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Saturday, February 24, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Dance Review

Parsons Dance Company | Dancers radiate joy at one happy party

Seattle Times arts critic

It's rare for an artist to hand an audience the gift of uncomplicated, giddy joy. But that's exactly what happened Thursday night at Meany Hall, when David Parsons' company Parsons Dance presented the solo "Caught," midway through an already spirited evening.

Dancer Jeremy Smith, frozen in the magic glare of a strobe, soared through the air, landing in darkness and leaping into light. The blinking, white-lit image we saw was that of a man effortlessly suspended in midair: perfectly simple, yet utterly breathtaking. The enchanted audience burst into laughter; we were happily transported to another place, where dancers could fly.

Repeat performance

The Parsons Dance Company, 8 tonight and Saturday, Meany Hall, University of Washington campus, Seattle; $39 (206-543-4880 or www.uwworldseries.org).

Choreographed by Parsons some 25 years ago, "Caught" is a perfect marriage of the arts of dance and light. (It will be performed locally by Pacific Northwest Ballet next season, along with Parsons' "The Envelope.") It's an appropriate signature piece for the company, which was co-founded in 1987 by Parsons, formerly a dancer with the Paul Taylor Dance Company, and Howell Binkley, a noted lighting designer in the dance and theater worlds (including much work on Broadway). In the evening of six dances brought to Seattle, all choreographed by Parsons and most lit by Binkley, the two art forms merged beautifully, creating a vivid form of dance theater.

"Hand Dance," performed in the dark with only five pairs of bare hands and forearms visible, was wonderfully witty. Kenji Bunch's music suggested a happy hoedown, as 50 tiny dancers wiggled to the beat. It's an idea that at first seems gimmicky — you wonder how Parsons will sustain it for more than a minute or two — but keeps growing and developing. At times it's startlingly lovely, with the hands and fingers blooming like a flower; in a flash, it becomes laugh-out-loud funny, as a pair of fingers takes a dancey walk along a road of arms, finally diving off the end in mock despair.

More straightforward, yet still tinged with humor, was "Wolfgang," set to music by Mozart. It was the most ballet-flavored of the evening's repertory, with dazzlingly swift turns (Tommy Scrivens, dreadlocks flying, whirls faster than a spinning top) and soaring grand jeté leaps, as if pulled by the forward momentum of the music. As the music grew softer, the dance became gentler, with the dancers daintily stepping as if treading on the keys of the piano. It was a literal yet lovely interpretation of the music, with touches of playfulness: A precise pirouette might feature a happy wriggle at its end.

The evening ended with "In the End," a dance set to music from Dave Matthews Band and featuring all 10 company members clad in jeans and writhing happily under light that ranged from moody blue to hot pink, as if at some perfect dance party. The audience, roaring approval, surely felt the same way.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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