COVERSTORY LAST DANCE: DANCEworks presents its last program this weekend, and while it’s the end of an era, there is also much to celebrate. Doug Varone and Dancers will present Somewhere (pictured), a non-narrative work set to the music of Bernstein’s West Side Story.
Doug Varone Helps Dianne Vapnek Bring Two Decades of Inspired Dance Creation to a Close
ith awe-inspiring dedication, DANCEworks
Varone’s Lux, which was created in Santa Barbara during the founder and executive director Dianne Vapnek final season of SUMMERDANCE in 2006, along with a pair has pursued a grand vision for 22 years — to pro- of the choreographer’s inimitable solos. vide great choreographers with optimal A substantial residency with continuous access to the conditions for creating critical new stage in the same theater where the finished piece work, and to engage a passionate audience for will be performed: This was the conspicuously by Charles contemporary dance. Beginning with SUMunmet need of the North American dance scene Donelan MERDANCE in 1997, then entering into partthat both SUMMERDANCE and DANCEnership with the Lobero Theatre Foundation works aimed to satisfy. Ordinarily, dancers photos by for DANCEworks in 2009, the results of her David Bazemore and choreographers must by necessity make remarkable quest have, year after year, never most new dance in studios, then perform it on been short of extraordinary. The list of resident theater stages that always differ from the studio choreographers who have initiated major works environment in multiple important ways. While chothanks to Vapnek’s programs goes on and on: Doug Elkins, reographers have strategies to cope with transferring their Larry Keigwin, Aszure Barton, Mark Dendy, Kate Weare, work from studio to stage — measuring, timShannon Gillen, Adam Barruch, Brian Brooks, and close to a ing, counting, etc. — they inevitably find upon dozen more. Put another way, you know something serious is arrival that they must begin again to adapt happening when you find yourself thinking, “I almost forgot things further on the fly. about Baryshnikov.” For years, American choreographers did all DANCEworks presents its last program this weekend at this adjusting while dreaming of a better way; the Lobero on Friday-Saturday, September 6-7. There will that other way, that “somewhere,” was DANCEbe sadness for sure — it’s the end of an era — but also much works. The formula, brilliant in its simplicity, to celebrate. Doug Varone and Dancers will reconnect the guaranteed an out-of-routine experience. A series to its beginnings — Varone was a resident artist at the dance company arrived in Santa Barbara; they first SUMMERDANCE — and will tap one of the most pow- were housed, fed, and suitably feted; and for a month they erful creative currents in American performing arts history enjoyed daily access to the stage at the Lobero, the same through the music of Leonard Bernstein. Somewhere, a non- location in which they eventually performed. The setting narrative work set to the music of Bernstein’s West Side Story, offered the maximum possible freedom from the day-to-day is the new piece, and it will anchor a program including concerns that follow these groups to their familiar rehearsal
studios at home. As a guest at multiple rehearsals, I witnessed the impact of this unusual circumstance. Watching the dancers, at work and at rest, always brought an unmistakable sense of fit. These men and women, and the art they create, belong here.
CHOOSING PARTNERS It would be hard to pin down Vapnek’s taste, given the wide range of choreographers she has invited to participate. What has been consistent is the sense that the program is grounded in the same values as the fundamentally auteur-led companies she’s brought in. In brief, it breaks down like this: Be intelligent, be nimble, be self-aware, be direct, and always
DANCEworks gives artists a chance to let go of the old and become new again. nurture your dancers. And what Vapnek has done for these choreographers is exactly what she sees them doing for their dancers, which is creating the conditions under which they can thrive and in which great work can happen. Hearing Varone talk about the kind of paradigm shift that led him
SEPTEMBER 5, 2019
September 5, 2019, Vol. 33, No. 712