Parsons' Pyrotechnics

By Margaret Regan

GRAY MONTAGUE HAS seen "Caught," David Parsons' signature dance piece, no fewer than 800 times.

Review "I never tire of it," says Montague, current executive director of Ballet Arizona and former executive director of Parsons Dance Company. "It gets standing ovations all over the world, from Toledo to Tokyo."

Tsons, sometimes a man or woman in his 10-person company--dances a typically athletic Parsons work, but with a difference. The audience never sees the dancer's feet touch the earth. Strobe lights, says Montague, "create the effect of the dancer hovering over the stage. They catch the dancer only in mid-leap."

The renowned troupe brings its pyrotechnics to the Centennial Hall stage this weekend, for the final entry in a UApresents dance season that has had everybody from Mark Morris to Philadanco teaching Tucsonans about the inexhaustible variety of modern dance. For the full-length Friday evening show, the jazz ensemble Turtle Island String Quartet will provide live music. A shorter Saturday matinee for families will be performed without Turtle Island. But both shows include the mesmerizing "Caught."

Montague says Parsons first choreographed the work back in the early '80s, when he was still a dancer with Paul Taylor, one of modern dance's greats. Parsons had begun composing his own works and performing them in alternative New York venues. Taylor eventually gave the inventive Parsons pieces a showing in the Taylor company's mainstage season at New York's City Center. So when Parsons spun off into his own company in 1988, he already had a rep as both dancer and choreographer.

His choreographic style, not surprisingly, "is influenced by Paul Taylor. It's highly athletic, entertaining and engaging," says Montague, who left Parsons in 1994 to come to Arizona. "It's not in the tradition of cerebral post-modernism...David is one of the best choreographers in his use of humor. That's not an easy thing to do in modern dance."

The company tours nearly year-round. The dancers just finished up a seven-week engagement at the Sydney Opera House in Australia; last weekend, they did two concerts at Scottsdale Center for the Arts. The rigor of all that dancing, Montague says, has yielded "some of the best dancers in the world. They're perfectly rehearsed."

The Friday evening show also includes "Bachiana," "Union," "Rise and Fall" and "Improvisations." On Saturday afternoon, the dancers will move through "Envelope," "Sleep Study," "Instinct" and "Nascimento." TW

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