is one of the first words that comes to mind when I think of Doug Varone's choreography. But this weekend the varied work of Doug Varone and Dancers also is representing humor, humanity and humility as part of Dance Celebration's Dancemaker Series at Annenberg Center. With the body, this master dancemaker wordlessly shapes a deeply nuanced narrative or a hilarious spoof.

A ticket glitch Thursday night caused me to miss veteran company member Eddie Taketa's opening solo in


, but Philip Glass' music quickly danced me into the piece's quicksilver choreography. In black flapped pants and tops with shimmering underlining, created by costumer Liz Prince,


's eight dancers flung out their arms and opened their bodies wide. They traveled tornadically, swirling into the air and descending in impressive freefalls. As a full moon - projected on the back curtain - rose, Daniel Charon flew into barefoot tap and boogie-woogie footwork; when it looked like ballet from the waist up, it made for an exciting dance mash-up. At the end, I wondered how Taketa's final, lonely solo tied in with the one I had missed.



's only negatives were a few unintended traffic jams as dancers entered from the wings. This stellar company never looks sloppy, so perhaps there was some trouble with the stage.)


, from 1988, had Ryan Corriston and Natalie Desch up and down on chairs as they tried to resolve a quarrel. As miserable as they had once been happy, they veered between rejection and tender memories, between the need to be alone and the need to be together. Done to Dick Connette's homespun string minimalism,


is one of the most heart-stopping love duets in dance.

Polonaise #44

has the master in a duet with Charon, both clad in white tuxedos, also by Prince. This dance's histrionics could turn silly if it weren't so well-acted and danced. Varone is a great mover who can still take a hell of a yank on his shoulder socket while kicking the space above it.

The full company gave its most affecting performance in

Boats Leaving

. Jane Cox's otherworldly lighting and Arvo Pärt's

Te Deum

made for a somber atmosphere. The dancers seemed like survivors in shock, sometimes protecting one another, sometimes pushing out of line, looking for escape, or giving in to fate. Movements were precarious - a bent knee could lead to a fall. Dancers in the background are unlit and ghostly. One by one they left the stage - some resigned, some reluctantly. With this transcendent finale, Varone got the last word -




on D7