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Parsons Dance Company.

David Parsons's respect for jazz is palpable in the 1994 Step Into My Dream, the most polished and complete of his four New York premieres this season. It is a satisfyingly full and gracious statement of collaboration with jazz pianist Billy Taylor and his trio. Like a smaller recent work, Riff, it uses improvisation in both the dancing and the live music. On a darkened stage, Taylor opens Step Into My Dream at the piano. From under it an arm suddenly appears, spotlighted; all the dancers then emerge. It's a witty suggestion that the dance is born of the music.

What follows is a really good party in the spirit of play that Parsons does so well, with spare but telling references to popular dance idioms. The dancers' improv comes in several solos. They start these with a bow in the direction of whichever musicians they choose to accompany them. Sometimes the bows are incorporated into the dances. The charismatic Parsons has two of these improvised solos, one of them in a hunched-shoulders, large-man-pulling-himself-in motif, which I'm glad to report is less evident in his dancing than it used to be.

The dynamic Robert Battle's solo is a mind-blowing combination of electric boogie, balletic virtuosity, dancing on his back, and tiptoeing. Of the group sections, humorous tableaux accompany Taylor's rap about budding community activism in a tough neighborhood. Two standouts among the strong company of gutsy dancers--the versatile Elizabeth Koeppen and sweet and hunky Christopher Kirby--have a mellow Fred-and-Ginger-for-the-nineties number, a romantic soft-shoe with eloquent torsos added.

Parsons's other three local premieres deal with social commentary, but are not always fully realized. Satire seems a natural for his impish wit and gift for precise movement, and Mood Swing satirizes the manic-depressive quality of modern society, using often hectic Jazz Age clarinet music by Morton Gould. An urban crowd intent on its busyness (with a hint of the two-step) is contrasted with two women's humorously slumping lethargy. Two friends bump into each other and become angry, while the music remains serenely true to their real selves.

Touched By Time contrasts two societies. In the first, the dancers take part in a lyrical group grope, sculptural, slow-motion, inquisitively reaching, but ambiguous in that the people never actually seem to see each other or make permanent contact. Their sensuousness is reflected in the costumes (credited to Donna Karan and Parsons) that leave bare a buttock here, a breast or two there. They exit, leaving one woman behind to encounter a new set of people whose nervous twitching, semaphoring gestures, and complete lack of contact, all interestingly patterned and orchestrated, eventually defeat her and draw her in.

Ring Around the Rosie, set to Richard Peaslee's eerie commissioned score, deals with plague. The piece depicts the irony of embraces that produce death, as with AIDS. While trying for a modern abstracted, cinematic narrative, Parsons becomes too literal at times and not clear enough at others, and the piece runs out of steam. Parsons himself is the enigmatic Wanderer, literally carrying the Pest by bearing Patricia Kenny on his back. The image works very well thanks to Parsons's effortless partnering and watchful intensity.
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Title Annotation:Joyce Theater, New York, New York
Author:Hunt, Marilyn
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Dance Review
Date:Sep 1, 1995
Words:527
Previous Article:Blue Cities.
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