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Doug Varone and Dancers

Doug Varone and Dancers
E.J. Thomas Hall, The University of Akron
Akron, Ohio
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.

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