Boys Keep Swinging:
A Review of The Parsons Dance Company

by Tony Phillips

Like any good dinner party hostess, choreographer David Parsons fills his season with equal parts old friend and intriguing new acquaintance. Many of the new faces appear before intermission. There is a taste of his evening length rock-opera dance Remember Me — a melodramatic duet entitled "Ebben" — the first of many dances in which a shirtless male stands stock still while a predatory female circles.

The preview of this premiere is sandwiched between the eight person dance "Swing Time," which even Mr. Parsons sounded bored describing in a talkback, and a commission for the Lincoln Center tribute to late Beatle George Harrison that starts strong with Zac Hammer in just a pair of jeans and ends with the entire company in a Gap ad-type heap.

But Act II is all dessert. The curtain comes up on Parsons’ Phil Woods meditation called "Fill The Woods With Light." To say too much would spoil its magic, suffice to say this piece vacillates between Bettie Page and Bob Fosse, even featuring a human disco ball.

Things close with "Shining Star," a dance thrown together with almost biblical haste. Parsons made this Earth, Wind and Fire jig in 2004 on his own company in ten days before setting it on the commissioning Alvin Ailey company in two days. Unfortunately, the soulful sounds (not to mention the pimped-out trench coats) hang more authentically on the less white bread company.

The evening’s breath-taking highlight comes between these two dances. "Caught" is a solo Parsons created for himself twenty-five years ago, but here turns over to the ebullient Miguel Quinones. The shirtless dancer (Parsons seems to have picked up Martha Graham’s axiom "dress the women and undress the men" from his mentor and Graham alum Paul Taylor) circles the blacked-out stage as a 1/10,000 of a second stroboscopic light Parsons designed himself fires at regular intervals.

These flashes of light "catch" Quinones mid-leap as he seems to float above the stage in circles. Magic comes easy to Parsons. With no decor and minimal costume, he reduces dance theater to its most elemental unit: light. And Billy Elliot be damned, Parsons flies his dancers without a wire.