choreography packs punch
By Theodore Bale
March 6, 2004
There's more information in one minute of dance by Doug Varone than most choreographers manage to squeeze into far lengthier works. Ideas come at lightning speed to this gifted artist, and they are deeply satisfying both as formal concepts and as personal narratives.
Few choreographers manage to take the viewer down both paths with such striking sophistication. Last night CRASHarts presented Doug Varone and Dancers at the Cutler Majestic Theatre in a program that was jam-packed with intimacy and grand spectacle.
The various forces in contemporary dance over the past 40 years reach a subtle union in Varone's cosmology.
There is the celebration of simple, pedestrian movement associated with the Judson Dance Theater of the 1960s, as well as the emotional impact of the "classic" modern dance choreographers such as Jose Limon.
The tireless strength and versatility of the company members suggests also that they could knock off a classical ballet without much difficulty.
In the end, though, the dances are entirely original, with a kind of fingerprint that comes only from Varone.
The program started with an intricate and very recent ensemble piece called "Castles," set to a grouping of six dark symphonic waltzes by Sergei Prokofiev.
It begins with simple episodes of walking, traffic that gives way to a complicated series of chain reactions.
Repeatedly the ensemble clustered only to break apart, and it seemed as if there was some strange magnetic force underneath the stage controlling the organization of each phrase. John Beasant III and Daniel Charon performed a daunting duet that involved vigorous slapping, competitive unison phrases and ardent partnering.
When Adriane Fang tried to escape the group in the fifth scene, she was whisked back into the tempest of bodies, suggesting a theme of conformity.
Fang and Charon's poignant performance of "Home" (1988) offered a rare chance to examine Varone's early, more prudent style.
One could say that the topic of this dance is memory.
In between the still poses and darting glances, the pair re-enacts violent and comforting gestures that indicate the full history of an intense affiliation.
When the company performed Varone's crashing "Ballet Mecanique" (set to American composer George Antheil's marvelous 1926 score of the same name) two years ago at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, it had an uncertain feel to it, as if the dancers were trying to get this unwieldy, ferocious dance to behave.
Now the movement is deep in their bones, and they move through the piece like one well-oiled machine.