Parsons Dance looks forward to Park City return
December 16, 2014
Two years ago, Parsons Dance Company wowed Park City with a night of contemporary-dance repertoire at the Eccles Center and left the audience wanting more.
The wait will end on Saturday, Dec. 20, when the Park City Institute brings the company back for another night of artistic physicality to the Eccles Center.
Artistic Director David Parsons is looking forward to the Park City return.
"We’re really excited to be coming back so soon," Parsons said during a telephone interview with The Park Record from his home in New York. "I don’t go out with the dancers on all the tours, but I really like Park City. So I’ll be coming out this year."
Parsons and his dancers will bring a night of works that not only feature his own works, but also a work of a friend, choreographer Trey McIntyre.
The piece is titled "Hymn," performed to the music of CocoRosie.
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"It’s very physical, and I like that," Parsons said. "It’s also a duet that can be done with either men or women."
Park City is familiar with McIntyre because his now defunct company, The Trey McIntyre Project, performed in town last year.
"Trey is someone I danced with years ago in Portland and I’ve known him for years," Parsons said. "Since I don’t only choreograph, but also produce dance and have a good track record in producing other choreographers’ works, I thought it would be great to do one of his works.
"I’m excited to do this and hopefully will do some more of his works in the future," he said. "Trey is someone who deserves to have his work out there."
The night will also feature three other selections, choreographed by Parsons — "Bachiana," "Whirlaway" and "Nascimento."
"’Bachiana" is the first piece we’re doing," Parsons said. "I like to create experimental, conceptual, classical and baroque pieces. So this is in the same vein in the fact that it’s highly structured to the music, which is, of course, classical."
The work is also, like Parsons’ other pieces, physically demanding.
"It’s a real workout again," he said. "And it’s a slight spoof on the world of ballet."
Humor is an element that Parsons likes to put in his pieces.
"After all these years of putting together programs, I love it when you can get the audience to relax, because sometimes when people go see contemporary dance, they can be a little apprehensive.
"Usually danceworks are more serious than fun, and I always like to buck the system," Parsons said. "So our productions will have a light beginning, which lets the audience know they can enjoy themselves and laugh. Then we go from there, because it doesn’t matter where you go after that."
The Park City performance will continue with "Whirlaway," which premiered in New Orleans this past summer.
"The music is by Allen Toussaint and we were lucky enough to do the work live with him and his 11-piece band," Parsons said. "We will not be able to bring his band to Park City, but will have his music with us."
Parsons was taken with Toussaint during the collaboration.
"He’s the real deal and a legend who is greatly respected in the jazz world," Parsons said. "I love it when I can work with a musician like that."
For "Whirlaway," Parsons and his artists took the spirit, color, ideas and culture of New Orleans and put it into a dance.
"Audiences will get the opportunity to experience this American vernacular of ‘get down!’" Parsons said.
The night will also feature the return of Parsons’ signature piece, "Caught," which features a soloist performing more than 100 leaps done in six minutes.
The dancer is repeatedly trapped in mid-motion by strobe lights, to create an illusion of flight.
"We rarely give this work out, but we are lending it to Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre for their City Centre Season this month," Parsons said.
Alvin Ailey’s artistic director, Robert Battle, is a former Parsons dancer.
"He was with me for seven years," Parsons said. "So we’re proud to be able to have that company perform it, too."
Ending the evening will be the festive work, "Nascimento," which was inspired by Milton Nascimento, one of Brazil’s most celebrated contemporary musicians and composers.
"When we were on tour in Rio de Janeiro a many years ago, Milton came back stage and said, ‘I love your work. I want to do a piece for you,’" Parsons said. "I told him I didn’t have any money and he said he would give it to me for free."
Parsons was honored.
"Milton is a legend in Brazil," Parsons said. "He was there during the dictatorship (that ended in 1985) and had to go underground because his songs were the anthem of the student protestors."
After he and Nacimento talked, Parsons and seven of his dancers rented a boat and took a 10-day trip down the Amazon River to absorb the sounds and sights of the area.
"I got back and started working on the piece," Parsons said. "It’s an ode to Brazil. It has the color, the feel, the music, the community and the spirit of that part of the world."
Parsons is happy with the program that will be performed in Park City this weekend.
"As you can tell, my inspiration comes from the music first," Parsons said. "You can see I’m working with Allan Toussaint, Nascimento, Bach, so I’m in good company.
"When I do movement, that’s when I really collaborate with my dancers," he explained. "The object is to get a structure, concept or idea that is viable for me and then find the music, which is my biggest inspiration, and then work with the dancers."
The dancers are the ones who keep the Parsons’ style evolving.
"I ask them to try not to do any movement that we’ve done before," Parsons said. "The problem that I’ve seen in dance over the years is that choreographers don’t take the time to come up with new movement vocabulary. They find something that works and keep repeating themselves.
"So, we take the extra time to find movement that really sees, say, New Orleans, and create a new language," Parsons said. "That’s why I think Parsons is still thriving today. Each piece is like a whole new world."
In addition to the performances, the Parsons dancers will host seminars for high school students before the Saturday-night performance.
One of the main goals of the Park City Institute, which is directed by Teri Orr, is to do outreach programs,
"I love Teri," Parsons said. "She will bring us in early to do workshops with the high schools for both dancers and nondancers. The whole company will teach and this will be how we acclimate to the altitude."
The Park City Institute will present Parsons Dance Company at the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts, 1750 Kearns Blvd., on Saturday, Dec. 20, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $20 and are available by calling 435-655-3114 or visiting EcclesCenter.org.
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