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Preview: Parsons Dance with Allen Toussaint Orchestra

Will Coviello on the ensemble performing at the Mahalia Jackson Theater


Composer and pianist Allen Toussaint's name may not always be thrown in with Igor Stravinsky and Gioachino Rossini, but those composers provide the scores for a very musical program of pieces by Parsons Dance. Allen Toussaint and his 12-piece orchestra will perform with the company during the world premiere of a work commissioned by the New Orleans Ballet Association (NOBA). The 22-minute piece features "Yes We Can Can," "Southern Nights," "Goin' Down," "Play Something Sweet" and other tunes, all selected by legendary choreographer David Parsons (who says it took him one month of going through Toussaint's catalog to choose the songs). "It's more of his funk," Parsons says. "We're calling it lowdown music." Parsons choreographed a physical and down-to-earth piece. "It's like a street scene," he says. "The dancers get in each others' way." The company and Toussaint have a week of rehearsal together before the premiere.

  The program also features several classic Parsons pieces. Caught is a six-minute piece performed with a strobe light that illuminates dancers at the height of leaps. The Envelope is a comical dance about identity and individuality set to music by Rossini. Stravinsky's Concerto for Twelve Instruments is used in the athletic male duet Brothers. Swing Shift features a jazzier piece by Kenji Bunch and celebrates sock hops and swing dancing.

  NOBA previously has commissioned companies to choreograph work with music by local musicians. In 2011, the Trey McIntyre Project premiered a piece performed with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

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