Review: Parsons Dance at Tarkington, June 22 

****
click to enlarge Parsons Dance premiered 'Round My World,' seen Friday night at the Tarkington, in January 2012.
  • Parsons Dance premiered 'Round My World,' seen Friday night at the Tarkington, in January 2012.

Yes, the accolades are apt - David Parsons's dancers are strong, focused, exhilarating. But the same has been said of other top-flight companies, so what sets Parsons Dance apart and persuades audiences to fill the seats? Maybe it's accessibility. What some critics deride as "simplicity" might really be O.K., because a simple idea opens up interpretative opportunities for viewers of all ages and levels of sophistication.

Parsons Dance began its mixed repertory program for its two-evening engagement at the Tarkington with Round My World, which premiered in New York City in January 2012. Perfectly entwined with Zoe Keating's curvilinear digitized cello score, six dancers as couples, solos and corps showcase a zillion variations of roundness, sometimes as a slinky walking down a staircase, or as hands wrapping skeins of wool into balls, or as the turnings of Jupiter's 66 moons - you get the point. The piece's 20 minutes pack in amazingly intricate variations of the human body; it's a mesmerizing wonderment of "how do they do that?"

Ditto for the iconic Caught which in 1987 launched Parsons Dance in partnership with lighting designer Howell Binkley. The Apollo-looking Eric Bourne brought charisma to the piece, which matches endless leaps with strobe lighting. Hand Dance (2003) is simplicity made whimsical as five pairs of "disembodied" fingers, palms and fists spatially draw personalities and images from Kenji Bunch's "hoedown" strings score played by the Ahn Trio. Equally, Parsons's choreography captures Bunch's edgy New York's dusk to dawn mood-ranging Swing Shift (2003), which shows four couples clad in shimmery velveteen re-enacting the cheek-to-jowl intricate moves of a mid-20th century sock hop.

Kind of Blue (2001) features a quartet of dancers trying on Miles Davis's sultry jazz in body gyrations growing out of teenage hormones, the piece's subtle complexities evolving as dancers explore their space and define persona. Nascimento (1990), a paean to Milton Nascimento's music, elevates Samba's rhythms with non-stop brightness, brashness and bravado.

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