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
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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