Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 28, 2022

Review: Mahaiwe Arts Center, "Parsons Dance"

Mahaiwe Arts Center, Great Barrington, MA
July 18, 2022
by Shera Cohen

A preface to this review is in order. I do not dance; never have. I don't know the dance jargon except what I have heard over the years. Yet, I can see talent, exuberance, and the comradery called for in the ensemble pieces by the Parsons Dancers. Even in the darker pieces, Parsons troupe is, in my opinion, the most accessible modern dance form in this country.

Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center has hosted Parsons for two performances only for several years. They fill the house of this elegant large venue, and the instant standing ovations received are never obligatory. 

Artistic Director/Choreographer David Parsons founded the group of contemporary dancers in 1985. In the past 30+ years, Parsons, et al have performed throughout the world, winning just about every dance award given. Coupled with the skills of the dancers, one can't help separating the movement onstage with the exquisitely timed lighting. The program book states that Tony Award-winning lighting designer Howell Brinkley co-founded Parsons. Often an ancillary phrase or line about the mechanics of performances are included in our In the Spotlight reviews. However, I have to single out the extraordinary work of Brinkley's lighting. 

While some of the dance sections were from Parsons' older repertoire, two were recently choreographed. Act I included "Kind of Blue," a jazzy salute to Miles Davis; and "Nascimento" which delighted me and everyone else. Between these full cast pieces was "Balance of Power," an eery solo work danced by one man whose body rippled in robot-like positions, enough to say to oneself, "How did he do that?"

Act II presented the humorous "The Envelope" which was handed by one dancer to another, yet never touching the ground. The choreography was impeccably precise. "The Road" with music by Cat Stevens, was light with country-western steps and kicks. Again, as in Act I, the middle performance, "Caught," showed the hand-in-hand balance of a single female dancer's talent with that of the lighting designer. 

I would have suggested a program note warning about strobe lighting, as lengthy parts were created by stacatto-like images, so much so that I closed my eyes through the entire segments. However, my companion told me that when dance met lights, the movement seemed to life the dancer off and onto the stage in mid-air.