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Dance Review : Parsons, Taylor Meld Styles, Sensibilities

November 16, 1994|JENNIFER FISHER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

David Parsons likes to be up in the air, so he and his dancers use the floor glancingly, preferring positions aloft. Whereas, Billy Taylor and his musicians expend energy getting down--with a light, jazzy touch, of course. Separately, they soared in their own orbits Monday night at the Irvine Barclay Theatre. Together, they also found some common ground to play on.

The Parsons Dance Company and the Billy Taylor Trio call their evening "Step Into My Dream," the name of their shared third act. But before that, each group made its own statement, beginning with Parsons' buoyant 1990 piece "Nascimento."

This is modern dance in its most playful mode, with beautiful bouncing, stylish flinging of limbs and happy turning skips Isadora Duncan would be proud of. Patricia Kenny, Elizabeth Koeppen and Jaime Martinez were the most adept at keeping cheerful pace with the seductive changing beats of a taped score by Brazilian composer Milton Nascimento.

Next came Parsons in the old (1982) but always clever "Caught," using strobe lights to produce the effect of zero gravity jumps.

After nine dancers' had carved space so widely, it was hard to adjust to the more sedate pairings of musician and instrument. Then the music moved beyond the players' narrow bendings and bobbings--a bass became witty in the hands of Charles (Chip) Jackson and the drums did impressive bongo duty for Steve Johns. At the piano, Taylor was especially eloquent.

For "Step Into My Dream," the musicians played upstage, and the dancers played around--especially well in several improvised duets that produced spontaneous bounces, glides and noodling from collaborative musical impulses.

Creeping in at other moments were cute wiggles and quirky segmented moves that might have defined jazz dance inspiration during the "Hullabaloo" years. Such is the fine line between wit and cliche, but generally Parsons treads it well enough to enable a pleasant merger. Uplift meets downbeat? Something like that.

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