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Jorgensen 1 Heidi Jorgensen Caroline Prohosky, Graham Brown Dance 461 8 April 2014 Doug Varone I was taken

into Dougs world, said Julia Burrer, a current member of Doug Varone and Dancers. Doug Varones work can be considered very humanistic. It is so emotionally empowering, that it takes everyone involved into another place, just like Julia said. This artist creates pieces that are so real, that one cannot help but get pulled right into the situations brought to life on stage. I have never watched his pieces live, but with sources like YouTube and Vimeo, I have gotten pulled into his work even virtually. Part of what makes everything so real is how involved the dancers are with each other. In life, we interact with other people every single day. These interactions are one of many concepts Doug creates about. His choreography "pulls at the heart," according to critic Deborah Jowitt; "the dancers seem so valiant, so bemused, so tender with one another, so lost (Zimmer). From my experiences of watching his work, I have seen that he has choreographed pieces about a relationship between a man and a woman, different types of people on the street, slowing down due to health and age, and enjoying the momentum of moving through space with fellow dancers, to describe a few. Although there may be few solos or duets, the way the dancers constantly move in and out of each other is visually and emotionally stunning. According to an anonymous writer in The Dance Insider, Varone's dances seem to have easy, nonthreatening appeal (Zimmer). The ease illustrated through the movement, emotions, and constant relationships with other dancers is what truly has influenced

Jorgensen 2 the dance world today. That influence has been created by where he came from, his expectations of his dancers, and his developed aesthetic. Doug Varone grew up tap dancing and performing in musical theater. While he was a boy, his dream was to dance on Broadway (Bremser, Sanders). This background influenced his love for music in general, and specifically his work with musicality. His piece Polonaise especially illustrates his attention to detail (Vimeo). Doug includes so many accents that fit right along with the music, and it creates an exciting connection between what is being seen and what is being heard. His dancer Julia said that he always chooses the music first, and if he does not think that his movement can live up to the music, he will stop that idea and start over with a brand new one. Originally, Doug wanted to pursue Broadway, but after receiving a BFA from Purchase College, his love for contemporary dance grew. He danced with the Jos Limn Dance Company for a year, and then he joined the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company for eight years (Bremser, Sanders). Through his different experiences, he developed his own unique aesthetic. Not only did the musical theatre background inspire his musicality, but it also helped him develop a pedestrian style of movement, that I have watched in a great number of his works, with unique gestures here and there. His work at Purchase helped him strengthen his dance technique, and his time spent with the Limn and Lubovitch dance companies helped influence his flow and spiraling motion (Bremser, Sanders). According to Julia, when he first started creating work of his own, he experimented with friends, and showed pieces here and there at different places until he eventually developed his own company. She mentioned that he struggled in the beginning trying to find his own voice, but as he worked and experimented more and more, it naturally developed and came right out of him. I have taken a few classes where the teacher explains and demonstrates a move with a

Jorgensen 3 Varone-like quality, which means he has succeeded in finding his own style. Because of his variety of backgrounds, he was able to choreograph for multiple settings. Doug has choreographed for Broadway, film, operas, and dance companies (dougvaroneanddancers.org). That is something especially admirable about him and what he has done for the world of dance. Not only has his diversity helped in multiple areas of dance, but his attitude about his dancers and his work is quite admirable. When watching a Varone piece, it is easy to see that there are clear relationships between the dancers (Vimeo). I can see that they are always aware of each other, and they react so naturally to one another. According to authors Martha Bremser and Lorna Sanders, Another choreographer might ask his dancers to convey emotion or make eye contact; Varone asks his dancers simply to interact, without pretence (364). Something that makes his pieces so humanistic, so raw, are the beautiful relationships and emotions seen on stage between everyone. Even though we can act like we have clear relationships on stage, it is easier to create a more genuine connection with other dancers if you have a great rapport with them off stage. Julia, who has danced in Doug Varone and Dancers for about seven years, mentioned some characteristics about his company. They are very much like a family; they always love each other, but they do not always like each other. She mentioned that at first, Varones company included a very broad range of dancers, which shows how variable he is willing to be. Doug believes that being a good dancer is just as important as getting along with the group, Julia stated. From my experience talking to multiple directors of different performance groups, they have all mentioned some way or another that the persons character is very important, not just their dancing. If someone is on a company, they have to be able to work with others in a very close and personal

