Dance series a 'visual feast': ABT Studio, Parsons Dance and MOMIX perform at Detroit’s Music Hall

Erica Hobbs
Special to The Detroit News

Detroit’s Music Hall is welcoming spring with a contemporary-focused dance series that includes American Ballet Theatre Studio Company, Parsons Dance and MOMIX. 

“Right now, those three companies have hot shows and they’ve got really hot talent,” said Vince Paul, Music Hall's president and artistic director. “We just premeditatively chose them.”

The series opens Saturday-Sunday with American Ballet Theatre Studio, the pre-professional company of the world-renowned American Ballet Theatre. Nearly 80% of American Ballet Theatre dancers are alumni of the Studio, including stars like Misty Copeland and Isabella Boylston.

Paul said one of the best things about the Studio is the variety of repertoire they get to perform on tour, unlike the main company, which focuses largely on story ballets.

Parsons Dace will premiere "The Road on April 23.

“What’s fun is you get to perform classical pieces, contemporary pieces and modern pieces,” he said. “You really get to explore choreography where ABT’s not able to go.”

The repertory program will include Twyla Tharp’s “Known By Heart” where two dancers perform to Donald Knaack’s percussive score, played entirely on recycled materials. It will also include Jessica Lang’s “Children’s Songs,” an original commission inspired by the transition between child and adulthood performed to music by Chick Corea, as well as George Balanchine’s patriotic “Stars and Stripes” pas de deux, set to a score by John Philip Sousa.

Parsons Dance returns April 23 with a repertory program that features the Detroit premiere of “The Road,” a work performed to the music of Cat Stevens, and the uplifting solo, “Balance of Power.” The program also includes Parsons’ signature work, “Caught,” a jump-filled dance choreographed in the air with strobe lights that makes dancers appear as if they are floating.

Paul said Parsons is the most energetic and positive of all the companies in the series.

“David (Parsons’) stuff is just exuberant and exciting and athletic and life-affirming,” he said. “In these kinds of heavy times, I’m going to hit you with happy.”

The series concludes May 29 with MOMIX and the Detroit premiere of “ALICE.” The work is a full-length production inspired by “Alice in Wonderland,” where dancers extend themselves with props, ropes and other dancers as Alice’s body shrinks and grows. 

Paul said it’s a psychedelic version of the classic story that even non-dance-lovers will enjoy.

“Although it’s dance based, it’s a visual feast,” he said. “It’s really colorful, and it’s a really innovative use of projections.”

The piece, which opened right before the pandemic, is founder Moses Pendleton’s latest work, and Paul said Detroit is one of the first American cities to get it. 

Tickets for the performances start at $30, though Music Hall is offering a $99 deal for main floor seats for all three shows (normally $50 each) with no service charges. 

Paul said people should come to all three.

“This is a terrific sampling of contemporary dance,” Paul said. “It’s state of the art; it’s absolutely representative of what’s happening today in American dance.”

Detroit Music Hall Spring Dance schedule

American Ballet Theatre Studio Company

8 p.m. Saturday; 3 p.m. Sunday

Parsons Dance

3 p.m. April 23


3 p.m. May 29

Music Hall is located at 350 Madison Ave., Detroit

Tickets: $30, $40, $50 with main floor seats for all three shows available for $99.