Last night the audience at the Merrill Auditorium witnessed a dance performance that captured the depth and soul of contemporary dance. Doug Varone and Dancers presented a concert that embodied the core of what makes contemporary dance unique. What a rare treat to see dancers that move fearlessly and gracefully. With strength they throw their bodies onto the floor but then flow effortlessly back up into a turning spin off balance that defies gravity. Their bodies are as strong as ballet dancers but have a humanness that is rarely seen in classic dance. Varone's movement is sinuous and so unpredictable. He finds ways to assemble his company of seven dancers into patterns that surprise with unexpected beauty. The compositions are very complex because he builds so much movement into each moment.
Varone's newest work Chapter's from a Broken Novel was co-commissioned by Portland Ovations and the Bates Dance Festival, giving this Maine audience a sense that we held a stake in the dance. The company danced 14 of the 21 chapters. Intentionally designed to be seen in parts or as a whole, it was curious to wonder what the missing chapters contained. Furthermore Varone has been mixing up the order in which the segments are presented, thereby changing the narrative intent. This dance is rich in many ways. The movement is lush as the dramatic scenarios unfold. This dance had a strong sense of storytelling without being too literal, another elemental component of contemporary dance. But the stories reveal some tender and some very troubling scenes or "intimate portraits" as the program notes called them. The original music score by David Van Tiegham was both overwhelming at times which actually suited the dance composition but then also beautifully refined and gentle.
The other dance on the bill was Varone's 2006 LUX. The dancers- Julia Burrer, Ryan Corriston, Natalie Desch, Erin Owen, Alex Springer, Eddie Taketa, and Netta Yerushalmy moved nonstop in sweepingly beautiful displays of sheer physicality that grew along side as the mesmerizing music of Phillip Glass and The Light intensified. The dancers embodied the music: propelling spinning, swooping, lifting and diving as it built never resting until near the end when Eddie Taketa became alone on stage, slowly turning and reaching overhead pointing to the sky as the light faded and went out.
Doug Varone and Dancers, Wednesday February 16, 2011 at the Merrill Auditorium in Portland, Maine