Interview: David Parsons, Parsons Dance

Parsons Dance, based in New York City, was founded in 1987 by David Parsons and lighting designer, Howell Binkley.

This company has consistently toured around the world, has a repertory of over 70 works, and has a strong commitment to arts outreach and education. I had the privilege to speak with David Parsons about his experience in dance, his company, and the full-length piece, Remember Me, which the company will perform at the Sandler Centeron Thursday, October 27th.

David Parsons grew up in Kansas City, and originally spent his spare time training in trampoline, gymnastics, and wrestling. One year, however, he went to a summer school that had dance as part of its program; the Missouri Dance Theatre was participating with the school, and the company made an impression on David.

“I could see that people around me had this technique and I wanted it. That was really the impetus. I wanted to be able to turn and do all the things they were doing.”

Soon after, David began dancing with the Missouri Dance Theatre, and then at age 17, he moved to New York City on a scholarship with Alvin Ailey. He then joined the Paul Taylor Dance Company. “I was touring Russia at the age of 18,” he said. David was a lead dancer with the Paul Taylor Dance Company for eight years.

When asked what motivated him to form his own company, he told me, “I was already choreographing after two years [with Paul Taylor Dance Company], and people kept asking me to do commissions. I commissioned with ABT [American Ballet Theatre], with [Mikhail] Baryshnikov, with National Ballet of Canada… a lot of different people started saying, ‘Where’s your company?’”

After putting on productions in New York for a few years, and continually creating commissions, he “went for it.” Parsons Dance has now been performing and touring for twenty-four years.

The show they will be bringing to Virginia Beach is the company’s first full-length piece. A collaboration with East Village Opera Company, Remember Me is described on the company’s website as a rock-dance opera. The inspiration for the piece came from the music itself.

“My agent said that I should go see the East Village Opera Company. I saw them … and it was something that really begged to be choreographed,” he said. “You’ve got Puccini, and Mozart, and Verdi. It’s all the greats … It’s rearranged with rock and roll and classical instrumentation.”

Remember Me is a compilation of songs and dance intertwined in a story. “[The story] is very precise; it’s very clear,” David said. “It’s a love triangle. It’s very opera oriented. It’s highly emotional, and very physical.” This dance piece features singers from EVOC, lighting design by Tony award winning Howell Binkley, and 3-D projections by Jason Thompson. “All of those elements really came together to make a cohesive whole… you’re lucky when all of those different elements complement each other, and don’t overwhelm. We really got a good mix.”

The show at the Sandler will also include Caught, a celebrated solo choreographed by David Parsons almost 30 years ago. A strobe light and other dramatic lighting accent the movements, which create stunning visual effects. David described it as “the appetizer” for the program.

With Caught and Remember Me on the menu, the performance on the 27th is going to be a spectacular meal of dance.

***

“You do have to follow your passion. If you’re going to go for it, dive all the way in.”

-David Parsons

This article was originally published on AltDaily in October of 2011.

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