writers on dancing


Coming Home Again

Tommy Parlon Dance Projects
Dance Place
Washington, DC
Saturday, January 29, 2005

by George Jackson
copyright © 2005 by George Jackson

Tommy Parlon, a distinctive performer, knows how to present himself. Dancing and gymnastics are one in his technique. Capable of handstands, somersaults, slides and all sorts of other acrobatics, he uses athletic moves not as tricks but as part and parcel of a choreographic vocabulary. In his solo, "Pale", Parlon looked like a bodybuilder, not the bulky sort but alert, controlled and tough. He wore just black modeling trunks, so one was aware that his torso could be a taller man's, yet his legs didn't disappear. Lighting from above, by outlining their musculature, made their strength and stretch register. A close haircut with extended sideburns lengthens Parlon's neck neatly. It enlarges his ears too much, yet in sum it makes him look serious. Gone is the long hair and eager, puppydog air he had when he first danced in Washington.

Parlon has been away (Arizona, New York, Ohio) for a while and comes back as a choreographer and teacher as well as performer. The five dances on this program were studies, not fully developed compositions. The largest in scope, "In the Absence of Precious Things", is a quartet for Ann Beherands, Megan Morse, Julia Smith and himself that suggests trapped people. Do their encounters take place in prison, or are the four just caught in relationships and locations that have grown stale for them? Parlon knew how to make the movement's acrobatic components underline and not contradict the work's dispirited mood. Still, this was the one piece that became repetitious. Astor Piazzolla was credited for the music, but was that abrupt ending his?

Two of the four other dances could have gone on longer. I wanted to see at least one more mood shift of Pamela England's in "Come Closer", Parlon's deft solo for her, also to Piazzolla music. Parlon's own solo, to a Labradford sound score, needed a summing up of its diverse allusions which included not just muscle men and monks, but also animal behavior, and human awkwardness and skill.

In "Low Sun", a trio for Beherands, Morse and himself, Parlon does much to ignore the accompanying piano pieces by Edvard Grieg. He not only runs the movement through the music's pauses but doesn't register its mood shifts in rhythm, volume and speed. The effect isn't at all the Cunningham/Cage one of freedom and surprising instances of sympathy but rather that of something obstinate and incomplete.

I liked best the end of "Crosslagged", the opening dance to Labradford music in which Smith and Parlon came together in an embrace after doing their own thing. (I missed the piece's start due to snow delays.) In his other choreography Parlon is very precise in measuring out movement for himself and his dancers. Feeling seemed to take over in this duo.

Volume 3, No. 5
January 31, 2005
Copyright ©2005 by George Jackson


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last updated on January17, 2005