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Gator Doesn’t Eat Dancers in Florida-Set Parsons Premiere

'In the End'
Parsons Dance company in "In the End." Photographer: Angelo Redaelli/Michelle Tabnick Communications via Bloomberg

David Parsons, a principal dancer with Paul Taylor’s company from 1978 to 1987, stays in shape these days with Pilates.

Raised in Kansas City, Missouri, he came to New York at 17. Now 53, he still looks fit enough to heft an onstage partner.

Parsons Dance, the company he founded in 1987 and leads as artistic director, maintains a busy U.S. and overseas schedule. This weekend it’s completing a fortnight’s run at Manhattan’s Joyce Theater that includes a brace of premieres.

For lunch at Bloomberg’s New York headquarters, Parsons brought his good looks, restless energy and not much appetite.

‘Dawn to Dusk’

Tarmy: Two premieres is impressive.

Parsons: For “Dawn to Dusk” we spent time in south Florida, coming up with movement to bring out the essence of our national parks. In this case, swamps, water, alligators. You see the images projected on a screen behind our dancers.

The other premiere is called “Black Flowers” by Katarzyna Skarpetowska, who used to be a member of my company.

Tarmy: Then there’s “Caught,” which is called your masterpiece.

Parsons: It’s a piece that can only be seen live. When the man who invented the strobe light saw it, he gave me a big hug, he was so happy.

Tarmy: Now that all dance is recorded and put on the Internet, does it change the way you choreograph?

Parsons: Absolutely. You take a lot more care when you do any production, because it’s there forever. It really is a money issue.

Happy Italians

Tarmy: What’s your company’s budget?

Parsons: $1.5 million is our yearly budget. I employ 17 people -- dancers, technicians, administrators. It’s not easy.

Corporations were a big part when I first started, and now that’s totally gone. I’ve been really lucky, though, because Italy loves my work. Luca Missoni is on my board, and I’ve worked with a lot of fashion people over there. Having that as an artist opens your world up.

I don’t think I could have done it, if I wasn’t in Italy, in South America. A lot of companies have the real problem that they can’t get out of New York, especially now.

Tarmy: Touring is hard, I imagine.

Parsons: The college circuit is so diminished. The theaters are well-constructed and technically proficient, but the cutbacks have had a huge impact on dance and performance.

‘No Justice’

Tarmy: What are some other dance companies you like?

Parsons: Right now I love seeing Cedar Lake. There’s no justice to it, because it’s funded by the Wal-Mart heiress.

Paul Taylor told me when I left his company, “Remember. There is no justice.” And I thought, “Whatever, man. I’m out of here.” But what fine dancers!

Tarmy: Are there still distinct styles that vary from dance school to dance school?

Parsons: It’s all mixed now. The more versatile you are as a dancer, the better. As a choreographer, you need a dancer to be able to do anything.

Ballet is going to grow older, faster. We need new. Everyone needs new. Nobody wants to see the old anymore.

(Parsons Dance is at the Joyce Theater, 175 Eighth Avenue and 19th Street, with two shows on Saturday and Sunday. Information: +1 212-242-0800 or

(James Tarmy writes for Muse, the arts and culture section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own. This interview was adapted from a longer conversation.)

Muse highlights include Jeremy Gerard on theater.

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