David Parson's dance company, Parsons Dance, was in town for four performances last weekend. The program consisted of two works. The first was one of Parsons's signature dances, Caught, which never fails to elicit a gasp out of newcomers and heartfelt admiration from those of us who have seen the work performed several times. The dance, a solo, involves a dancer moving around a blackened stage fleetingly illuminated by stobe lights so that the dancer appears to be flying. It's magic.
Unfortunately, the same can't be said of the second piece, Remember Me. Critics have savaged this piece, but audiences generally love it. I went into the performance with an open mind, ready to prove the snobby New York dance establishment wrong. Unfortunately, the critics did get it right (in the opinion of Kali, several other aficionados, and me who talked after the performance).
Remember Me is a collaboration between Parsons Dance and the East Village Opera Company, which supplied two singers for the endeavor. The work consists of a simple romantic love triangle played out to the tune of thirteen of the most famous operatic arias performed live on stage. But, did the producers use the arias as written? Oh, no; instead, they pumped them up with near-ear splitting rock guitar background music. Then Parsons's dancers performed the story, which was insultingly shallow and maudlin. Woman wooded by two men rebuffs Man A, who then proceeds to rape her. When Man B finds out about the woman's soiled past he, in turn, rebuffs her, and she proceeds to die of a broken heart. Then, she is resurrected and lives happily ever after with Man B. Maybe this kind of thing would have worked in the Middle Ages or at the hands of a master like Shakespeare, but contemporary audiences are just a little bit too cynical to buy this. Or, maybe not, since it's a popular hit. DVDs of the performance were completely sold out, and a quick trip to NYC to restock resulted in another sellout.
The dancers certainly couldn't be faulted. They were expert and performed flawlessly and tirelessly, as they always do. Parson Dance is among the best companies on the contemporary dance scene. That's why a piece like Remember Me was so disappointing.