Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago Hosts DOUG VARONE AND DANCERS Review – Dance and Humanity

Dance Center of Columbia College DOUG VARONE AND DANCERS
Doug Varone in Nocturne Photo by Brooke Trisolini

The Dancer Center of Columbia College Chicago presents an evening of repertory works by modern dance company Doug Varone and Dancers.

As soon as the performance began with Varone on stage himself performing Nocturnes, his dance style comes through immediately. It is pedestrian, yet intentional. Grounded and fluid, and with great  humanity – this is movement we immediately relate to.

Seeing both the Joffrey Ballet perform Modern Masters (Read the review “Joffrey Ballet Presents MODERN MASTERS Review – Cutting Edge Ballet" here) and Varone’s work in the same week created an interesting comparison— the Joffrey dancers so technical, lifted, and almost superhuman, while Varone’s dancers so sure-footed, grounded, and human.

Wearing a black hoodie and swaying black pants, Varone looks like a pedestrian who just stepped out of teaching a dance class or is choreographing movements in his home, as if there is no audience or stage in sight. He moves in and out of being intensely dynamic with clearly choreographed movements from everyday and gestural. Sometimes it is unclear if the movement is improvised or choreographed.  It seems so ingrained in Varone’s body that it is his natural movement.

The Dance Center’s intimate stage also allows the audience to see Varone’s facial expressions and hear his breath. Throughout the evening, watching the dancers facial expressions or intentional lack of expression really helps connect us with the dance and the dancers.

Committed to his movement so completely, he is absolutely mesmerizing to watch.

folded/shelter, a duet between two men and a trio of two women and a man, is part of the five dances in the shelter of the fold shows the connection between the dancers on stage both through movement and facial expressions. folded, danced by Hollis Bartett and Bradley Beakes is energetic.  The two men push and throw themselves and each other through space. In contrast, shelter is more static. In shelter the dancers use more gestures than full body movements but the intensity remains. The most impressive part of shelter is the connection between the dancers without any eye contact. 

Doug Varone and Dancers in folded Photo by Robert Altman
Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago DOUG VARONE AND DANCERS
Doug Varone and Dancers in Boats Leaving Photo by Hayim Heron

The dancers are each in their own world, almost as if the others don’t exist, but while in the mode of solidarity they are able to flawlessly partner together. shelter makes us think of being lost in our everyday lives, searching for some sort of faith and connection with another, whether it be another person or a greater power.

Boats Leaving choreographed in 2016 to music by Arvo Part, also brings the idea of faith and belief into movement. The piece is a tribute to the human spirit and the brings a sense of divinity to the stage. The eight dancers move together as a group, humans trying to navigate the world. The dancers create small scenes, snapshots in time, pausing in a pose for just a moment before they move together to reach their next moment of stillness as a group.

The last dance of the evening is Lux, choreographed in 2006. While none of the other pieces use any sort of scenery or special lighting, Lux centers around a single circle of light behind the black curtain slowly rising like the sun throughout the dance. Dancer Hsiao-Jou Tang begins and ends the dance with a stunning solo, both grounded and fluid while still jubilant. The other seven company dancers begin to join her on stage, moving freely and soaring through the air with expressions of joy on their faces.

While the other pieces in the concert are more somber and serious, Lux shows the dancers in a new light, one that is about the exuberance of dancing and moving the body. Even though Lux evokes the joy of dancing, it is also the joy of seeing a light shining in the darkness that is so powerful.

Learn more about dance by seeing dance through dancers eyes in the Picture This Post series, “Choreographers’ Eyes - Dancers Explain Dance”.  Watch this video preview of the story here— 

Read more dance reviews by dancers in the Picture This Post Round-Up, “Choreographers’ Eyes - Dancers Explain Dance”.  Watch this video preview of the story here —


February 8, 9 and 10 7:30 PM


The Dance Center of Columbia College
1306 South Michigan


$30 (Discounts available)

For tickets call 312 369 8330 or visit the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago website

About the Author:

Hayley Ross graduated from Ohio University in 2016 with degrees in Dance and Journalism. Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Hayley began dancing at the age of four. She has studied Ballet, Pointe, Modern, Jazz, Contemporary, and African dance and regularly can be found taking dance and Pilates at Chicago's Lou Conte Dance Studio. Hayley has completed internships at CityScene Media Group, OhioDance, the Chautauqua Institution, and American Dance Festival. She currently works in the Marketing department at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago as the Communication Coordinator. Learn more about Hayley at

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