PARSONS DANCE (NextMove DANCE): Modern technology meets dance

parsons_1280x500-1Art can generally be placed in two categories: The type with a story or a dialogue that tells the viewer what it intends to convey, and the type with abstract ideas or concepts that makes viewers imagine and interpret in their own view. This can be seen in the art of dance. The first is typified by classical ballet, and the latter is often the case of the modern/contemporary ballet/dance. PARSONS DANCE, however, manages to introduce both concepts at once. Their repertoires presented at the Prince Theater as the third program of NextMove Dance 2016-2017 season involve experimental cutting-edge technologies and have clear themes and stories, yet remain enigmatic and abstract.

With the collaboration of the robotic support team at Drexel University, artistic director, David Parsons introduces two drones in The Machines (2016).  The dancers on the stage gaze at the drones floating over them, looking nervous or scared at each small move of the new and yet-to-be known machines. The harmless computer programed machines begin to appear fearful and more powerful than human race—like UFOs that came to attack the earth. The choreography is focused not on the dancers but on the drones, giving life and character to the lifeless drones by the dancer’s reactions and movements toward them.

Hand Dance (2003) and Caught (1982) are also experimental and shake up the imagination of the viewers. By introducing the unique lighting effect, the dancers disappear from the stage leaving only their hands in the darkness Hand Dance. The hands look like a wave of sound, chatting with each other, letting the audience create their own stories.

In Caught, the intense strobe lights freeze the movements of the dancer, Ian Spring, like photographs. The effect makes it look like the dancer never lands on the stage floor, constantly floating in the air in the most acrobatic and picturesque poses.

Finding Center (2015), Almah (2016) and In the End (2005) are clean and neatly choreographed even though they look like repeating the same steps and movement to different music and settings. The performances are enjoyable: you get to see a new movement in the scene of the art of dance—introducing new technologies and visual effects to seek a new way to be expressive and imaginative.

[The Prince Theater, 1412 Chestnut Street] December 7-11, 2016; danceaffiliates.org; princetheater.org/next-move/; parsonsdance.org

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About the author

Eri Yoneda

Eri Yoneda writes about dance and classical music for Phindie.