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Parsons Dance strives to make connections through movement

Parsons Dance connects with its audiences through movements that showcase the technicality of everyday activities. The company will perform Saturday at the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.
Photo by Lois Greenfield

Parsons Dance Saturday, March 30, 7:30 p.m. The Eccles Center for the Performing Arts, 1750 Kearns Blvd. $29 435-655-3114 parkcityintstitute.org

For the past 34 years, choreographer David Parsons made his audiences laugh and cry with his eponymous dance company.

The main reason New York City-based Parsons Dance has been able to do that is because of his love of life.

“I’m a choreographer who likes to connect with people,” said Parsons, a former member of the world-renowned Paul Taylor Dance. “One of the things I learned from Paul Taylor, who passed away this past year, is that humanity is huge. There is so much to do, and I like to look at dance in different ways.”

Parsons Dance aims to show why audiences are drawn to its productions when it performs Saturday at the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.

Everything natural comes in circles and cycles on this planet…” David Parsons, Parsons Dance founder

Parsons said his dancers are looking forward to the Park City Institute-produced show.

“Park City is incredibly beautiful,” he said. “We always get a kick out of coming to Park City.”

This year, the company brings a different Utah connection to Park City.

In February,Zoey Anderson, a Parsons dancer who trained with Center Stage in Orem, won the Clive Barnes Award for Dance, which recognizes young professionals for their work in theater and dance.

To celebrate, Anderson will perform “Caught,” one of Parson’s early works. He choreographed it in 1982 as a collaboration with hip-hop dance pioneers Mr. Wiggles and the Rock Steady Crew in New York.

“No one at that time had seen that before,” Parsons said. “Now, the piece is timeless. You can do it 50 years from now and it will still wow people. And it’s great to see a women dancing this piece, because it was originally made on myself.”

Before Anderson performs the work, she will also teach a dance class at the Peggy Bergmann Ballet West Academy, according to Parsons.

“We’re really proud of her, and to think she’s one of Utah’s own,” Parsons said.

Saturday night’s performance will also feature five other selections – “Eight Women,” “Microburst,” “Whirlaway.” “Round My World” and “Hand Dance.”

All, with the exception of “Eight Women,” which was choreographed by Trey McIntyre, were created by Parsons.

Parsons Dance commissioned McIntyre to create the piece for the 2018-19 season.

“Trey and I go back decades, and we have performed together,” Parsons said. “I always have liked his work. His style is reminiscent of mine, and it’s very into the floor and contemporary. So the dancers can do it well.”

“Eight Women” is set to the music of Aretha Franklin.

“It’s an ode to her, the Queen of Soul,” Parsons said. “Aretha is someone, as we all know, who was very inspirational in her life. She transcended so much, and Trey wanted to show the power of women. So this is a wonderful tribute to her.”

“Microburst,” which Parsons created last year, is set to an original tabla score by Avirodh Sharma.

“This was a departure for me, movement-wise,” Parsons said. “I told the dancers, who are in these black, fringey costumes, to not do a move they’ve done before in Parsons.”

Coming up with new moves took a while for the piece to come together, he said.

“But that’s how you push yourself as a choreographer,” Parsons said. “You change up the way you make up a dance, because dance has a problem. It can become very monotonous.”

Revisiting “Whirlaway,” which made its premiere in 2014, was bittersweet, Parsons said.

It was originally commissioned by the New Orleans Ballet Association, and Parsons got to work with Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and National Medal of Arts recipient Alan Toussaint on the project.

“We were lucky to collaborate with Alan, because he passed away a year after we premiered the piece,” Parsons said. “‘Whirlaway’ is a tribute to New Orleans. It has the sights, smells, tastes of people just being able to party down to great music.”

Parsons enjoys working on commissioned pieces because he can focus on creativity, rather than how much it’ll will cost.

“It’s very expensive to make and produce dances, and, in this case, the New Orleans Ballet Association took the financial burden off of us,” he said.

Parsons also enjoyed working with Toussaint.

“I remember they asked us who we wanted to work with and I said, ‘Alan Toussaint,’” he recalled. “The whole scene was wonderful,” Parsons said. “We’re grateful the piece has legs, because we’ll have it in our rep for years.”

Saturday’s performance will open with 2012’s “Round My World.”

“I like opening the evening with this work because it’s highly technical and has a classic look to it,” Parsons said.

The piece is about circles and cycles, according to Parsons.

“Everything natural comes in circles and cycles on this planet,” he said. “There is a ritualistic sense to it, and the music is gorgeous.”

The score is a compilation of works by cellist Zoe Keating.

“It’s solo cello, but looped,” Parsons said.

Parson’s 2003 work “Hand Dance” is one of Parsons’ favorite pieces, and it’s one of his more whimsical works, according to the choreographer.

It is performed by five dancers whose 10 hands are strategically illuminated.

The idea of connection led to “Hand Dance,” he said.

“This is a piece that any person can do because they have hands,” Parsons said. “It’s all about connection.”

Parsons enjoys finding connections with his audience through works inspired by everyday activities, he said.

Back in 1987, he created a piece called “Sleep Study” that was inspired by the movements and stages of sleep.

“The audience connected with it because every animal sleeps,” he said.

All the works Parsons Dance will perform Saturday will feature lighting design by the company’s co-founder, Howell Binkley, who won a Tony Award in 2016 for his work on “Hamilton.”

“Howell and I worked with Paul Taylor together, and we’re like brothers,” he said. “Light is another one of my muses. Light is the fastest thing in the universe and keeps us alive.”


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