Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

August 13, 2009

Doug Varone and Dancers

Jacob’s Pillow, Becket
through August 16, 2009
by Emily List

Since the founding of his company in 1986, choreographer Doug Varone has cultivated a reputation for creating a diverse body of work that projects varied facets of the human condition. “Castles,” the opening piece for Varone’s company at Jacob’s Pillow, emphasizes the intrinsically faulty aspect of human nature. The movement appears deliberately unrefined and loosely controlled. Company members continuously push the boundaries of suspension, stylistically shifting in the blink of an eye from balletic arabesques to moments of collapse in which all body weight is heavily transferred to the floor or a fellow dancer. For the most part, “Castles” keeps the dancers’ collective center of gravity close to the ground, the lifts and leaps seemingly weighted down by heavy-hung shoulders and curved torsos. The sense of being grounded is aided by Prokofiev’s often menacing “Waltz Suite, Opus 110.” Varone’s expertly danced choreography fills every note with theatrically charged movement as different dancers pulsate to match each rhythm, instrument and tone of the piece.

The performance’s dark, brooding tone continues in “Short Story,” a piece that explores the emotionally twisted relationship between two distraught lovers. Beautifully danced by Daniel Charon and Natalie Desch, “Short Story” is captivating for its moments of stillness and tension, underscored by Rachmaninoff’s “Prelude in C.” Everyday movements such as a chin cupped in a hand are infused with heartbreaking drama.

The pure joy and ecstasy of dancing is not evident until the last piece. “Lux,” danced to Philip Glass’ “The Light,” finds the company suddenly light on its feet and frolicking joyously together under the glow of a rising moon. The fast-paced athleticism is irresistibly coupled with a sense of fun; dancers parting and coming together in a way that is reminiscent of an old-time hoedown. While the tortured movements of the first two pieces reveal Varone’s unique vocabulary in the dance world, the contrast of "Lux’s" exalting, sweeping movements prevents the program from becoming emotionally overbearing.