Newsday - New York City

Dance That's Out of This World

By Sylviane Gold

June 7, 2003

The performance was over, but no one wanted to leave. The audience just kept applauding Doug Varone's dazzling new piece, "Of the Earth Far Below," after its world premiere on Thursday at Symphony Space.
It was almost as if the seething, convulsive outpouring of movement, set to the slashing rhythms of Steve Reich's "Triple Quartet," had provoked an equal and opposite reaction in the spectators, who could only sit there and clap.
The music, performed live by the String Quartet of the Steve Reich Ensemble, has a tempestuous energy that Varone channels into tidal risings and fallings and whirlpools for the work's eight dancers.

Dressed in the simple black costumes of Liz Prince, they speed onstage to lunge into the floor, lift themselves up, then race back into the wings to allow the next wave to dash out, drop and roll and surge up again with breathtaking abandon.
But as with so much of Varone's work, there's nothing careless - or carefree - in these reckless- seeming encounters. The rapid- fire comings and goings, the rippling passes at interconnection that evaporate almost as soon as they are proposed, are fiendishly difficult and danced in deadly earnest. And why not? A piece called "Of the Earth Far Below" surely means to suggest something of the way humanity's churning tumult appears to the gods.
It might just as well be called "Distance," but that was the name of the other world premiere in the program, which closes tonight. Set to Reich's "Violin Phase" (played by Elizabeth Lim-Dutton), it is more intimate, more tightly focused but just as dramatic as "Earth." A duet for Varone and Larry Hahn, who's leaving after 15 years with Doug Varone and Dancers, "Distance" is an aching, melancholy farewell in which a fleeting touch carries a palpable charge and the two dancers never look at each other until it's too late. Hahn, in a black T- shirt and tan slacks, is a stocky, burly foil for the trim Varone, dressed in gray and still an electric presence on the stage. Reminiscent of Varone's 1989 "Care," in which Hahn and Varone were similarly bound in a fraught relationship, it ends with Hahn alone, his hand touching his heart.
Varone's 1997 "Proverb," which is new to New York, began the proceedings. Set to the ethereal vocal harmonies of the Reich piece of the same name, it is a more deliberate preview of "Earth Far Below," with seven dancers instead of eight, white costumes instead of black, and slow exchanges of energy instead of fast ones.

The evening was part of Symphony Space's adventurous "Face the Music and Dance" series, which pairs choreographers with musicians and hopes for the best. Once again, the results were spectacular.

DOUG VARONE AND DANCERS. Program choreographed by Varone to music by Steve Reich: "Proverb" (New York premiere), "Distance" (world premiere) and "Of the Earth Far Below" (world premiere). Seen Thursday at Symphony Space, 2537 Broadway at 95th Street, Manhattan. Through tonight.

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