Photo Courtesy of Parsons Dance/Lois Greenfield

Parsons Dance Leaps for the Stars

Parsons Dance recently treated the Sharon Performing Arts Center in The Villages to an hour and a half of colorful, leaping exhilaration.

The troupe — Abby Silva Gavezzoli, Sarah Braverman, Ian Spring, Elena D’Amario, Jason MacDonald Geena Pacareu, Oscar Roman de Jesus, Eoghan Dillan and Zoey Anderson — are truly some of the most beautiful and athletic specimens of humanity, Dancing with an infectious young spirit, they proved that exuberance truly is beauty.

The opening number “Whirlaway” featured tracks by New Orleans jazz composter Allen Toussaint and the full troupe. The piece was so buoyant and smiling — inviting all of us to join in the fun — that it almost felt like an “Up With People” number.

Most of my experience with dance has been limited to TV shows like Dancing With the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance? With their sexy athleticism and stunning ensemble work, the Parsons troupe easily showed why TV can only approximate the power and presence of live performance. On those shows, the camera , tells you what to see; live, when a full troupe dances up and down and across and leaping up from the stage, the eye has a wide table of delights to take in.

“Hymn” was a reflective, almost spiritual duet between Ian Spring and Omar Roman de Jesus (on alternate performances it is performed by two women). “Train,” choreographed by Parsons alumnus Robert Battle, finished the first set, a dramatic, all-out athletic performance set to a militant assault of drums. The dancers seemed more to explode than turn into their moves. Their hunger and abandon was both dangerous and thrilling.

On the break, my wife and I looked around the theater taking in fellow theater-goers, and despite the overwhelming fact of age you’d expect at a Villages event, everyone’s eyes were alight with what they’d seen, and expectant of more.

“Kind of Blue” opened the second half with quartet of dancers interpreting “So What” from Miles Davis’ seminal jazz album. Dressed in blue and lit from above, the dancers engaged with a nonchalant, snappy blend of curiosity and sensuality — just the sort of thing you’d expect from a Manhattan jazz club in the late 1950s.

“Caught” was the show-stopper, an incredible strobe-light performance by the small but ripped Elena D’Amario. With 100 leaps in six minutes, the stobe trapped D’Amario in in mid-motion three feet up all across the stage — the surest illusion of flight. D’Amario’s conditioning and jubilance was astonishing.

The finale “Nascimento” was a tribute in three acts to Brazilian singer-songwriter and guitarist Milton Nascimento. Dressed in breezy, bright colors, the full troupe wove increasingly sophisticated dance patterns to Nascimeto’s pulsing samba rhythms. The sweeping motions of color and exuberance built to a crescendo that left the audience feeling it was still mid-jump with the dancers — somewhere between happiness and heaven. Pure exhilaration.

Lord knows, we all could use some of that. And it was quite evident as the auditorium slowly empties, that everyone was somehow lighter and freeer.

The New York-based contemporary dance company under the artistic direction of David Parsons is now in its 30thyear. It has performed in 350 cities in 30 countries across five continents.

The Sharon Performing Arts Center is a wonderful alternative to shows in Orlando. Driving up from Mount Dora to The Villages on a Sunday afternoon, traffic was sparse and parking was easy. While we entered the theater the party was on in the main square with some oldies rock ’n’ roll band onstage. (Does it ever stop?) Seats in the theater were rather close together (reminding us all how big everyone off stage is getting), but the view and acoustics was perfect.

The Sharon maintains a robust concert schedule. The Orlando Symphony Orchestra has three performances there this summer, as well as appearances by oldie goldie performers like Tanya Tucker, BJ Thomas and Michael Bolton. For a full look at their upcoming schedule, see the Sharon’s website.

David Cohea, Staff Writer (

Originally published at on July 7, 2015.

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