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“I haven’t danced … I haven’t performed … in 8 years.”

After a long and active career dancing in works of his own and by others, choreographer Doug Varone decided to leave the stage.

Why the departure?  “I lost the love for it,” he recalls, ”My body lost the love for it. It hurt a lot to get on stage …. And, arriving three hours ahead to warm up, be on stage, and [then] not be fulfilled? No, thanks.”

Company Members in "Dome" Photo: Courtesy Doug Varone and Dancers

Company Members in “Dome”
Photo: Courtesy Doug Varone and Dancers

With his choreographic career taking off, performing became of least importance. Varone decided to focus exclusively on making dances from the outside, looking in. As it turned out, exclusively taking the role of choreographer taught him a lot about performance.

During that hiatus from the stage, he realized how the passage of time—and all the new ideas, interests, responsibilities, and surroundings that come with it—plays a key role in the development of  one’s artistry.  Specifically, he came to realize that personal and professional shifts in life are closely linked to one’s style and capacity as a performer. Thinking back on chapters in his own life, he acknowledges, “Now, what I know and how I know to share it as a performer are vastly different [than before].”

Varone thinks his new knowledge is the result of now living in what he describes as “a very different environment, both artistically and otherwise.” The change is welcome. “It feels richer, feels knowing,” he says.

Doug Varone Photo: Courtesy Doug Varone and Dancers

Doug Varone
Photo: Courtesy Doug Varone and Dancers

 

Enlightening as that absence from the stage was, Varone came to miss “inhabiting his dances.”  Then, this past summer, he was commissioned by American Dance Festival’s “On Their Bodies” program to create a solo for himself. He found himself asking questions like “Who am I now?” and the results were revelatory.

“I was entering the studio to create a work in a way I hadn’t. It was a self-discovery,” Varone remembers.

Out of that creative process came The Fabulist, a solo set to David Lang’s vocal piece Death Speaks, that illustrates the choreographer’s own self-impression.

Varone explains, “A fabulist is a teller of tales, a teller of fables. That’s what I do. I tell stories about lives with bodies, words.”

From Dec. 2 to 7 at the Joyce Theater, New York City audiences can look forward to catching The Fabulist, along with the world premiere of Dome, set to Christopher Rouse’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Trombone Concerto,  and Castles (2004), which has not been performed in New York City since 2006.

Company Members in "Dome" Photo: Courtesy Doug Varone and Dancers

Company Members in “Dome”
Photo: Courtesy Doug Varone and Dancers

Whether or not Varone will perform after this, his return to the role of performer has impacted him as a choreographer. “It’s interesting to be a dancemaker working on the outside of my dancers for many years,” he says, “You become reliant on artists that you work with more and more. You become less physical. I have a very wonderful liberal, collaborative relationship with my company and I want to continue to be back in the physical mix.”

Any other upcoming plans for the company? He’d rather not say too much.

Insistent that he isn’t trying to be mysterious, Varone shares, “There’s going to be a shift in the company … the company model.” Exactly what the shift will be? “I’m not ready to reveal that,” he states.

But he affirms that he will continue to create works, mentioning that he is very interested in creating smaller dances in the future. When asked for a specific example, he responds, “Duets. They’re hallmark in my work … I love them.”

 

Written by Alejandra Iannone

Alejandra is a dancer, philosopher, and educator who lives and works in
New York City. She is a cum laude graduate of the Fordham University/Ailey School
B.F.A. program in New York City, NY, and has had the honor of dancing works by
various choreographers, including Take Ueyama, Jacqulyn Buglisi, Neil Ieremia, and
Donna Salgado. She is a faculty member at The Ailey School—Junior Division, where
she teaches creative movement and ballet and teaches at Astoria Fine Arts Dance + Fitness. Alejandra also holds an M.A. in Philosophy from Temple University, where she did work in the areas of Aesthetics, Philosophy of Dance, and Philosophy of Mind. She is an adjunct lecturer at The City College of New York, where she teaches philosophy.

Whether she is working in philosophy, dance, or some combination of the two, Alejandra
is interested in asking and perhaps answering questions about embodied knowledge.