Gay modern dance master Doug Varone swoops into the Winspear
STEVEN LINDSEY | Contributing Writer
For award-winning choreographer Doug Varone, dance has always been his calling.
“I feel as if I was always choreographing, even as a young kid,” he says. “I always had a visual sense of seeing things in space and moving them around. The most creative were with my mom’s lipstick canisters. I would lock myself in the bathroom for hours when I was young and build all of these extraordinarily moving tableaux of group disasters.
When I decided dance was the outlet that I loved most, naturally the art of making dances took over my imagination. [Now I’m] using bodies instead of objects. Creating movement is just a way to make them speak.”
At Saturday’s concert at the Winspear Opera House, Doug Varone and Dancers, he’ll bring the language of dance to the world (no lipstick canisters will be used, though). The show will bring together brand-new pieces and several from his company’s 25-year history. (“It seems to have gone very quickly, and then I look in the mirror and don’t recognize the bald person reflected back at me,” Varone laughs.) Rise, created in 1993, will be performed Saturday, and resonates especially.
“This dance more than any other was responsible for putting the company on the map,” he says. “The dance is a pure movement work set to John Adams’ incredibly cinematic score, Fearful Symmetries. It explores the huge physical dancerly side of my work: explosive, energetic.”
That dance is offset by a brand new piece entitled Able to Leap Tall Buildings. The direct reference to Superman is no coincidence: Using superhero action figures and bending them in particular shapes, a very interesting dialogue developed. “The dancers morphed those shapes to their own bodies and we set this beautifully awkward duet to a new score by American composer Julia Wolfe.”
It’s outside-the-box interpretations like this that captivate audiences, and Varone believes even those who think they don’t like modern dance will enjoy it.
“Modern dance has a reputation for being incredibly insular,” he admits. “But I think there are a lot of smart artists today who are trying to figure out ways to incorporate and include the audience in a new dialogue. When you think of it, dance is what each of us does every day: The way we each walk uniquely, the gestures that we use when we talk, the patterns that we unknowingly use when we are weaving in and out of sidewalk traffic. The dances on this program are not difficult to enter into and the fact that my dancers are real people brings a human quality to the work that I think is rare. They look and seem to not be dancers, but people on the street who move in extraordinary ways. Just like you and me.”
Ultimately, gay patrons may get even more out of the show.
“All of the work that I create is filtered through the eyes of a gay man, and as a result has a beautiful and accepting feel to how people interact. I present relationships in very clear ways,” Varone says. One dance in particular, The Mozart, features a male duet that he says is very emblematic of this.
“This is how I see the world around me — with a remarkable sense of equality.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 28, 2012.