Jorgensen 4 environment. A company that works well together emotionally will be able to dance successfully together. Julia mentioned that Doug is willing to play around in rehearsal every now and then so things can stay light for everyone, but he is good at getting things done. The relationship established in the rehearsal setting is so critical for what will happen on stage. People have to be able to work with each other in order to be not just efficient, but effective. This is why establishing a relationship with co-workers is so important. Dancers particularly have special relationships with one another. Author Ethel Sanders states that, This could be said about other subjects but these often lack the ability to develop relationships in the way that dance does there are few subjects that can combine all modes of thinking so effectively and so enjoyably (61). Dance encompasses so much of an individual, and combining that with somebody else is not always easy. I believe that if the dancers cannot work together, a piece cannot be created as successfully. That is why Doug Varone sees that the dancers character is just as, if not more, important than their dancing. In addition, their ability to pick up his unique style, yet keep their individuality, is a big factor if anyone wants to dance for Doug Varone. The way that the Varone dancers move is so easy going. From the pieces I watched online, I can see that they have a constant swing-type indirect style of dancing. It is beautiful to watch because it looks so easy and natural. There seems to be no ending to any movement because it is constant, and one move flows right into another seamlessly. It can be hard to make dance look that natural, but total body connectivity is the key, and from what I have seen, the dancers do a great job at showing how everything is connected to the core. Julia explained how Doug is very human. She went on to talk about how his insecurities are shown in rehearsals, so he is not afraid to be vulnerable in front of his dancers in general, so that feeling is easily

Jorgensen 5 accessible for him and his dancers to create. That susceptible emotion can create such an open environment, especially in the creative process. I know that the more vulnerable I am the rawer and more expressive I can be with my movement and performance. It is a very beautiful feeling to get to that point and let yourself be completely open. Allowing yourself to feel that vulnerability can make a certain style of movement shine even more because it will be more genuine. Julia talked about how Varones style is very much about momentum and changing in directions, while the full body is grounded with ease in the legs. A lot of his movement clearly initiates from the back, which comes from his Limn training. I noticed that he also likes walking and running around and then all of a sudden dancing, like there is a pedestrian feel until automatically the person feels an impulse to move. Julia explained how he does not require the dancers to look just like him. He wants them to incorporate his movement style, but stay true to who they are. Julia stated, He wants the dancers to be themselves, not robots who all do the same thing. Furthermore, she mentioned that he choreographs all of the pieces for the company, but lately he has been including the dancers individual creations a little bit more. In his online archives, there is a series where he and the dancers created the piece Carrugi in front of a live audience. Doug would give the dancers some type of task, and then they would accomplish that specific task. For example, I noticed that he would put a few pieces of paper on the ground, and the dancer had to figure out how to get around them in a unique way without touching them (Vimeo). It was a guided improvisation exercise to aid in the creation of a beautiful piece. I imagine that this is especially where it was crucial that the dancers worked well together. Everybody experimented together to help create one beautiful piece, so it was not about one person, but it was about the whole group. Something thats most enjoyable about Varones works is how emotional they can be. One of the

Jorgensen 6 most riveting is titled Short Story. In his online archives, this piece was featured, and Doug explained how he was inspired by short stories and how so much could happen in just a few pages. He wanted to choreograph a dance that had that same effect, so he created this duet between a man and a woman at a moment in time (Vimeo). The piece is stunning and completely entrancing because of the reality of the relationship portrayed on stage. The emotions portrayed are so deep and vulnerable that it is impossible not to be affected by the dancers. All of his movements have a specific intent, and his pieces continue to inspire audiences to this day. Doug Varone has made influences on the dance world in many ways. His diverse experience with musical theatre, classical modern, operas, and film helped point him in the direction he decided to go, and they helped him create his own unique style of movement that is still impacting audiences today. From talking with his company member Julia, I can see that his passion for his work with his dancers helps us realize how important the work environment is. People often only see what is on stage, but they do not realize how much outside physical and emotional work is put into a show. In order for all of that time and effort to be a success and to be worth it, the dancers must be able to work together effectively. Who wants to spend all their time in close proximities with people they do not get along with? The relationships off stage will influence what is seen on the stage. Acting can only go so far. Varones distinctive aesthetic has helped influence movements and styles that are emerging in contemporary dance today. The ease and the momentum that he specializes in help dancers to not muscle through everything. I have felt that first hand in the classes Ive taken from his dancer Julia Burrer. Sensing that ease and flow helped me dance more seamlessly and enjoyably because that style has helped me not force through each movement. The emotions portrayed in his pieces add more vulnerability and humanism to the world of art today. They are expressed with a very understandable approach, so

Jorgensen 7 that whatever thoughts are being shared are illustrated with very genuine and believable movement. Doug Varone has inspired many with his gestural, musical, and emotional pieces, and his friendly attitude, according to Julia, makes him a pleasure to work with. He has been able to bring dance to a more humanistic place where one cannot help but enter his world and go along for the ride.

Jorgensen 8 Works Cited Bremser, Martha, and Lorna Sanders. Fifty Contemporary Choreographers: Second Edition. New York City: Routledge, 201. Print. Burrer, Julia. Personal Interview. 22 Feb. 2014. DougVaroneAndDancers. Uncovering the Archives: Lux. YouTube. n.p., 2 Oct. 2012. Web. 7 April 2014. Sanders, Ethel. Leading a Creative School: Learning about Lasting School Change. New York City: Routledge, 2011. Print. Varone, Doug. dougvaroneanddancers.org. Doug Varone And Dancers. Web. 6 Mar. 2014. Varone, Doug. Vimeo. Doug Varone And Dancers, 2012. Web. 6 Mar. 2014. Zimmer, Elizabeth. A Choreographers Choreographer. The Philadelphia Inquirer 7 Jan. 1999. Print.