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    2018-2019 reviews:


    Possession in Doug Varone and Dancers 2017
    Photo by Robert Altman

    Full Contact Varone

    Doug Varone and Dancers at BAM Harvey Theater


    Watching Doug Varone and Dancers at BAM Harvey Theater after missing the company for years was both a welcome surprise and a familiar sight. The surprise was the X-games extreme of movement density that the evening held. The familiar sight was Varone's movement vocabulary and its implied social interactions.

    Choreography by: Doug Varone.
    Dancers: Hollis Bartlett, Jake Bone, Xan Burley, Whitney Dufrene, Alex Springer, Colin Stilwell, Hsiao-Jou Tang, Aya Wilson, Ryan Yamauchi.
    Music by: Philip Glass (Possession), Julia Wolfe (Folded), Michael Gordon (ReComposed).
    Costumes by: Lynne Steincamp, Liz Prince, Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung.
    Lighting design by: David Ferri (Possession), David Grill (Folded), Robert Wiertzel (ReComposed).
    BAM Harvey Theater
    March 29-April 1, 2017

    All three dances got the most from the music chosen to drive them — impressively. Though it was created in 1994, after quite a few choreographers had taken a swing at using Phillip Glass' music, Possession has a freshness and choreographic impact that I don't recall anyone pulling out of the music. Luscious spinning, flick-leaping, floor-rolling movement permeates Possession, and a duet with Ryan Yamauchi and Aya Wilson moves especially well. Possession as a theme or storyline is sometimes clearly explored, sometimes abstracted and extrapolated. Lovely soft connections where dancers flop and flow together, bold tossing interactions, and puppet/master/mime scenarios are all part of the mix. Abrupt followed by supersoft is a continual dynamic, usually for the best. Emotionally, this can look overdramatic-then-sleepy, but more often than not, all the pieces fit well and the tales feel true and intriguing. Dynamic shifts from one music/dance section to the next are masterful and satisfying. Possession is a giant of a show in itself, with huge, slashing arcs in story and motion, and, true to form, it ends in soft light and slow motion after an especially vigorous group section/climax/finale.

    Hollis Bartlett (front) and Alex Springer in Folded in Doug Varone and Dancers 2017  
    Photo by Robert Altman  
    Hollis Bartlett (front) and Alex Springer in Folded
    Folded is a striking and oddly interacted duet, like watching acrobatic drinking buddies hashing things out. Grating, percussive, buzzing and sawing music is an irritant, or a reflection of the emotional interaction being danced. Lulls and negotiated peaces, and rollicking and almost-fighting take turns, with the balance tipping to the active sections. Both dancers face the audience to end with emphatic head-shaking — unresolved conflict or a desperate try to clear the head of all that has passed?

    ReComposed is another epic to end the evening. There is a lot to love here: the swing-flappingspinswipeleapsweeptoss movement; the gorgeous full-stage, full-spectrum lighting shifts (thanks, modern technology); music whose instrumentation shifts have almost as much range as the lighting shifts (soft strings, carousel calliope organ, heavy bass brass for a few). The overall effect is dreamy and vivid, stimulating and soothing. And, as in the first piece, there is a LOT of dancing. To enhance the nonstop quality, Hollis Bartlett does multiple running laps around the entire stage as dancers fly in and out. All eight dancers have moments to shine and reason to sweat. And in all this activity, there are spots of sheer beauty in music and movement, and even a motif of tableaux vivant moments. ReComposed is a kaleidoscopic celebration of motion, music and color worth celebrating.

    APRIL 4, 2017

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