BWW Reviews: DOUG VARONE AND DANCERS Fascinates at Joyce Theater
In the heart of the wildly characterful Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, the Joyce Theater marquee entrances with a retro ambiance. Opening in 1982, the Joyce Theater has come to represent the magnanimous foundations of modern performing arts in New York. None so embodies this history as authentically as choreographer and dancer Doug Varone.
For the December 2-7 run of Doug Varone and Dancers at the Joyce, Varone himself graced the stage after an eight-year hiatus to perform The Fabulist. The evening also featured the company's newest work, Dome, set to the Pulitzer Prize-winning score by Christopher Rouse, and began with Castles, considered a masterpiece by dance critic Tobi Tobias.
Under the worldly high of the Waltz Suite, Opus 110 by Prokofiev, seasoned dancer Eddie Taketa said Castles evoked a sense of fantasy. The dancers waved amid spectacular bodily emanations of relationship and conflict. At times humorous, and not without a strong dramatic pull, Castles featured six movements of dancers in complementary shows of artistic harmony, gathering evolution, and narrative flow.
The program was carried by two immensely emotive duets, with Hollis Bartlett and Alex Springer enacting a male rivalry of physical domination and gentle submission, while Hsiao-Jou Tang and Eddie Taketa inspired a mental conflagration of spiritual camaraderie. The full company stepped out onto the stage for three of the six movements in Castles, proving their united strength under such a masterful choreographic direction.
Highly anticipated, The Fabulist moved through David Lang's solemn although brilliant composition "Death Speaks". Brave and genuflective, Varone's performance captivated through every movement under the powerful lighting designs of Ben Stanton. The Fabulist led the well-attended audience to listen with pindrop repose, as Varone confronted the depths of age, and mortality with a powerfully honest performance.
The world premiere of Dome concluded the evening, juxtaposing starkly with Castles. Whereas Castles captured the fantastic romance of interconnection and collectivism, Dome celebrated the chaotic perplexity of universal wisdom as it is expressed and envisioned by the modern artist. The "Trombone Concerto" by Rouse is a genre-defying work of epic proportions, confounding the traditional nuances of music towards an ultra-modern revivifcation of form.
Only by Varone's time-honored confidence and multidisciplinary appreciation could the evening's performances have been so finely tuned with respect to the music and showcased dancers. With such legendary company dancers as Eddie Taketa looking forward to retirement, Doug Varone and Dancers will remain steadfast as a preeminent modern dance company on the world stage.
Clearly, Varone's choreographic integrity lasts, giving space and time for dancers and audience alike to engage in each performance anew. At the Joyce this December, New York drank in the transformative fruits of a living dance master, whose unmediated expressions revealed Varone as never before so whole, as The Fabulist, as Doug Varone and Dancers, and as himself.
Photo: Paula Lobo