JORDYN RUSSELL – STAFF WRITER
Parsons Dance is set to take the stage in Chautauqua at 8:15 p.m. Monday, Aug. 23 in the Amphitheater. The contemporary American dance company will work to spotlight their internationally renowned ensemble work.
The company was founded in 1985, with artistic direction by David Parsons and award-winning lighting design by Howell Binkley. Throughout the years, the company has toured over 445 cities, 30 countries and five continents, performing at acclaimed locations all over the world such as the Sydney Opera House, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Maison de la Danse, Teatro Municipal do Rio de Janeiro and Teatro La Fenice.
Acting as artistic director, Parsons created a repertory of more than 75 varying works, with choreographers such as Trey McIntyre and Monica Bill Barnes restaging the famous works with new dancers. The company also offers commissions to other young American choreographers, mentoring them throughout their creative process.
Parsons Dance has remained dedicated to engaging audiences of all ages, providing an experience containing something for everyone. This mission also resonates through their education and outreach programs, open rehearsals, studio showcases, open company classes, video workshops, in-school workshops for public school students as well as post-show discussions.
The company takes pride in their Autism-Friendly Programs initiative that launched in 2016, providing sensory-friendly workshops and lightened performances for each audience member.
Despite COVID-19 challenges, Parsons Dance has found ways to perform in 2021. Parsons dancers returned to the stage in early June as part of Dance Against Cancer, dedicated to co-founder Binkley, who died of lung cancer last year. This summer, 25 students took part in the Summer Intensive from June 7 to 11, taking virtual courses and meeting safely to perform recently learned repertory pieces in person. Parsons Dance also performed at The Pines on Fire Island, in place of the annual Dancers Responding to AIDS’ Fire Island Dance Festival.
“I’m particularly excited about Parsons Dance as it is the first dance company we have had here this season, and the company has been on my wishlist for a long time,” said Deborah Sunya Moore, senior vice president and chief program officer (interim) and vice president of performing and visual arts. “Everyone, and certainly all artists, were affected by the pandemic — but I feel that dance was one of the areas most affected, getting super-creative by taking Zoom classes involving dance, strength training, and more. There’s a resilience to that, but there’s also a joy, and a love of craft and dedication to the art. I can’t wait for Chautauqua to experience it.”