Slow Down!

Muscle Beach: Brazilians and Americans Go for the Burn

His clever-goofy new Too Many Cooks! plays off our society's increasingly weird interest in fancy food (chocolate on tuna—why not?) and with the TV chef as tempestuous celebrity. To Juan Garcia Esquivel's irreverent pastiche of old pop songs, and dressed by knockout company dancer Mia McSwain in the appropriate kitchen garb, the performers create rapid-fire images of stirring, chopping, tasting, and so on. (Brian McGinnis is especially terrific.) Their activities easily get lascivious: The orange you squeeze may be someone's buttock, and "food chain" acquires new meanings. Forget sanitation. Oddly, in Tango Oficina, Parsons never quite makes the point that he implies. Two office workers, Elizabeth Koeppen and Marty Lawson, gradually shed some of their tailored clothes as Astor Piazzola's music gets under their skin, then at the last minute seem not only exhausted but aging.

Valdemir Santos in O Corpo at BAM
photo: Richard Termine
Valdemir Santos in O Corpo at BAM

Prudently, Parsons not only rotates dancers in many works, he encourages choreography from company members. Katarzyna Skarpetowska—splendid in alum Robert Battle's solo bout of body loquacity, Takademe—choreographed Stand Back, a dance of strength for three women (in ruffled skirts by McSwain) and three men. Set to music by Nandor Weisz, the piece has a relentless go-go-go energy, but Skarpetowska shows a talent for crafting clearly shaped designs. Even more wisely, Parsons has adopted Lila York's Gloria. Like him, York danced in Paul Taylor's company, and in this vibrant piece to Poulenc's impassioned church music, she reveals a Taylor-esque appetite for buoyancy and odd, hunched shapes. A group of devotees in summer clothes by A. Christina Giannini frame dramatic episodes for a tormented sinner (Marty Lawson) and an angelic woman (Koeppen) wearing a long gown and a 1940s hairstyle, who drifts in offering succor and is borne aloft like the Virgin's statue in a religious procession. An intriguing addition to Parsons's tasting menu.

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