The dancer in Parsons’ signature work defies gravity as he flies through the air in a breathtaking display of athletic stamina. Flashing lights capture the dancer in more than 100 leaps, suspending him perpetually in mid-motion without ever touching ground.
The masterful Ailey dancers defy gravity in David Parsons’ signature solo Caught, a breathtaking fusion of art and technology demanding split-second timing and athletic stamina. The effect is a stunning suspension of weight in which the dancer appears to fly through the air, devouring space before magically returning to rest at center stage.
The concept behind Caught is amazingly simple but wonderfully unexpected, with the dancer executing a continual series of leaps synchronized to the flashes of a strobe light. At the root of the piece is humankind’s fascination with flight, something that Parsons believes is universal.
“Everybody on the planet has dreamt of flying,” he says. “And it’s an incredible thing to stumble upon as an artist…to realize when you ask that question, you can’t find anybody who hasn’t dreamt of flying.” Personally speaking, Parsons relates the dream of flight to the feeling of freedom that he is constantly trying to capture in his choreography. “The feeling when you’re floating in the air…it’s always a very exciting moment for me,” he explains.
Parsons says that the idea for Caught came from working with photographers and looking at the ways that light is used in photography to capture images. By controlling the light to illuminate only the desired shapes and poses, he created a series of snapshots. Strung together, these isolated images build into a dance that seems to take place entirely in mid-air.
Since its premiere in 1982, when Parsons performed it himself, Caught has been presented around the world by his own company and by the many modern and ballet companies that have licensed the work. The solo is now danced by both men and women, all of whom embody the style that Parsons has developed with his dancers over the years. “It’s very natural, it’s very fluid and it’s very powerful,” he explains. “That’s what we look for when we’re casting in other companies.” The choreographer is interested in the masculine and feminine qualities that different dancers bring to the role. Beyond the gender aspect, however, he believes the most important thing is the individual interpretation of each artist; that is what the audience reacts to.
Wherever it is danced, audiences and critics respond with awe. "Radiant with a circus-like thrill, Caught wows an audience. The dancer is caught mid-air in Peter Pan-like poses that embody the magic essence of dance itself, the quixotic desire to defy gravity and yet exude grace and joy at the same time," raved the Chicago Tribune. “Echoing the sentiment of fans everywhere, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel concurred, proclaiming "Caught is one of the great pieces of recent times.”