Doug Varone for President

Doug Varone’s company may actually be the most grounded and full-bodied company ever in existence. The dancers moved so quickly and so swift with such control, it was…ridiculous. The movement NEVER STOPPED, and it was quick, like “I need an inhaler, ASAP” quick, and you would never know that the dancers were even breathing. What the hell?!?!? I would have keeled over 5 minutes in…

The evening consisted of four pieces. The first piece Lux, a group ensemble, was the most dynamic performance of the evening as far as I’m concerned. The moon—turned sun—turned moon was projected onto the scrim behind the dancers, rising from low to high, as the light reflected the days in passing. The performance started with Eddie Taketa running about the stage, quickly moving in and out of the floor; he would drop his weight down just as quickly as he would throw it back up through space. As the lights dimmed to night, the dancers became a little more patient with their phrasing, morphing between brief solos, duets and trios, once daylight hit however, a frantic celebration of bodies in contact filled the space. Arms and legs soared, as assisted lifts and inversions decorated the stage. About 20ish minutes later, the dancers stood for their bow, hardly breathing at all; ridiculous. So good…it was oh so good.

The next two pieces, part of Varone’s “Arts in Healthcare Initiative” (started in 2008) were funded in part by The Center for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).  The dancers worked alongside patients from the Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo (WCHOB) and Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) to generate new movement that was shared in two excerpts that evening. Both pieces will eventually fit into a 20-30 minute group ensemble piece that is still a work in progress.

The first excerpt, a duet between Erin Owen and Alex Springer, started off super slow, the longer it grew however, the more I enjoyed it…I definitely didn’t see that coming. According to the program notes, Able to Leap Tall Buildings  “…was based in part on a young patient at WCHOB’s beloved collection of superhero action figures, though the movement has been abstracted”. I definitely saw shapes that were reminiscent of superheroes, as the dancers interacted and morphed in and out of pedestrian structures in an illuminated box of light projected down on the stage. They would touch and mold one another, with moments of static and bound flow (the superhero shapes), and eventually as the dynamic quality grew, they began to share weight and completely release into one another. The very end of the piece was probably the highlight of the dance for me; Ms. Owen began to crawl up Mr. Springer’s body as he just stood there facing her, it was like watching a monkey climb a tree.

Holy Donkey Kong, Batman!!!

The next piece in the series, Aperitif was a trio between Natalie Desch, Colin Stilwell and Netta Yerushalmy, and was short and sweet. This piece had a similar flow to Lux, super grounded and super continuous, and while each dancer claimed their independence, there were definitely clear and brief moments of unity. This piece was over far too soon for my taste…great work so far, Mr. Varone, but keep it going!!

So on a side note, it’s official, Netta and Natalie are my two new girl-crushes and I don’t care who knows it. Natalie Desch is a insane and should never stop dancing, ever. Her lines are…PERFECT. Her feet are…PERFECT. Her dynamic quality is…perfect. Natalie in general is just…PERFECT. Perfect to the point that it almost hurts my feelings. Netta is so compact and fierce, there’s really no other way to describe her other than the tiniest-fiercest boss ever known to mankind. Dang.

The last piece of the evening, Oratorio brought us back to the group dynamic with brief solos, duets and trios mingled within work of the full ensemble. Various projections claimed the backdrop, and at times it distracted my eye from the beautiful dancing on stage. (My attention span isn’t much to brag about however, so I wouldn’t read too deep into that if you’re reading this, Doug.) The architecture of this piece brought really inspired phrase work and ever-changing landscape to life. Standing, sitting, belly flat down on the ground, the movement was never static, and the efficiency of the bodies never ceased to amaze me.

Ms. Julia Burrer was definitely a standout for this last piece. Her height was extreme and couldn’t go unnoticed, but what was even more extreme was her efficiency. This woman had such control and speed for having limbs as long as my entire body, it sucked every excuse I’ve ever had for not sensing my weight right out of my head.

I’ve decided that in order to be a Varone dancer, you need to really claim your weight, claim your space, and have a severe sense of self. These dancers move with their entire body, arms come from the back, pelvises get crazy low, and momentum is the driving force behind every movement. You do not mess around with Doug Varone and Dancers.

I want to squeeze Mr. Varone for being so incredible (and for having the best bows ever).

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