Four pieces offered a glimpse of Doug Varone's artistic range, each uniquely poignant and impressive in its own right on Thursday night. This past week the Joyce Theater featured Doug Varone and Dancers, a New York-based company founded by choreographer Doug Varone in 1986. The evening's program provided works of varying tones, each created at different stages of Varone's choreographic development.
First on the program was "Possession," choreographed in 1994 for a group of nine dancers. Dressed in loosely fitting white and off-white costumes, illuminated with soft yellow light, the dancers moved with a smoothness and warmth that conveyed a truly heartfelt sense of companionship. Varone himself danced beautifully, in spite of his recently replaced hip, though he set himself apart from his younger company in acknowledgement of the physical boundaries of his age.
The piece had two distinct quartets with distinct dynamics-one of elder and veteran members of the company, the other of the newer, more youthful and athletic members-possibly portraying relationships specific to periods of life. Overall, the choreography and dancing were breathtaking-this work particularly exhibits Varone's talent for shaping groups and forms, however large or small, creating a sweeping momentum that flows beautifully both within and between the dancers.
Following "Possession" was "The Bench Quartet," a shorter work dating to the year the company was established. As the title would imply, "The Bench Quartet" began with four dancers seated on a bench, center stage, facing the audience. The dancers moved, though slightly at first, in response to the score and each other's impulses. As Bach's Cantata swelled and grew, so did the movements with a steady and logical crescendo that eventually took all four dancers off the bench and into the broad phrases and gestures that characterize Varone's choreography.
"Bel Canto" offered a much lighter tone to the program. The dancers wore bright-red velvet and patterns appropriate for bus seats, a clever artistic choice that immediately defined the work as a humorous one. Certainly, the choreography lived up to the expectations set by the costuming. Particular moments of the piece stuck out as especially entertaining-Eddie Taketa running across the stage, arms swinging back and chest sticking out, Doug Varone and Daniel Charon's recurring duets. The entire work highlighted the witty and ironic facet of Varone's artistic breadth.
Concluding the program was the New York premiere of "Boats Leaving," an emotionally evocative piece set to a hymnlike score by Arvo Part and lit by Jane Cox's dramatic design. The fog that filled the stage created the eerie glow of docks at daybreak and made visible the powerful rays of light that permeated the space. Like "Possession," this work fully utilized the capability of the dancers and the momentous dynamic of a large group, but it also sharply contrasted these moments with tableaus of absolute stillness. Every touch was perceptible, every movement charged with emotional energy.