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With their kinetically sizzling choreography, Doug Varone and Dancers prove that there's no such thing as an old dancer. 

Full Speed Ahead

Doug Varone and Dancers
"Let's Dance: The Cabaret"
Cafine's
8 p.m.
Oct. 20
$5
828-2020

Doug Varone and Dancers
Grace Street Theater
934 W. Grace St.
8 p.m.
Oct. 21-22
$13-$15; free to VCU students
828-2020

Although he is now in his 40s, dancer and choreographer Doug Varone is unwilling to slow down. "I'm dancing better than I have in 20 years," he says. "... I'm more physically able. I've clarified my approach to movement and my voice is clearer."

Varone seems to be relishing his maturity, and these days he even prefers working with older dancers. None of the dancers in his current ensemble is under 30. The sleek and startling beautiful Eddie Taketa and the amazing articulate Gwen Welliver are those rare breed of dancers that keep you watching, then make you hungry for more.

"My work has a dramatic context, even though most of my dances are abstract," Varone says. "My kind of work cries out for interpretation that only a mature dancer with life experiences can bring.

"This generation knows more about our bodies than ever before. We can sustain our dance lives much longer. It's not a career you use to get to somewhere else."

From 1992-1994, Varone was artist-in-residence at Virginia Commonwealth University. Since then, he has toured extensively and has choreographed works for Broadway. His return to Richmond on Oct. 20-22 will show two sides of his company — one that is colloquial, the other, more contemporary and abstract.

Doug Varone and Dancers electrify audiences when they perform. High energy, fast-paced, kinetically sizzling choreography charges the stage with a pulsing urgency. Unwilling to succumb to motion and chaos for the sake of busyness alone, Varone's dances contain a core of dramatic intensity, a hidden story usually beyond reach, a narrative exploded by dance.

On Oct. 20 at Cafine's, Doug Varone and Dancers will perform "Let's Dance: The Cabaret," featuring about a dozen swing-inspired works. Varone draws from his early training in tap dancing, and social dances such as the jitterbug and the mambo. "I took these known dances, removed some of the steps and included my own vocabulary," he explains. "I wanted to give it a contemporary look ... make it accessible to an audience who may not otherwise come out to see a modern dance concert." After the show, the audience is invited to take swing dance lessons and talk to the performers.

On Oct. 21-22 at VCU's Grace Street Theater, the company will perform three works: "Bel Canto," "Agora (Democracy)" and "Sleeping with Giants." The 1998 "Bel Canto," set to selections from Vincenzo Bellini's opera "Norma," is a comic, lovelorn look at relationships. Inspired by an ancient Greek marketplace "Agora (Democracy)," with original music by Julia Woolf, contains a series of bursting movements that either coalesce or disappear. In "Sleeping with Giants," with music by Michael Nyman, the focus is a man struggling against the frenetic pace of day-to-day living.

Altogether, Doug Varone and Dancers' brashness and fluidity excite whether they're flinging themselves through space or, in quieter moments, slowly extending an arm. Varone has mastered momentum without forgetting the power of
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