Tuesday October 9, 2012 - A very fine evening of dance at The Joyce as Doug Varone & Dancers celebrate their 25th anniversary with the first of two programmes. The performance underscored my view that first-rate music makes all the difference in the world between a memorable dance experience and one which simply leaves no lasting impression.
APERTURE, created in 1994, opened the evening with black-clad dancers Xan Burley and Colin Stilwell standing in a pool of light. To Schubert's Moments Musicaux #2, they being moving their arms and hands - often in sync - while holding their marks. Joined by a third dancer, Hsiao-Jou Tang, the movement becomes more expansive. They pair off variably; sometimes one will step back into the shadows while the other two dance on. The contemporary feel of the movement and costuming blends curiously well with the Old World charm of the music.
Liz Prince's casually handsome costumes, in shades of muted blues and greys, enhanced the movement of the dancers beautifully in CARRUGI (New York premiere). Gorgeously lit (Lily Fossner), this ballet's title refers to the back-alleys and narrow side streets of Genoa. Doug Varone has taken the superb but comparitively little-known Mozart oratorio La Betulia Liberata to set his dancers in motion in a series of fair and fluid ensemble passages interlaced with solos and duets which allow us to savor the highly individual personalities of the Company members. Hsiao-Jou Tang's solo, duets for Hollis Bartlett and Alex Springer and for Xan Burley and Colin Stilwell, the distinctively tall and agile Julia Burrer, and the mercurial Eddie Takata all made wonderful impressions as this thoroughly satisfying dancework unfolded before us.
The jarringly delightful score of George Antheil's BALLET MECANIQUE (writtten in 1925) created scandals and even minor riots at its earliest performances. Grandiose in concept, the score flings its mechanical rhythms at us, laced with the thunder of airplane propellers and the glaring screams of sirens. Clad in blue, the dancers move - sometimes like automatons - behind a scrim on which mathematic and geometric projections (by Wendall Harrington) appear and dissolve magically, cued by the score. This noisy, propulsive and ultimately triumphant work served as a counterpoise to the earlier Schubert and Mozart and gave the dancers a whole new sonic world to explore. I loved it.
By the end of the evening I very much regretted that I would be unable to attend the second Varone programme at The Joyce; the Company are there thru October 14th.