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Dancer in good company on big stage

Andrea Parson completes a ‘long journey’ in local show
by: COURTESY OF Blaine Truitt Covert, Northwest Dance Project’s Summer Splendors performances on June 24 to 26 will feature Andrea Parsons, in her second year as a project company member.

It was summer 2007, and the light finally went on for Andrea Parson. “I had a little revelation, and decided that if I wanted to make dancing my career, I needed to devote all my time and energy to it,” she says. “I had this feeling that I could make it.” From Hillsboro, and attending Loyola Marymount University, Parson took part in a program at the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance and also broke through by making one of noted Portland choreographer Sarah Slipper’s shows — after two unsuccessful attempts to catch on in Slipper’s shows. “I thought, ‘Wow, I can do this,’ “ she says. Since then, Parson, 23, has continued her ascension in the local dance ranks, and perhaps entered the national scene by being featured in Dance Magazine’s “On The Rise” section recently. The magazine, the dance profession’s leading publication, only features one dancer per month in “On The Rise.” “It was a great surprise. It’s very flattering, and surreal,” she says. “I don’t see myself as someone who would be in Dance Magazine. “It’s been a long journey for me. To go from that place of being in (Slipper’s) company to getting this recognition, it’s a huge step. Hard for me to believe. I have those memories of wanting it so badly, but being at the bottom.” A member of the Northwest Dance Project in Portland, Parson has worked with its best choreographers, including in “Summer Splendors” in world premieres by Slipper (NWDP’s artistic director), James Canfield and Carla Mann (7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 24; 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Friday, June 25 and 7 p.m. Saturday, June 26, Northwest Dance Project Studio and Performance Center, 833 N. Shaver St.). Like many dancers, Parson grew up learning classical ballet. In her pivotal summer 2007, she moved into contemporary ballet. Classical ballet is all about standards of steps and movements, whereas contemporary is “pretty much anything goes — even pedestrian movements,” she says. “A lot of classical companies are doing contemporary work now, to keep up with modern times. Keep art progressing.” It’s a fine line between the two. “In classical ballet, you’re externally rotated, turn your feet out, stand with heels together, posture very upright, you keep alignment. Everything looks easy, effortless and light,” she adds. “In contemporary, you might turn your feet in and flex them, you might contract your spine. There’s a lot of akwardness; ‘akward’ is a word (choreographers) use, they want to see akward and struggle within your body. And, it’s more grounded and into the floor.” She adds: “I’d definitely describe myself as a contemporary ballet dancer. I train classically every day, it’s what we need for strength and technique. But I like more improvisation … exploring new ways for the body to move.” Parson earned her Bachelor of Arts in Dance from Loyola Marymount in 2008. She has taught dance through Oregon and Washington. She trained at Hillsboro’s Northwest Conservatory of Dance most of her life, and learned much in her one teenage summer at Joffrey Ballet School in New York. Parson wants to take her dancing to higher levels, perhaps in major U.S. cities or Europe. She’s going to be attending a workshop in Europe soon and “I want to dance internationally.” Eventually, she wants to do choreography and own a dance studio. For now, “I want to keep performing,” Parson says. “It’s cool, because Sarah gives us opportunities to choreograph; it’s part of (NWDP’s) mission. It’s good to be around that.”