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Doug Varone and Dancers

Skidmore College currently is hosting a summer dance workshop with critically acclaimed dance company Doug Varone and Dancers. The troupe, who will be at Skidmore until June 26, are teaching a range of classes in dance, choreography and performance. Verone says, “With this workshop we’ll seek to explore and enhance those individual strengths as dancers and creative artists. Providing a supportive environment and the time to discover these new challenges is essential.”

Tomorrow (Friday), Varone and company take a break from the workshops and will perform at Albany’s Egg.

Varone founded his company in 1986 and has been choreographing dances for them ever since. Many of these works have been commissioned by leading presenters like the American Dance Festival, the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts and the Joyce Theater. He’s received plenty of honors during his career, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, a New York Dance and Performance Award (Bessie) for Sustained Achievement in Choreography, and annual fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts.

According to Anna Kisselgoff of The New York Times, “Varone has produced some of modern dance’s most engrossing works. His dancers rush headlong into movement that spills even spools out onstage. There is a dazzle to these complex swiftly formed patterns.” The Village Voice’s Deborah Jowitt wrote in her recent review of the company, “I go to concerts by Doug Varone for a fix of gorgeous, strangely evasive sensuality that shivers off the stage and into the audience.”

Doug Varone and Dancers will perform at the Egg (Empire State Plaza, Albany) tomorrow (Friday, June 11) at 8 PM as part of the Dance New York series. Tickets are $24, $19 seniors, $12 children. For information and tickets, call the Egg box office at 473-1845.

Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen

The Byrds are credited with all but inventing folk-rock with their hit 1965 version of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man.” It’s been speculated that that was the very catalyst that sparked ol’ Bob to plug himself in at that same year’s Newport Folk Festival. Mandolin player Chris Hillman was actually a late draft to the band’s lineup—added as a bassist while the Byrds were in the studio—but that didn’t stop him from singing lead on 10 of their hits and penning the legendary Monkees jab “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star.” Hillman also helped shape the band’s sound in later years, as they moved toward a more countrified rock sound that was true to his own roots, a style he continued to practice in post-Byrds projects like the Flying Burrito Brothers (with legendary wastoid Gram Parsons) and the Souther-Hillman-Furay Band (with songwriter J.D. Souther and Poco-leader-gone-Jesus-freak Richie Furay). Hillman hooked up with banjoist Herb Pedersen two decades ago to form the Desert Rose Band, and the two have been making music together ever since. The duo’s latest release, Way Out West, combines original compositions with classic country fare, including songs by Ray Price and the Louvin Brothers.

Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen will take the stage as part of the American Roots & Branches series at the Egg’s Swyer Theater on Sunday (June 13). Sharing the bill is Texas-based songwriter Slaid Cleaves, who is touring in support of his latest LP, Wishbone. Tickets for the 7:30 PM performance are $22. For more information, call 473-1845.

Floyd Collins

Some folks—even some regular theatergoers—have difficulty with the very concept of the musical: For certain audience members, any sudden, inexplicable bursting into song induces fits of disbelief in ways that, say, actors performing an entire play while interred in urns does not. Composer lyricist Adam Guettel has a direct, if sarcastic, reaction to those who are so challenged: “God forbid you should care about anything so much that you’d sing about it.”

That’s the key, says Guettel, whose acclaimed work Floyd Collins begins its run at the Berkshire Theatre Festival tonight (Thursday): emotion. The musical allows for the dramatic illustration of emotion in ways that “straight” theater doesn’t. For example: the story of Floyd Collins, a young Kentuckian hoping to realize entreprenurial dreams by discovering a tourist-friendly cave system, who gets trapped in the very caverns he hoped would lead to riches. Lots of emotional opportunities here, certainly. If told by David Mamet, though, the play would probably go a bit like this:

Floyd: Fuck if I do not make a fuckin’ fortune on this.
Floyd misteps, tumbles and is trapped beneath the earth’s surface.
Floyd: Fuck.

See how a song might punch this up? And Guettel has the skills. Not only has he a promising lineage (he’s the son of Mary Hart, and the grandson of composer Richard Rodgers), but his contributions to Floyd Collins earned him the designation “the next Sondheim” when it debuted in 1994.

Floyd Collins opens tonight (June 10) at the Berkshire Theatre Festival (Main Street, Stockbridge, Mass.), and runs through July 3. $27-$42. For show times or more information, (413) 298-5576.

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