"Dense Terrain"
Doug Varone and Dancers
Brooklyn Academy of Music
Brooklyn, NY
May 16, 2007

by Lisa Rinehart
copyright © 2007 by Lisa Rinehart

Doug Varone's "Dense Terrain" maps desolate territory. It's an emotionally vacant piece that could dissuade even a hard core New Yorker from renting that grimy studio apartment they've got their eye on — or, at least, send them to the nearest Starbucks for some cozy conversation. This is surprising given that "Dense Terrain" is, like many of Varone's dances, about connecting, or, trying to connect, and what topic is more emotionally fraught? But amidst of pallet of grunge greys, Varone gets bogged down by arcane ideas and technical silliness unrelated to the movement and drains the life from this slick vivisection of psychosis and frustrated relationships.

"Dense Terrain" is centered around a nondancing, manic professor type (actor Anthony Cochrane) who spends a lot of time inanely repeating words from a made up language as the dancers sign along with equally obscure hand movements. This theme repeats ad nauseam with claustrophobic black and white video projections of Cochrane scribbling unintelligible glyphs on walls and floors as the dancers move large flats to and fro. Tragically for him (and us), he gets through to no one — least of all to the dancers who sometimes sit like depressed students in a classroom — and ends up rolling around in a sort of padded room. I'm sure middle school math teachers can relate, but the multi media high jinx feel irrelevant and distracting.

The dancers, meanwhile, jump out of their chairs and rip their guts out doing what Varone does best; surgically precise duos and trios that flow with the intensity of a rushing stream. The dancers collide, fall and regroup for another desperate swirl. There is a characteristically violent duet between two men, and a gorgeous dance for a man and a woman whose struggle to separate only increases their entanglement. There's also a brief segment when a woman, unable to find a resting place for her hands, dissolves into convulsions and is bulldozed off stage by a rolling set piece. It's a good metaphor for "Dense Terrain" — Varone is eloquent when at peace with his best language; movement. The projections, the moveable walls, the spoken mumbo jumbo and redundant signing amount to a lot of unnecessary theatrical scribbling.

Photos by Richard Termine.

Volume 5, No. 21
May 28, 2007

copyright ©2007 by Lisa Rinehart

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