“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.”
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.
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.
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.”