The Kansas City Ballet will conclude its season with three contemporary ballets, including Twyla Tharp’s “In the Upper Room,” set to music by Philip Glass, William Forsythe’s “In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated,” and a newly commissioned work from David Parsons, “A Play for Love.”
You’ll have six opportunities to catch the program beginning May 10.
Parsons, who was born and raised in Kansas City, is now considered of one of America’s premier choreographers, but he started out as a gymnast.
“I was raised in Kansas City, and at the age of 17, I got on a train with 70 dollars in my pocket and went to New York City,” Parsons said. “I was a gymnast, a trampolinist, and I went into dance to help me with my gymnastics, but I fell in love with dance.”
And dance fell in love with Parsons. It wasn’t long after arriving in New York in 1977 that Parsons became a member of the acclaimed Paul Taylor Dance Company, with whom he would dance for 10 years.
“Dance can be very profound,” Parsons said. “My first professional gig was in Riga, Latvia, the hometown of Mikhail Baryshnikov, who I would later dance with in his modern dance company. Baryshnikov even commissioned a work from me for the American Ballet Theater.”
Parsons eventually founded Parsons Dance, a company marked by its athletic choreography. Richard Harriman was an early champion of Parsons Dance and the company has become a staple on the Harriman-Jewell Series.
An almost karmic configuration of elements is coming together for Parson’s Kansas City Ballet commission. When Parsons was in his late 20s, he was approached by the Paris Opera to create a work for a program that included pieces by Tharp and Forsythe.
“The Paris Opera asked if they could do an evening of Twyla Tharp, William Forsythe, Jerome Robbins and David Parsons,” Parsons said. “Of course, I was flabbergasted and honored. They wanted a piece I did to Rossini called ‘The Envelope,’ which was a comedy. So here we are, many decades later, and it will be Twyla Tharp, William Forsythe and David Parsons doing another comedy.”
The plot for “A Play for Love” is a Shakespearean mashup that combines characters and story elements from various plays like “The Taming of the Shrew,” “The Merchant of Venice” and “The Tempest.”
The eclectic score includes everyone from Rossini and Bach to Rachmaninoff and Puccini. The lighting is by Parsons’ best friend, Hal Binkley, who won his third Tony Award for a little show called “Hamilton.”
“The costumes are extravagant,” Parsons said. “The costumes were an expensive endeavor, but they’re really going to make this piece go over the top. There are women with pink whips beating up suitors, pants get dropped, there are accordions, there are fields of flowers that appear out of nowhere.”
But why create a comedy? Isn’t ballet a serious endeavor?
“I was a dancer in Paul Taylor’s company for nearly a decade, and Paul loved variety,” Parsons said. “He was my mentor, so I really understood that dance is a wide-ranging palette for me, and comedy is one of the things that is most difficult. So I wanted to challenge myself again these years later.
“And, to tell you the truth, things have not been so light-hearted on the planet these days. So I thought it might be good to let humans take a breath.”
7:30 p.m. May 10, 11, 17 and 18 and 2 p.m. May 12 and 19. $34-$114. Muriel Kauffman Theatre, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. www.kcballet.org
Itzhak Perlman made his first appearance on the Harriman-Jewell Series in 1971 when he was only 26 years old. On May 11, he’ll give his 12th concert in the series, and it will be very special indeed.
Perlman will not only play his fiddle, but will also share stories and memories. The production was designed by the Peabody Award-winning designer Elliott Forrest, an announcer on Kansas City’s classical radio station KXTR in the early 1980s. The concert is sold out, but you can call the Harriman-Jewell Series to be put on a wait list.
7 p.m. May 11. Helzberg Hall, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Sold out. Call 816-415-5025 to be added to a wait list for tickets.
Hidden Treasures: The Travels of Marco Polo
The Grammy Award-winning Kansas City Chorale conducted by Charles Bruffy will present “Hidden Treasures: The Travels of Marco Polo” in two performances — one at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on May 5 and the other at Our Lady of Sorrows on May 7.
The centerpiece of the program is a Mass that was last performed in the Sistine Chapel 500 years ago. The “Missa ad te levavi” by Bartolome de Escobedo was only recently rediscovered. It should be a perfect fit for the 24-voice Kansas City Chorale because the Sistine Chapel choir also has 24 singers.
To complete the Marco Polo theme, the program will include Chinese Folk Songs by Chen Yi.
2 p.m. May 5 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, 416 W. 12th and 7:30 p.m. May 7 at Our Lady of Sorrows, 2552 Gillham Road. $10-$30. www.kcchorale.org.
NAVO Chamber Orchestra
The NAVO Chamber Orchestra led by Shah Sadikov will present a pre-Mother’s Day concert on May 10 at Atonement Lutheran Church. It’s a sprightly program with Grieg’s neo-baroque Holberg Suite, Wagner’s ultra romantic Siegfried Idyll and both of Haydn’s delightful cello concertos, which will feature cellists Sunnat Ibrahim and Dilshod Narzillaev.
NAVO Chamber Orchestra is a terrific group of virtuoso musicians. If you haven’t yet discovered them, this concert would be the perfect opportunity to do so.
7:30 p.m. May 10. Atonement Lutheran Church, 9948 Metcalf, Overland Park. Free. Tickets can be reserved at www.navoarts.com.
It’s Bachathon time
Spring means it’s time for Bachathon. The annual four-hour marathon of Bach’s music will take place May 5 at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral.
Sponsored by the Kansas City Chapter of the American Guild of Organists, this year’s Bachathon will be celebrating its 40th anniversary with performances by some of Kansas City’s finest organists and a special choral performance by the AGO Schola Cantorum at 3 p.m.
2 to 6 p.m. May 5. Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral, 415 W. 13th. Free. For more about the Kansas City Chapter of the American Guild of Organists, visit www.kcago.com.
You can reach Patrick Neas at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow his Facebook page, KC Arts Beat, at www.facebook.com/kcartsbeat.