Doug Varone and Dancers | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Doug Varone and Dancers


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Music visualization has a bad name in some circles, implying dance's subordination to another art form. But the creation of movement to match the timbres, rhythms, and structure of music has a long history in modern dance, beginning with Ruth St. Denis in the early 20th century. New York choreographer Doug Varone shows that music visualization need not be limiting--that it can be an avenue to other insights. His As Natural as Breathing (2000) is set to a variety of pop music; the excerpt I saw features two men and two women dancing to some old, funky, bluesy jazz. Their rather pedestrian hip twitches and half-finished caresses and gropings not only capture the music's dynamics and laid-back mood but suggest a whole milieu, a party or club where everyone's had a little--or a lot--too much to drink. And the way Varone has all four face one another suggests teenagers' total involvement with a peer group, their simultaneous competition and fear of being different. Possession (1994) is similarly married to its music; this big, violently danced piece for eight recapitulates the way Philip Glass constantly ups the ante, increasing the tempo and changing the scale just when you think he's reached the climax. Using the human body to represent these shifts gives them an emotional edge, illuminating the hysteria of being possessed, the sense of being driven by outside forces. Varone's company will perform these works plus his new 26-minute Ballet Mecanique, set to music by George Antheil said to have caused a riot at its Paris premiere in 1926; when the music premiered in New York the following year, Antheil added to its pianos, pianola, xylophones, and doorbells the sound of car horns, anvils, and a real airplane propeller. Dance Center of Columbia College, 1306 S. Michigan, 312-344-8300. Opens Thursday, October 4, 8 PM. Through October 6: Friday-Saturday, 8 PM. $20. Note: Varone and his dancers will offer a master class Monday, October 1, at 6:30 PM at Zephyr Dance, Holstein Park, 2200 N. Oakley; $15.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Lois Greenfield.

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