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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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