The Harriman-Jewell Series completed its 50th anniversary season Saturday with a celebratory performance from Parsons Dance in the Muriel Kauffman Theatre. The crowd-pleasing company made its 12th appearance for the series, exultant in its brand of high energy, vivacious movement.
The program included repertoire staples that always get a favorable response and new works, including the world premiere of “Finding Center,” commissioned by the series.
Artistic director David Parsons choreographed. “It’s about creativity and it’s about creation. That’s all I’m going to say. It’s dance,” he said before the performance.
Kansas City-bred Parsons collaborated with visual artist Rita Blitt, also of KC. Outsized images of Blitt’s multihued “Oval” paintings were projected behind the dancers. But the glowing intensity of the colors served as more than mere backdrop, as the images shifted harmoniously with Thomas Newman’s music.
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The work, an abstract, joyous display of almost constant motion and invention, was visually stunning, sometimes breathtakingly so. Parsons’ tireless dancers articulated his vocabulary of loose, vernacular movement, everyday gestures incorporated into a modern aesthetic.
The apex of this work came in the central duet, a fascinating, sensuous series of partnered lifts, the woman not touching the ground as she was rocked and contoured and swung round and round. One hopes “Finding Centers” finds a place in the troupe’s (and others’) repertoire.
Trey McIntyre’s “Hymn” followed. The playful duet (Sarah Braverman and Elena D’Amario) featured such continuous phrasing that one was caught by surprise whenever they stopped in a pose.
“Train,” choreographed by Robert Battle, had a similar but more aggressive quality; the shifting, tightly gestured movement and incessant drumming created a tension as though pre-emptive to a street fight.
Parsons choreographed the remaining pieces, including the excerpted “Ebben,” a passionate, if somewhat dislocated, work.
In “Caught,” dancer Ian Spring seemed to levitate across the stage in strobe flashes, set to live, improvised looping from cellist Yves Dharamraj (though one of the tracks also captured the audience’s applause), a near-perfect example of Parsons’ theatrical and athletic style.
The finale, “Swing Shift,” was performed with an onstage trio of piano, cello and violin, with music by Kenji Bunch. The jazz-styled lines served both the social dance influences and the fun, almost wild, circling and whirling gestural motifs, ending with the final dancer’s steal-the-scene pose. Before she was pulled into the wings with a little jump, the humor of the moment was punctuated by the pianist throwing his sheet music up over his shoulder.