Parsons keeps the tone upbeat for the duration of In the End, but after such an eclectic evening one final challenge would have been welcome. While the dancers’ leaps were still soaring after an exhausting program, it lacked the risk and drama that made the earlier pieces so compelling to watch.

As for delivering variety? Mission accomplished. It’s inspiring to see an artist welcome innovation and nurture new talent. Parsons Dance is sure to entertain old fans and win many new ones at the Joyce this season.

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