Monday, December 8, 2008

Doug Varone stumbles

My wife and I went to a performance by Doug Varone and Dancers last week. We both like contemporary dance a great deal and have a season subscription to a contemporary dance series in our city, so you'll be hearing more about dance as the season goes along. Varone's company performed four dances, but only the first was worth watching. Lux, with music by Philip Glass, premiered in 2006. It started a bit slow with a solo by Eddie Taketa, but it gradually built as the intensity of the music built as well, with more and more dancers on stage until the entire company of eight was performing as an ensemble. The dancing was inspired, and the music was engaging. A winner! Unfortunately, we should have gone home after the first dance. The second piece was a duet called Home which portrayed the trials and tribulations of a relationship; wow, that was insighful. Other audience members with whom we spoke during the intermission seemed to agree that the work was tired, tedious and trite.

After the intermission, Paul Verone danced a duet with Daniel Charon called Polonaise #44. The music was an unaccompanied piano work of the same name by Chopin. I might be labeling myself a boor here, but I don't much like unaccompanied piano music. (When I was in graudate school, my advisor used to listen to classical music in his office next to mine from sunup to sundown, and the plink, plink, plink of unaccompanied piano got old really fast. It hasn't improved with age.) I thought that the piece looked a lot like improv and, while most of our fellow audience members thought it better than Home, that wasn't saying much. The evening closed with another full-company ensemble piece called, enigmatically, Boats Leaving. I was unable to engage with this dance, either. I found myself paying attention for a while, only to discover that I had drifted off; this happened repeatedly. My wife reported the same reaction.

Varone addressed the audience during the intermission. He probably shouldn't have. He told us more than we wanted to know, and he tried to explain his motivation for creating Boats Leaving. For the life of me, I didn't see how his motivation translated into the dance. Varone does a lot of work choreographing for opera and stage. Those influences definitely inform his dance pieces, which are stagey and posed. Based on Lux, Varone can definitely engage his audience, but you'd never know it from the final three pieces.


It's been unseasonably cold for the last several weeks. It snowed a bit on Saturday evening, and Sunday was really cold and windy. One of the nice things about the arrival of winter, though, is that the sunrises and sunsets have been spectacular. The sky at sunrise generally has had a few clouds that glow with brilliant orange on the eastern horizon, and the higher clouds reflect pink hues, all surrounded by deep blue. In the evenings, the clouds are mostly gone, and the red sunsets grade seemlessly up to the zenith from red to deep indigo flecked with early stars.

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