David Parsons is a dancers choreographer. Watching the company perform his work, one could tell that they, and their bodies, loved this movement. Parsons Dance performed for the first time at The Segerstrom Center on Saturday, November 20, 2021 and were received with multiple curtain calls, and a standing ovation at the end. Following nearly two years of the pandemic, the energy from the dancers onstage ignited the audience and vice versa.

Parsons Dance was founded in 1985 by Artistic Director David Parsons and Tony Award-winning Lighting Designer Howell Binkley who lit four of the six works presented. It was an artistic match that has continued to entertain and inspire millions around the globe for over thirty-six years.

David Parson - photo courtesy of the David Parson Dance Company

David Parson – Photo courtesy of the David Parson Dance Company

Parsons was a principal dancer with the Paul Taylor Dance Company and performed during summers with MOMIX. He was a guest with New York City Ballet and has choreographed several operas and musical theater works on Broadway, West End , London National Theatre, and Tokyo’s Imperial Theatre. His works have been commissioned by numerous dance companies including American Ballet Theatre, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and New York City Ballet. All this experience shone through in the six dynamic and exquisitely choreographed works seen at The Segerstrom Center.

The program opened with Parson’s Nascimento choreographed to lively music by Brazilian singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Milton Nascimento. Beginning with a duet by the incredible dancers Zoe Anderson and Croix Dilenno, Nascimento was a perfect opener to display the amazing talents  of the company, but more importantly, it immediately drew the audience into the action onstage.

The first section of Nascimento was playful, and I could not help but be moved by the way the dancers made physical contact; touching each other in a way that everyone around the world has missed throughout this horrible pandemic. The work’s mood soon shifted with the music and lighting to a quieter sense of being, but Nascimento never lost its humanity.

The cast of Nascimento included Zoey Anderson, Deidre Rogan, Henry Steele, DaMond LeMonte Garner, Croix Dilenno, Rachel Harris, Jerimy Rivera, and Téa Pérez. The original costumes by Santo Loqauasto (recreated by Barbara Erin Delo) had the men dressed in white pants and pastel shirts and the women in beautiful dresses that flowed with the movement, especially enhancing the many pirouettes throughout the work.

Beginning with the rising curtain revealing him in a head stand, Croix Dilenno entertained and flirted with the audience throughout Parsons’ Balance of Power, a work comprised of continuous balances on one leg and sensual isolations of Dilenno’s torso, shoulders and hips that visualized the music by Italian composer Giancarlo De Trizio. Dilenno was not shy about playing the movement to the hilt and the audience loved him for it. The lighting that kept one’s focus center stage was designed by Christopher S. Chambers and Dilenno’s costume was designed by Barbara Drin Delo.

Parsons Dance - Zoe Anderson and DaMond LeMonte Garner - Photo by Travis Magee

Parsons Dance – Zoe Anderson and DaMond LeMonte Garner – Photo by Travis Magee

Kind of Blue was choreographed to the music of Miles Davis, one of American’s most influential and acclaimed Jazz artists. The movement and mood of Binkley’s lighting and the sexy black costumes by Mia McSwain, evoked the social life of a popular jazz nightclub. It appeared that Parsons paid extra attention to the musical notes composed for the saxophone, or maybe it was simply that the sax is my favorite jazz instrument.

The partnering between the three couples, the interaction between the dancers and the continuous entering and exiting provided a sense of couples passing through as the night progressed. I caught a hint of Bob Fosse in the hip movements and enjoyed the casual but genuine interaction between the performers onstage.

Intermission was followed by the premiere of a work-in-progress titled Preview of Past Tense. Here Parsons juxtaposed loose, flowing movement against the more classical music structure provided by Italian Baroque composer Pietro Locatelli. The work returned to a lighter atmosphere witnessed in the opening piece Nascimento but featured stunning duets instead of longer group sections. The two duets that stood out were between Zoe Anderson and Deidre Rogan, and Rachel Harris and DaMond LeMonte Garner. Though vastly different, each duets was intricately designed and performed with a precision that left one in awe of these astonishing dance artists.

The cast included Eric Bourne, Zoey Anderson, Deidre Rogan, Henry Steele, DaMond LeMonte Garner, Croix Dilenno, Rachel Harris, and Téa Pérez. The costumes were designed by Christine Darch and the lighting was by Christopher S. Chambers.

Parsons Dance - featured: Zoey Anderson - Photo by Travis Magee

Parsons Dance – featured: Zoey Anderson – Photo by Travis Magee

Choreographed in 1982, Caught is one of Parsons’ signature works that never grows old. It is a solo, performed on this night by the beautiful Zoe Anderson, that opened with a series of brief movement phrases performed in special pools of light which directed Anderson around the stage. Not long, however, with the aid of strobe lights, Anderson appeared never to touch the ground as she traveled across the stage with over 100 leaps and jumps. In one section she appears to move from upstage to downstage while standing flatfooted in place mid-air. It is, of course, a marriage between dancing and technology, but the results is thoroughly enjoyable.

Parsons Dance - Photo by Lois Greenfield

Parsons Dance – Photo by Lois Greenfield

The program ended with Parsons’ Shining Star, choreographed to the music by Earth, Wind & Fire, Lighting by Howell Binkley, and Costumes by Mia McSwain. In my notes I wrote, modern dance meets disco. It is fun, brilliantly performed, and Parsons revisited a few of his signature movements (seen in this article’s lead photo) that were repeated throughout the opening work. A highlight within Shining Star was the slow dance duet between Anderson and Dilenno, two highly-skilled dancers, each commanding the stage, who appeared to have been born to dance together.

The cast included Zoey Anderson, Deidre Rogan, Henry Steele, DaMond LeMonte Garner, Croix Dilenno, Rachel Harris, Jerimy Rivera, and Téa Pérez.

One can only hope that The Segerstrom Center will bring Parsons Dance back to Segerstrom Hall again very soon. The work is amazing and the dancing spectacular.

To read more about David Parsons and Parsons Dance, please visit their website.

To learn more about The Segerstrom Center for the Arts, please visit their website.

Written by Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle.

Featured image: Parsons Dance – Photo by Mary Mallaney