Bill Coleman and Laurence Lemieux transform into poor folk in Varenka, Varenka!
VARENKA, VARENKA! choreography by Laurence Lemieux (Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie). At the Citadel (304 Parliament). To March 31. $25, stu $15. See Listing. Rating: NNN
How appropriate that a cold snap descends on the city during the run of Varenka, Varenka! It adds a touch of Russian ambience that's missing from Laurence Lemieux's dance adaptation of Dostoevsky's first novel, Poor Folk.
We're not expected to know the book. Snatches of Russian are heard on the speakers, yet there's no translation or synopsis. In her program notes, Lemieux says that's intentional, so we "rock to the music of the language and simply try to get the emotion inherent in the text."
That's fine, but a bit more information - basic setting or character outlines - would help us navigate the work.
Inside a tenement, suggested by David Gaucher's set of wooden frames demarcating several rooms, two figures eke out a solitary existence. A man (Bill Coleman) uses large, wide gestures of his long limbs to beckon us into a scene, while a woman (Lemieux), obviously more introverted, seems to slink along the walls, not wanting to be seen.
Pierre Lavoie's lighting design is used effectively, especially when the woman finally steps outdoors.
The piece consists of small moments like this - watching Lemieux seem to physically deflate, seeing the two of them suspended in air or stuck in a mechanical routine. The dancers are terrific (and have great planes in their faces that take to shadow beautifully), but without a narrative it's hard to feel any momentum.
Musician Vladimir Sidorov shares the stage, wielding the accordion as if it's both a lusty Russian orchestra and a foley room, evoking wind, knocking doors and the unspoken emotional current between the two characters.