Doug Varone and Dancers
October 4, 2008
Reviewed by Steve Sucato
Photo by Richard Termine.
Dancers from back to front:
Stephanie Liapis, Belinda
McGuire Eddie Taketa,
and Doug Varone in Lux.
Doug Varone showed he is the master of delicacy in athletic movement, as his company presented three works, including a world premiere, rife with visions of quiet physical beauty, joy, and anguish.
The 90-minute program—co-presented by DANCECleveland, EJ Thomas Hall and The University of Akron—began with Julia Burrer and Erin Owen brushing against and stepping around one another in Tomorrow (2001) to the ethereal operatic music of Reynaldo Hahn. The stately pairing gave way to other groupings, in which the toss of an arm or kick of a leg pulled surrounding bodies into the same momentum. The work took on a deeply soothing atmosphere, as dancers succumbed to gravity in dipping and sweeping motions across the stage. Tomorrow had the effect of watching an infant’s crib mobile softly twist overhead, like a lullaby beckoning drowsy sleep.
A pale moon rose slowly along a black backdrop in Lux (2006), conjuring up a sense of nocturnal happenings. Set to Philip Glass’ “The Light,” Lux was an uplifting and buoyant work that embodied Varone’s signature movement style. Dancers jogged, tumbled, bounded backwards, and melted into lifts and couplings that were delivered as though with the broad brush strokes of a painter. Cascading like water over stones, the choreography was refreshing, vibrant, and thoroughly enjoyable as was the performance of its dancers.
Inspired by and set to Steve Reich’s “Daniel Variations”— a tribute to slain journalist Daniel Pearl—Alchemy, a world premiere, made a powerful statement about the human toll of conflict in the Middle East. The 30-minute work ebbed and flowed with the somber themes of the score, which referenced Pearl’s words along with passages from the biblical book of Daniel.
Alchemy’s eight dancers alternated between victim and aggressor, presenting stark and unnerving images, such as captives kneeling in fear with hands clasped behind their heads. Regrettably, though, the work suffered from an overkill of suffering. Like the almost desensitizing news coverage of violence in that region, Alchemy’s incessant images of brutality and anguish served only to stagnate the work. Yet despite its failings, the piece was genuinely moving at times. And coupled with heartfelt dancing, along with a hopeful ending, Alchemy merited the standing ovation it received.
I dance to encourage others. The longer I dance, the more I see that much of my real work is to speak life-giving words to my fellow artists. This is a multidimensionally grueling profession. I count it a privilege to remind my colleagues of how they are bringing beauty into the world through their craft. I recently noticed significant artistic growth in a fellow dancer, and when I verbalized what I saw, he beamed. The impact of positive feedback is deeper than we realize.
If you think becoming a trainee or apprentice is the only path to gaining experience in a dance company environment, think again.
The University of Arizona, located in the heart of Tucson, acclimates dancers to the pace and rigor of company life while offering all the academic opportunities of a globally-ranked university. If you're looking to get a head-start on your professional dance career—or to just have a college experience that balances company-level training and repertory with rigorous academics—the University of Arizona's undergraduate and graduate programs have myriad opportunites to offer:
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