Dallas — Parsons Dance hit the ground running Saturday night at the Winspear Opera House and pretty much kept up the mile-a-minute pace. The program, presented by TITAS, offered a variety of styles but had in common certain elements that artistic director David Parsons favors: athleticism, ebullience, and boy-next-door (and girl-next-door) wholesomeness.
A lead dancer with Paul Taylor Dance Company, it comes as no surprise where Mr. Parsons’ aesthetic came from, and most clearly in the opening work, Bachiana. Created in 1993 (he formed his company in 1985), Bachiana is Paul Taylor writ large: frog leaps, curved arms, geometrical patterns, surges of movement with bodies at a tilt, a dollop of humor as when four men lie upside down and four women scamper nearby. The last man standing gets a push from one of the women and topples over.
Set to Bach’s “Orchestra Suite No. 1” and “Air on a G String,” the best part came in the duets. In “Air on a G String,” the opening image is of Ian Spring at the far left side of the stage lugging Sarah Braverman on his back, she facing the other direction. Every action is slow and deliberate, and they barely escape each other’s grasp. It ends with Mr. Spring picking up Ms. Braverman and slowly lugging her toward the direction he started from, a man on a long, hard journey.
In Trey McIntyre’s Hymn—set to the harsh sounds of CocoRosie’s music—two men split apart, leap onto the other’s back, and rotate at different angles. Like human magnets, they separate and regain connection.
Train is an apt title for Robert Battle’s loud, clashing train-brakes sounds of Les Tambours du Bronx’s music. It is also apt for the action—explosive, hyperkinetic jerks, walks, rolls to the ground and springs back up, and simply wild movement. The ringleader, Ms. Braverman, explodes in a whirl of churning movement, every limb shooting in all directions like fireworks on the Fourth of July.
Like Mr. Battle (now the artistic director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater), Natalie Lomonte is also a former member of Parsons Dance. Her Within, set to the music of Nina Simone, brought seven dancers in asymmetrical groupings to move in a free-flowing, vaguely African style. Nina Simone’s voice turned out to be a little too powerful for the dance.
What can be said about Parsons’ Caught, where strobe light catches Elena D’Amario as she leaps through space, never touching ground? It’s a crowd pleaser, but enough already. It even shows up regularly on TITAS’s Command Performance.
For sheer exuberance, not much could match Parsons’ Whirlaway (2014), featuring men in suspenders and women in summer frocks. The jazzy music of Allen Toussaint inspires huge leaps, shimmies, slinky embraces, skirts flying, and ends with a delightfully bouncy “Yes We Can-Can.”
» Margaret Putnam has been writing about dance since 1980, with works published by D Magazine, The Dallas Observer, The Dallas Times Herald, The Dallas Morning News, The New York Times, Playbill, Stagebill, Pointe Magazine and Dance Magazine.
» Photos by Sharen Bradford of The Dancing Image. Click on the "View the Slideshow" icon in the floating menu at the bottom left of your screen to see more.