Saturday January 5, 2013 - Parsons Dance are preparing for their upcoming season at The Joyce, and today photographer Brian Krontz and I stopped by at the Gibney Dance Center to watch the Company in rehearsal.
Parsons Dance and I go way back, to the first Summers (1987 and 1988) when David Parsons began presenting his choreographic work at Jacob's Pillow. At that time he was an extremely popular and beloved member of Paul Taylor's Company and there was a lot of buzz at the Festival as we experienced THE ENVELOPE (danced by Hubbard Street, if memory serves), SCRUTINY, and CAUGHT for the first time and had a sense of a major new choreographer emerging. In the ensuing years, David has created a rich and diverse repertoire, built up a faithful and ever-expanding following here in Gotham, and toured internationally as well as all over the USA.
The flip side of the choreographer's coin is finding dancers to bring the works to life and over the years as the Parsons Dance roster has evolved we've seen some remarkable dancers perform David's pieces. The current ensemble is extraordinary and today's rehearsal showed us their power and beauty at close range. It's an exhilarating experience to be in the studio with these fantastic and generous creatures.
Above: Eric Bourne walks on air, rehearsing CAUGHT
When we arrived, all of the dancers (both male and female) were marking (or in some cases, dancing full-out) their way thru the fiendish demands of CAUGHT, David's best-known work. CAUGHT has been danced by both men and women over the years, though of late I've only seen the boys dancing it. It's pretty amazing to see it danced (or even marked) in the light of day: what an arduous workout! Soon Eric Bourne was breezily stepping up the energy level, leading the troupe on a merry chase around the space. The sudden stops in the piece are just as tricky as the 100+ leaps and everything has to be timed precisely.
Brian caught some of the dancers in CAUGHT mode:
Eric Bourne, coached by David
After the whirlwind of CAUGHT, the dancers took only a few moments to hydrate and catch their breath and then they began running WOLFGANG.
Above: Jason Macdonald and Maria Elena D'Amario
I thought I was pretty familiar with all the Parsons rep but WOLFGANG (created in 2005) is new to me. And I loved every second of it; I'll say more about it when I see it costumed and lit at The Joyce but I already think it's one of David's best works. And I can say straight away that few choreographers can handle putting dancers down on the floor like David Parsons does. There's a trend of having dancers sink to the stage in recent years and it can get tiresome as an over-used device. But here it really sparkles and is so musically integrated that it all works superbly.
Since I am always harping about danceworks being too long, I was surprised when David told me he thought WOLFGANG was 'one or two minutes too long.' No way! In fact I found myself wishing there was another movement. Not only is the music pure heaven and the choreography a total delight, but the dancers have so many opportunities to be...beautiful!...and they do it so well.
Above: Melissa Ullom
In a complete change of pace, the dancers (where do they get their stamina from?!) now gave a full-out and thrilling run-thru of IN THE END, set to songs by the Dave Matthews Band. In an interview, David said of this work: "I put it together during an election year, and you could kind of feel people jockeying for power at that time. But then in the end, this community of dancers comes together, which is something we all want to do, right?" It's a vibrant piece, danced with the boundless energy that has become a Parsons Dance trademark. How edifying to watch these dancers going at this piece full-tilt in the midst of an exhausting rehearsal period. They were virtually at performance level, and my heart was racing as they soared to the finish line.
Here's a gallery of Brian Krontz's photos from today. He came up with so many great images that I had a hard time choosing. These are some of my favorites:
Maria Elena D'Amario & Jason Macdonald
Steve Vaughn and Leann Ramsey
Jason Macdonald & Maria Elena D'Amario
Melissa Ullom & Eric Bourne
Maria Elena D'Amario
All photos by Brian Krontz. Click on each image to enlarge.
It's always a treat to visit David Parsons, Elizabeth Koeppen and this super-troupe of dancers. When I started blogging, I never dreamed I'd be privy to these behind-the-scenes episodes. As the dancers came up to give me a good-bye hug, they apologized for being sweaty; I was just hoping some of their energy and talent would rub off.