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Fine Dining
Music by David LINTON
: Concertino for 12 Instruments
Reflections of Four

: Adagio from Serenade K361

Music by Robert FRIPP
Music by Michael RAYE
The Envelope
Music by Gioacchino ROSSINI
Music by Milton NASCIMENTO
All choreographed by David Parsons and * by Daniel Ezralow
Produced by Denmark Radio and TV, 1992
Directed by Thomas Grimm

This DVD showcases the work of a US dancer and choreographer who established his own ensemble fifteen years ago and has created fifty works for it since. The seven works here bear out the stress Parsons lays in an introduction on the importance of variety in choreography and of transforming everyday actions into staged spectacles without losing their naturalness. This is not best demonstrated by showing him in the lunch queue at a canteen. He collects his food from a whited attendant and suddenly stares off into the middle distance - as ‘Fine Dining’ suddenly and supposedly occurs to him. So skip the intro and go straight to this unsettling, hyperactive piece set in a decayed ballroom and given a decadent, desperate edge by a pulsating minimalist score by David Linton which mixes instruments and electronics. A genteel elderly couple is swept aside by a hip gang of eight whose increasingly erratic movements are a fine parody of both the backbeat craze and the vanity of youth. But the social commentary is less compelling than the sophistication and exhilaration of the choreography, and this is true throughout. Touching as the depiction of friendship and fraternal devotion is in Brothers, it is the delicacy, strength and total control of muscle and sinew which invite the viewer’s constant attention.

There is a hypnotic ease about the movement of Parsons’s dedicated dancers, whether they move to the chirpy synthesisers of Scrutiny or the zany collage of Rossini in Envelope. This last and Caught may be the least rewarding pieces for more traditional balletomanes, but for those who are able to see the funny side of classical ballet’s formal gestures, Envelope’s satire offers a rewarding experience. Between each piece Parsons offers mostly unpretentious commentary on his attitudes, styles and aims.

The works here are all entirely different to each other in look, mood, sound and character and pay eloquent tribute to the latitude of Parsons’s mind, but perhaps the most compelling has no music for most of its duration and no set; the only prop is water, in the form of pools and later rain which alternately bathe and lash the four women in Reflections of Four. Each protagonist reveals herself in solo scenes which flip from vulnerable introversion to dramatic conflict, creating four separate and sympathetic portrayals in the process. All four join for a final pas-de-deux in which they support each other and Mozart’s most sublime wind serenade supports them.

Fans of contemporary dance will certainly want to see this, but it could grab anyone attracted by the latent beauty in human movement.

Peter Quantrill

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