Review: Parsons Dance at the Joyce

Parsons Dance is at the Joyce through Jan. 27.

Old favorites and two new works pack David Parsons’ dance program at the Joyce. The show opens with Parsons’ pretty, lilting “Wolfgang” (2005), choreographed to Mozart; it’s Paul Taylor Lite, an homage to the  company where Parsons began his career. Next, we get “Caught,” a great 1982 piece that uses strobe lighting to capture a dancer — here the hunky Steven Vaughn — in mid-air. At the end comes “In the End,” a 2005 party performed to recordings by the Dave Matthews Band.

Former company member Katarzyna Skarpe­towska premieres “Black Flowers,” a mysterious mourning dance to music by Chopin. Three women in black dresses suffer, haunted by three luminous young men. Are they dead husbands or sons? Perhaps they are soldiers lost in battle? 

A Parsons premiere, commissioned by the Wolf Trap Foundation as part of its Faces of America series and excerpted for the Joyce season, is “Dawn to Dusk,” an evocation of Southern Florida. Setting dancers against full-stage video projections of wildlife and the built environment, it creates a situation where you ogle the screen and barely notice the actual humans boogying on the floor.

The piece has the dancers immerse themselves in the sunny Everglades wetlands, alongside alligators and an array of gorgeous birds. In front of the screen on the Joyce stage, the same people reproduce many of the same movements — but because Howell Binkley’s lighting favors the video, a lot of their work is in vain.

Final score: birds 10, dancers 3. 


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