Parsons sees limitless possibilities in dance

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Parsons sees limitless possibilities in dance

Louis Greenfield’s stunning gravity-defying photographs of the Parsons Dance Company were brought to life last week, when David Parsons and his dancers were in Korea to perform at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts.
They showed pieces from their repertoire of more than 60 works last Thursday and Friday, dancing to a diverse set of composers from Gioacchino Rossini to Milton Nascimento and Miles Davis.
On Saturday, the Parsons Dance Company shared the stage with the Ahn Trio, the three Korean-American sisters who have delighted the world with their musical talent, as part of the Pars-Ahn project.
Mr. Parsons shared his insights on modern dance and his hopes for the future.

Q. How did the Ahn Trio project come about?
A.Because of a woman in New Orleans, a presenter [emcee] who thought it would be a wonderful idea to bring these artists together. After that, we found a very talented composer, Kenji Bunch. We do two original scores to Mr. Bunch’s music.

Do you remember when you first heard of the Ahn Trio?
I heard of them through a composer friend of mine because they are Julliard students. Julliard has a big impact on New York; NYU and Julliard turn out a lot of artists.
As an ensemble, they are very tight. They’re the same flesh and blood, and that makes a difference. It’s a joy to work with them because they are very, very fine musicians, professional and consistent. You don’t need to mess with them.

As part of the Pars-Ahn project, Angella Ahn performs “Caught” live. But when you first debuted “Caught” in 1982, you had yet to start working with her. How has this piece changed over the years?
I’ve always wanted to do “Caught” live. Finally, I went out and bought the digital loop. And the original score is by Robert Fripp with just one electric guitar.
The music was played on reel-to-reel tape recorders so it has the effect of a loop. Now with digital technology, Angela Ahn uses a violin and a digital loop, so it’s just a device at her feet.
I’m very pleased that I can finally see “Caught” live. The environment is difficult, but she does a very beautiful interpretation of that piece.

Do you see any emerging trends in dance?
A current trend is for full evening pieces. In Europe 10 years ago, full works developing one idea took hold. Now it’s starting to happen in the United States, rather than a repertoire of five dances. The new trend is that more artists are starting to do full-length evening pieces in a contemporary style.
The longest piece in my repertoire is 40 minutes. The company is involved in one Broadway production that will be coming in just under two hours. We’re going to build it in a theater hopefully soon. It’s based on “Daddy Longlegs.” Three movies have been made. The first was a silent movie. The second one featured Fred Astaire and Leslie Caron. The third one, I can’t remember who did that.
The man who directed and wrote “Les Miserables,” John Carred, he’ll direct this version. It’s much more sophisticated than dance musicals like “Moving Out.”

What are some differences between American dance companies and European ones, like the Netherlands Dance Company, which was also in Korea recently?
There’s a big difference between European and American. The Netherlands Dance Company is state run. When the company is invited overseas, they are again sponsored by the government to travel. We don’t have that in the United States. So we have nine dancers and Netherlands has, what, 35?
The other thing is American contemporary dance is an American art form, like jazz and tap. So Europeans are copycats.

Your troupe is famed for its athletic abilities.
With all of our movement, and each dance that we do, we develop a new language, a new vocabulary. So the more versatile the performers are, the more I can create. Meaning ballet, jazz, gymnastics. It helps me because this is a contemporary language.

What’s after Korea?
The company performs all over the world. We were in Brazil, Australia and Italy. We’ll be continuing our world tour to Las Vegas, San Francisco, then San Diego.
And for me, the Universal Ballet, a Korean company, is going to City Center soon, in New York. I will go there.

If you knew you had left a mark behind, what would you have liked to do?
I think I have left a mark already with the piece “Caught,” because it is a contemporary classic. And it will be done after I’m dead. That is how you achieve as an artist, that is the challenge and that is the reward ― to create something that astonishes people and gives people joy.
But I want to be the first dance company in space. With the Earth as a backdrop, I’d have the dancers filmed.

by Joe Yong-hee
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