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The Plain Dealer, Zachary Lewis  |  July 28, 2015

Parsons Dance gets 60th season of DanceCleveland off to energetic start at Cain Park (review)

CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio We should all look so good at 60 as DanceCleveland did Saturday night at Cain Park.

Kicking off its diamond jubilee season a bit earlier than usual with a series of events in honor of National Dance Day, including a pre-concert dance sequence open to the public, the esteemed series evinced all the vitality and joie de vivre of a freshly minted startup.

And yet it also displayed great wisdom and good sense. In selecting Parsons Dance, one of its most popular guests, for the occasion, DanceCleveland virtually guaranteed, and indeed provided, a fun, rewarding experience on its first show at Cain Park in 10 years.

Fun, in fact, was how the night opened and closed. With the new "Whirlaway" and 1990's "Nascimento," two bright, spirited works by Parsons, the eight-member company welcomed and sent home its fans in a festive mood.

A crisp setting of New Orleans-style R&B, "Whirlaway" lived up to its name with flowing, rhythmically precise dance laced with twirls and spins of every sort. Attitude and energy were as abundant as the pastel colors in the costumes.

The backdrop to "Nascimento," meanwhile, was the lively music of Brazilian singer-songwriter Milton Nascimento. No less colorful than its predecessor, this early work delighted the eyes with unison or tightly symmetrical moves and a host of frolicsome, devil-may-care exchanges. A stately exploration of arm gestures in the middle provided thoughtful respite.

Shorter but weightier were two works by well-known choreographers other than Parsons: Trey McIntyre's "Hymn" and "Train" by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater director Robert Battle.

Stunning in its cool intricacy, the former entailed movement for dancers Ian Spring and Omar Roman De Jesus that was breathtakingly close but not exactly intimate. "Train," by contrast, was anything but cool, a wild, ritualistic tirade full of floor work set to fierce, relentless drumming. If that vehicle had a destination, it was ecstasy.

But if there was one piece in which music and dance melded perfectly, it was Parsons' "Kind of Blue." There, loose but highly intentional choreography for four black-clad dancers dovetailed seamlessly with Miles Davis' "So What?," and even conveyed some of the music's improvisational aura. Like DanceCleveland itself, the artists saw free space, and filled it beautifully.

Parsons Dance Audience Participation

in celebration of National Dance Day, the audience at Parsons Dance Saturday at Cain Park prepared and performed a routine in hopes of being televised on "So You Think You Can Dance."


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