Terpsichore, the Muse of Dance, has a strong ally in the Harriman-Jewell Series. From its very first program in 1965 that featured New York City Ballet’s Patricia McBride and Edward Villella, the Harriman-Jewell Series has been committed to bringing the best of dance to Kansas City.
That strong tradition continues with the Series’ 2017-2018 season, which features three outstanding dance programs: David Parsons, Stars of American Ballet and Dance Theatre of Harlem. All performances are in the Muriel Kauffman Theatre, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.
Parsons Dance, a Harriman-Jewell Series favorite, will open the 53rd season on September 16. The company was founded in 1985 by David Parsons, who was born in Chicago but raised in Kansas City. As soon as the company started touring in the late 1980s, the Harriman-Jewell Series became one of its regular stops. The September concert will be the company’s 13th appearance on the Series.
“David Parsons is probably one of the most successful and important artists in the field of dance to come from Kansas City,” said Clark Morris, executive director of the Harriman-Jewell Series. “But that’s not good enough for us. What really makes us bring him back so frequently is that his style and choreography are so appealing that the audience wants to see David’s new work and wants to see the company again and again.”
Parsons’ unique style is marked by a high degree of athleticism. A Parsons Dance performance is always an exuberant celebration of dance, full of excitement and exhilaration.
“I’ve actually had the good fortune to watch one of their auditions in New York, where they were trying to find one finalist out of about 80 dancers,” Morris said. “The amazing thing to me is that, out of all these professional dancers who have dedicated their lives to dance, only two or three were athletically fit enough to do the kind of work that David demands in his company.”
But Morris says that Parsons’ choreography demands more than just athletic ability. A sense of poetry and the ability to tell a story through dance are also essential.
“These are the qualities we want to see in all dance, but David’s company really demands it in a way that is evident to anyone who sees it,” Morris said.
Stars of American Ballet will be making its second appearance on the Harriman-Jewell Series on October 27. True to its name, this ensemble is an all-star team of ballet. Composed of the best of the best of some of America’s finest ballet companies, Stars of American Ballet performs classical ballet in peak form and with superb artistry.
Stars of American Ballet has an especially strong contingent of dancers from the New York City Ballet, which will serve it well in its performance of George Balanchine’s Who Cares?, created by Balanchine for the New York City Ballet in 1970. Who Cares? features music by George Gershwin is infused with a jazzy energy that captures the spirit of Manhattan.
On February 9, 2018, Dance Theatre of Harlem will return to the Series. Founded in Harlem in 1969 by Arthur Mitchell, a former dancer with the New York City Ballet, Dance Theatre of Harlem is considered the first African-American classical ballet company.
“For a number of years they had to close down the professional company,” Morris said. “They had the school in Harlem, but not their professional dance company. They continued to operate the school, but then they reconstituted a company, so it’s a great revival story. Dance Theatre of Harlem represents an important cultural region of the United States and a particular style of dance that people love.”
With three outstanding companies that express a broad spectrum of dance, the 2017-2018 season of the Harriman-Jewell Series should have Terpsichore smiling from ear to ear and audiences on their feet.
For tickets and information, go to hjseries.org or call 816-415-5025.
Story by Patrick Neas.