When choreographer Doug Varone first saw paintings by abstract expressionist Joan Mitchell, “I thought I was looking at my own dances on a page,” he said in a preperformance talk at the Prince Theater on Wednesday night.
Indeed, the lines and strokes of Mitchell’s works appear to be in motion, and Varone tries to replicate that feel in the athletics and emotions of his 2015 ReComposed, which the company brought this week to the Prince. Varone's dancers, dressed in muted tones with pastel stripes or dark unitards with bold-colored bands, rarely stopped moving as lights changed color against the backdrop.
The piece, set to Michael Gordon’s Dystopia — which also sounds like organized chaos — offers a lot to ponder as the dancers meet and move past one another. Does each dancer correspond to a stroke in the painting? Do their colors translate to different movements? Would their steps, if filmed from above, leave a trail similar to some of Mitchell’s paintings?
Varone is celebrating his company’s 30th anniversary this year, and Philadelphia was one of the first cities where it performed. This year, along with ReComposed, Varone brought old and new works.
The new work is Folded, a duet for two men set to music by Julia Wolfe. One of six stand-alone pieces from his 2016 piece in the shelter of the fold, it has two men dancing alongside each other in the same movements and balancing on each other, in motions full of physical and emotional support.
Possession is a major revival of Varone’s 1994 dance set to music by Philip Glass, reworked for the company’s anniversary. Like ReComposed, it is based on an existing work, A.S. Byatt’s novel of mystery and romance. The audience peers into the lives of four couples exploring intimate relationships. One repeats a series of intricate balances and lifts — the woman lies across the man and then is tossed in the air. Another pair experiences a loss, their movements increasingly aching. We spy on a third pair, talking with their hands, their backs to the audience.
Doug Varone and Dancers. 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 3 p.m. Sunday. Prince Theater, 1412 Chestnut St. Tickets: $20-$60. Information: 215-422-4580, princetheater.org/next-move