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Hired for his choreographic abilities by the likes of Nureyev and Baryshnikov, David Parsons gives back to dance by giving other dancers a break. 

Parsons' Payback

As a young boy in Kansas City, David Parsons loved jumping on his trampoline. His mother nurtured his kinetic energy by sending him to a fine arts camp where he learned to dance. When members of Alvin Ailey witnessed his ability, he was given a scholarship to join their school. Off he bounced to New York City to attend classes, join the Paul Taylor Company, and eventually set up his own troupe. Parsons Dance Company, now in its 30th year, will be presenting seven works Nov. 28 and 29 at UR. "If you have your own voice, you owe it to yourself to get your voice out there," says Parsons of the decision to start his own company. He knew early on that he had a gift for choreography. Taylor not only welcomed Parsons' dancing, but his choreography, too. Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov solicited his choreography also. "My works were already performed by major companies, so I knew there was something going, especially when you get that Good Housekeeping seal of approval from Nureyev and Baryshnikov." Parsons' theatrical and intensely physical style has consistently appealed to a wide audience. For instance, in "Caught," his signature solo, created in 1982 while with Taylor (part of this weekend's program), a dancer regularly leaps and gestures as a strobe light catches intermittent images. "Nascimento," a later work that is also part of the program, plays with the colors and rhythms of Brazil. In recent years, he's expanded the creative base of his company by offering choreographic opportunities to his dancers. "I'm known as a choreographer in the dance world, and there's a certain amount of payback you want to give .... Just because I have my own company doesn't mean I can't ... introduce young choreographers." Robert Battle, with Parsons since 1994, benefits from that decision. His "Strange Humors," a cockeyed look at tango, and "Rush Hour," which portrays our mania for struggling to keep up with technology, are both included in the program. Parsons describes himself as having a "nurturing tendency. "I enjoy bringing young people into the art world and helping them," he says. He also takes care of his dancers by offering decent wages and health benefits along with opportunities for growth, he says. For his dancers, this means they not only dance but also hold other positions within the company. For instance, dancer Jaime Martinez is associate artistic director. Elizabeth Koeppen is rehearsal director as well as dancer. Parsons actively combats the stereotype of dancers excelling in one area only, dance, and getting paid little. "It's important for dancers to be well-rounded .... I take them seriously as artists, but I also challenge them in other areas." To help keep the company afloat, he doesn't shy away from commercial work, last year being asked to help the Millennium Celebration at Times Square. It helps, he readily admits, to have a good reputation.
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