Combining precision and frenzy like no other city company, Doug Varone and Dancers bring their remarkable versatility to BAM

by matt Scanlon

In describing Doug Varone and Dancers’ whirling athleticism—combining grace and strength, fluidity and sudden stops, peacefulness and stomping brutality—we give way to New York Times writer Gia Kourlas, who memorably described the 30-year-old dance company as possessed of “…movement [that] tends to crackle like electricity: Churning this way and that, it appears to be propelled less by muscles and bones than by centrifugal force.”

The resident company at the 92nd Street Y Harkness Dance Center from 2007 to 2015, Varone and his troupe have toured to more than 100 cities in 45 states, as well as in Europe, Asia, Canada, and South America. Stages include The Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, Brooklyn Academy of Music, London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, Moscow’s Stanislavsky Theater, and the Venice Biennale performance hall. In opera and theater, the company regularly collaborates on Varone-directed or choreographed productions, including Orpheus and Euridice (presented by Lincoln Center Great Performers and American Songbook), New Visions (awarded a 2006 OBIE Special Citation), and The Bottomland, an evening-length work that integrates dance, theater, music, and video, which premiered at the New Ohio Theater in Greenwich Village.

In celebration of three decades of work, Doug Varone and Dancers will appear at BAM on March 31 and April 1 to offer three tributes to the company’s past, present, and future. Its revival of the Philip Glass-scored Possession (1994)—inspired by A.S. Byatt’s century-spanning novel of the same name—is an entwined portrait of solitude and desire. Varone’s latest work, Folded, set to music by MacArthur fellow Julia Wolfe, renders the intimate interplay between two dancers falling in and out of sync. Finally, in ReComposed (2015), inspired by abstract expressionist Joan Mitchell’s pastel drawings, dancers careen across a paper-white stage to the crescendos of Michael Gordon’s orchestral work, Dystopia. The last’s score is, as its composer described, “exploring the gray areas between harmony and dissonance,” and according to Gordon’s music incubator, Bang on a Can, it “…paints a picture of one city’s future—in this case Los Angeles—that is frenzied, chaotic, dazzling, electric, and ultimately…loud.”

With lighting design by David Ferri and Robert Wierzel and costume design by Liz Prince, Reid Bartelme, and Harriet Jung, the BAM performance is a perfect crash course in the marvelously varied history of Valone’s troupe, one in which grace and götterdämmerung are combined in ways this edit staff has never before witnessed.

BAM Harvey Theater
651 Fulton Street /718.636.4100 / bam.org

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