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Parsons Dance Company Amazes Audience Members at Segerstrom Center for the Arts

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The Parsons Dance Company from New York City gave an outstanding performance at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts as part of their fall dance series on Nov. 20. The co-founder of the company, David Parsons, introduced the show before the eight performers came onstage to astound theater-goers.

“Nascimento” was the first dance of the night, choreographed by Parsons and lit by Howell Binkley, the other co-founder of the company. The lights were warm and intimate, in shades of orange and green that lightened and darkened in a subtle yet effective way. This dance was originally created in 1990, with costumes created by Santo Loquasto. This year, they were recreated by Barbara Edin Delo, who made them more simple and contemporary — easier for the dancers to move around in. 

The dance’s title comes from the composer of the score, Milton Nascimento, whose work sounded familiar while giving off a solemn lamentation during this moving piece. The dancers’ movements were controlled and poised with a clear natural bond between each other, cultivated by the many long rehearsal hours they put into this performance. They leapt easily into each other’s arms and moved perfectly in sync throughout the performance. 

The next piece, “Balance of Power,” was an impressive solo performed by Croix Diienno. He started the piece in a full handstand, remaining perfectly still for the first 30 seconds or so — no average feat. Every movement shift showed strife yet conveyed strength and control. Giancarlo De Trizio’s music was intense in tone, quick-paced and correlated perfectly with every step by Diienno as if his body itself was beatboxing. There was full rhythm pounding in the air and within everyone’s chest, finally ending with a sincere smile and bow from Diienno.

“Kind of Blue” was another group piece with the whole group originally choreographed by Parsons and lit by Binkley as a tribute for Miles Davis’ 75th birthday. The original lighting design was by Burke J. Wilmore, featuring lights which dimmed slowly during the performance. Mia McSwain designed the original costumes and dressed the group in sultry black for this jazzy piece. The entire ambiance on the stage became more blues-ey, highlighted by the music of Miles Davis as his song, “So What,” filled the space. The dancers slunk their bodies and did the “twist” in pairs with low shoulders against the smooth sound of jazz. It was a beautiful homage to the era, reminding the viewers of past beauty while maintaining the exciting energy the rest of the show had promised. Trumpets and cymbals punctuated the striking poses and spins. Even the bows for this piece were stylish and beautiful with the dancers spinning and jumping petit jetés around the stage before they turned around, wrapped their arms around each other, and walked to the back of the stage as the curtain fell on the first act.

The second act started with a preview of “Past Tense,” choreographed by Matthew Neenan and lit by Christopher S. Chambers. The stage was lit in a timeless blue as the group stepped out in even grapevines. Pietro Locatelli provided the music, which was classical and elegant. Costumes by Christine Darch were historical, corset-style for the women and peasant shirts for the men. While the design for the piece was very Victorian, the dance was still contemporary, creating a beautiful juxtaposition of old and new. The dancers moved like clockwork and looked like dolls. This dance was a lovely expression of emotion and exploring what it means to be human, the historical tone conveying the sense that people have always experienced life to its fullest. There was passion in every dancer — from the way they took off running across the stage to when they caught other dancers from a leap and held them in a fond embrace. There were roots of ballet in this piece, made clear by the turns and how the dancers moved their feet in time with the violins and wind instruments. Another clue was the arduous slowness of steps near the end of this dance. As torturous as fast-paced steps are, every dancer knows that the most difficult ones are the agonizingly slow steps that require control and balance from every muscle. Yet, the dancers were able to accomplish these steps gracefully without faltering.

“Caught” was another spectacular solo piece, this one featuring Zoey Anderson. Judy Wirluka dressed the dancer simply in white, shown bright on a stage of black with spotlights following her precise movements. Her pirouettes were so exact they did not seem real. The music was Robert Fripp’s “Let The Power Fall,” which was full of dramatic tones. Parsons choreographed and conceptualized the lighting design, which Binkley finalized. Through the use of strobe lights, Anderson was able to jump around the stage, giving the illusion of flying around the space as each flash of light shone on her from one unbelievable pose to the next. Counted out, over one hundred jumps were a part of the sequence. There was no sound of her landing, yet she must have been constantly leaping again and again, resulting in an amazing effect. Anderson seemed not to touch the ground, and her love of dance was quite clear as she finished the piece with one final leap off the stage. The audience gave her a standing ovation as they applauded and cheered.

The group graced the stage once more in their final dance of the night, “Shining Star.” The audience clapped along to the catchy beats by Earth, Wind & Fire. Parsons choreographed this fun number that had audience members dancing in their seats. The vivacious spirit each performer gave onstage was strong and contagious; with every kick-ball-change and motion, the dancers bounced off of each other and stayed miraculously in sync. As the song shifted to “September,” the group of dancers moved on and off the stage fluidly with as much energy at the end as they had shown in the first dance. They held hands for their bows, and as the lights died down, they could still be seen dancing in the dark. 

Parsons choreographed most of the dances, including the last one. At the post show Q&A, he had a few words to say about his love of dance. 

“The most important thing isn’t where you are, it’s if you’re dancing,” he said.

Binkley designed the lighting for the last piece, and had been nominated for several Tony Awards. He was the recipient of the 2018 Sir Laurence Olivier Award for the lighting design of “Hamilton.” Though Binkley unfortunately passed away this last year, his work lives on in this show and future productions. 

Parsons Dance Company is made up of some truly talented people, as this performance showed. It was a beautiful night filled with passion and liveliness. For more information about Parsons Dance, visit https://www.parsonsdance.org/.

Lucia Arreola is an Entertainment Editor. She can be reached at arreoll1@uci.edu