The Jewish Week

 

Within These Walls

By Susan Josephs

December 8, 2000

 

A young woman cannot stand the sight of her devout parents in prayer. She tries to flee but her father grabs her forcefully and yanks her back into the tenement room with her mother. Trapped between her parents, the young woman attempts escape several times. When she succeeds, the parents continue to pray. Meanwhile, the young woman knows she hasn't really escaped.
     The young woman plays a central, Kafka-esque role in "Neither," a highly original, unusually compelling dance-theater work by choreographer Doug Varone that unfolds within the peeling walls of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum's unrestored apartments. Created for audiences of no more than 20 people per performance, "Neither" explores the larger-than-life themes of love, regret and the yearning to matter within the small, intimate spaces once inhabited by turn-of-the-century immigrants.
     Poignant and haunting from the outset, the dance also brings the audience and the performers into extremely close contact with one another. Throughout me hour-long work, the audience members follow the dancers from room to room and can stand where they choose to watch the latest installment of the trials and tribulations of the young woman.
     Varone, an award-winning choreographer known for his emotionally resonant, high-velocity movements, impressively bridges abstract, timeless themes with the historically rich, physically deteriorating apartments through the bodies of his dancers. As they leap and twist from room to room, the dancers' movements evoke everything from confinement to love to respect for the past. Meanwhile, the mezuzahs that still flank the doors of those tenements continue to do exactly the same thing.

 


Rose Eichenbaum

The peeling walls of Lower East Side Tenement Museum host "Neither," a dance-theater work by Doug Varone and various dancers.