Parsons' Remember Me leaves audiences smiling and entertained

December 15, 2010

Broad Street Review
December 15, 2010

When Parsons Dance first performed Caught back in 1983, the troupe stunned audiences with an unexpected strobe light. These litigious days, however, there was plenty of warning, via signs and announcements. The warnings lessened the element of surprise, but not the visual impact.

Caught opens conventionally. Miguel Quinones performs a series of strong, controlled movements. Then the lights go out, we’re plunged into total darkness, and the strobes— and the real piece— begin.

Quinones does a series of more than 100 leaps around the stage, with the strobe’s flashes catching him at the height of each leap. He repeats each particular movement eight or ten times, moving across the stage, and the effect is utterly magical: It looks as if he’s floating several feet off the ground. The dance requires precise timing by both the dancer and the person operating the strobe in order to work, and work it did.

Operatic hits

But Caught is just a lagniappe. The Annenberg program’s main piece was Remember Me, a 2009 collaboration with the East Village Opera Company, which performs operatic hits with a popular twist. Remember Me opens with the overture to Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, remixed with the organ part from the Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”

The operatic selections are mainstream— the “Habanera” from Carmen, “Nessun Dorma” from Turandot,La Donna É Mobile” from Rigoletto— and the arrangements are pleasant but not wildly innovative. In Remember Me, the East Village Opera Company is represented by two vocalists, Annmarie Milazzo and Tyley Ross, who move around on stage, almost like animated props: physical presences around whom the dancers leap and whirl.

The story is straightforward: A woman (Abby Silva Gavezzoli) is wooed by two men, a Good Lover (Eric Bourne) and a Bad Lover (Quinones, who’s as lithe and powerful in Remember Me as he is in Caught). Gavezzoli is an equally strong dancer; Bourne, though talented, lacks the personal magnetism of the other two.

Memorable moments

Though there’s nothing special about the music or the story in Remember Me, its dozen vignettes include many wonderful moments. In the most effective section, danced to the “Flower Duet” from Lakmé, Gavezolli and Bourne used a long swath of fabric to hide, to reveal themselves, to wrap themselves up, and to move each other across the stage. The two vocalists stood to the side throughout, at one point slow-dancing together in counterpart to Gavezzoli and Bourne.

David Parsons, the company’s eponymous founder, came out of Paul Taylor’s company. Unlike his former mentor, whose company performed at the Annenberg earlier this season, Parsons doesn’t use dance to explore ideas. Not all art needs philosophical underpinnings, though. Both works on this night were plenty of fun and well danced by the entire company. My companion and I weren’t the only two who left the theater smiling and feeling well entertained.