The evening's opening dance, Lux, introduces Varone's propulsive style. Its electrifying dynamism requires strong and supple movers who, it seems, must also possess exceptional peripheral vision. Unafraid to fling their arms, fall to earth, rise, leap, lift, and carry, the performers turn on a dime to catch others hurtling toward them through the air. They display full-tilt physicality, split-second timing, and uncanny sensitivity to each other's presence. You marvel at their skill and athleticism. Each performer contributes to a sense of swirling, chaotic energy which doesn't resolve itself until the very end. Their verve is matched by non-stop, pulsing music (composer Phillip Glass's The Light).

The surging power of Lux feels almost overwhelmingly free-form. Varone's choreographic force-field mesmerizes with moment-to-moment maneuvering that can sometimes leave you lost, without a sense of overall direction. As a counter- balance, a moon-like orb traces an imperceptibly slow, steady path against the backdrop throughout the piece — rising left and setting to the right — tracing the duration of a cosmic night, a human lifetime, or maybe the span of a choreographer's career.

Reflecting on his life's work, and especially this past year's efforts with Chapters of a Broken Novel, Varone gratefully emphasizes his dancers' devotion to their art. They invest themselves in his works, and in turn, Varone invests in them as "allies in dance-making," "interpreters," "mature artists who make creative choices from within." They become invaluable: "the life and breath" of his dances, he says.

Lux, Varone says, was the last of his dances to come "100 percent from his own body." He has now given up performing in his own works and is excited by increasingly frequent opportunities to develop as an opera director. For 10 years, with companies in Palm Beach, Minneapolis, Boston, and elsewhere, he has been "reinventing both opera and himself" through the "marriage of dance-making and a very different art form". He finds new inspiration in these projects to supplement his company's usual touring schedule of teaching and performing.

June Vail can be reached at

CHAPTERS FROM A BROKEN NOVEL | with Doug Varone and Dancers | co-commissioned by Portland Ovations and the Bates Dance Festival | at Merrill Auditorium, 20 Myrtle St, Portland | February 16 @ 7:30 pm | master class February 15 @ 2 pm at Portland Ballet, 517 Forest Ave, Portland | pre-performance talk with Nancy Salmon February 16 @ 6 pm at Merrill Auditorium | Q+A with Doug Varone and Dancers following the performance | 207.842.0800

< prev  1  |  2  | 
Related: Classic burlesque star swings into town, Exploring the range of the body's possibilities with STREB, Fall Books Preview: Reading list, More more >
  Topics: Dance , Dance, Doug Varone, Merrill Auditorium,  More more >
| More

Most Popular
Share this entry with Delicious
    In an unfavorable economic climate, what do choreographers need? They must have exceptional talent and skill, of course.
  •   HOT SUMMER MOVES  |  July 14, 2010
    The 2010 Bates Dance Festival's first main stage performance, a concert by Monica Bill Barnes and Company, was hot — playfully theatrical, intensely human, ardently physical.
  •   SWING, TRAMP, AND TRUDGE  |  August 05, 2009
    The Bebe Miller Company performed the complex, well-crafted, multimedia piece Necessary Beauty at the Bates Dance Festival July 31 and August 1. Right away, the performance drew you into an ongoing flow of movement, sound, and images.
  •   WHAT'S UP?  |  August 12, 2008
    For trend seekers, Different Voices, a showcase for this year’s Bates Dance Festival’s visiting choreographers, hinted at several directions for contemporary dance.

 See all articles by: JUNE VAIL