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Review: David Parsons

Two stylish, moving premieres: Parsons and company never fail to please.

Review: David Parsons

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Parsons Dance group returns to the Annenberg Center this week. KRISTA BONURA

Two stylish, moving premieres

Posted: Friday, March 1, 2013, 3:01 AM

David Parsons never disappoints. Parsons Dance opened Wednesday at Annenberg Center to a buzzing house of loyal fans. Two local premieres topped the first half, and classic 2003 crowd-pleaser Hand Dance slid in between - a sleight-of-hand piece in which five sets of highlighted hands, their owners shrouded in black, flit about disembodied to a Kenji Bunch composition.

I first reviewed Parsons in 1993 in Scottsdale, Ariz.; this is my seventh of the company. I always check multiple reviews just to make sure I don't repeat myself, and with Parsons that's easy, because he doesn't repeat himself - with the exception of Caught, his 1982 hit seen by millions. It's the strobe-light work where the dancer is constantly caught in the light in midair, walking, stag-leaping, or just standing nonchalantly en l'air, arms crossed. It's a de rigueur work in every concert, and here former Philadelphia dancer Steven Vaughn did the deed with sangfroid.

Round My World (2012) was an airy, warm dance with three couples in powder blue. It concentrated on circles made by the group, or by encircling arms around a partner. Melissa Ullom forms a circle with her body back-bending to hold her ankles while her partner holds her aloft. Elena D'Amario and Vaughn dance the second duet and Eric Bourne and Christina Ilisije the third. The dancers coil and wheel around each other in variations on the meme. By the lovely ending, the group form a hand-holding ring, half of them lying down so the circle formed tilts toward us.

Former Parsons dancer Katarzyna Skarpetowska choreographed A Stray's Lullabye. It had a somber atmosphere; its street clothes, especially Jason Macdonald in suspenders and tank undershirt, suggested, perhaps, the Depression era. D'Amario, in a fawn-colored jumpsuit, dances mournfully in a shadowy shaft of light, almost as if injured. Macdonald's solo was more hopeful, defiant as he nearly shadowboxed with an unseen opponent. Rain and urban traffic sounds opened onto hoarse, Tom Waits-like laments - "hard times come again no more" - performed and arranged by Kenji Bunch. The lighting, by Christopher Chambers (who also designed Caught's lighting), remained gloomy.

Parsons' In the End brought the show to a lighthearted, frolicking close with the cast in jeans and tanks. Dancing to Dave Matthews Band music, the eight in this cast rocked out, with Bourne shirtless in a star-turn solo.

Additional performances: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday. Tickets: $22-$55. www.annenbergcenter.org
 
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About this blog
Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer. She also is a contributing writer for Variety and American Theatre magazine. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of four books about four playwrights (Rabe, McNally, Miller, Albee), and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). Her 'weekend' job as a travel writer provides adventure: dogsledding in the Yukon, ziplining in Belize, walking coast-to-coast across England, and cowboying in the Australian Outback.


Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.


Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.


Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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