Doug Varone and Dancers Return to Chicago

Thirty years into choreographing for his company Doug Varone and Dancers, Doug Varone believes he has become somewhat of a pointillist.

He said looking back, his early choreography resembled the work of an impressionist; he now injects his dances with more distinction.

“What has changed is a greater sense of detail,” he said. “I ask certain questions of my dance making now that I’m not sure I asked when I was younger.”

This distinction will be clear when Doug Varone and Dancers return to the Dance Center at Columbia College Feb. 8 through Feb. 10.

Although Varone personally appears on stage only rarely, he performs two solos in each of the Chicago shows.

Varone created the first solo, one of two called Nocturne, to Chopin’s Nocturne #8 in D-Flat Major, Op. 27, No. 2 in 1987 as an exploration of the thin and often blurred line between dance and pedestrian movement. He choreographed the second to Chopin’s Nocturne in E Minor, Op. 72 as a companion piece for Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in the summer of 2017.

“The two are completely different looks at the same artist over the span of 30 years that has been a fascinating journey,” he said. “They also feel like kindred spirits.”

The show additionally includes two pieces choreographed in 2006, Boats Leaving and Lux. Varone said these pieces also feel to him like kindred spirits, creating an arc for the show.

He described Lux as “pure movement,” an optimistic piece that offsets the more somber tone of Boats Leaving. He said reconstructing Boats Leaving for this show was partially a response to the current climate in the country, laden with divisive rhetoric and negativity.

“A lot of the work that I do is about the human spirit. It is about the deep humanity that we have, that we share, and so often that is the crux of the problem, this real lack of acceptance of who we are and where we are,” he said. “Most of my work deals with that not in a political context, but in a human context.”

Outside of exploring humanity, Varone is known for the emotional range of his works and his skill of evoking emotional reactions through his dances, from ideological struggles to pure joy.

Lastly, the show includes two excerpts—a duet and trio—from the 2016 evening length work, in the shelter of the fold.

in the shelter of the fold was build around the theme of faith and this idea that within each of us we believe in things strongly,” he said. “It’s based from a non-religious point of view, although I never point audience members in a certain direction. I allow them to see and believe what they want to get out of the work.”

Varone said he is excited to bring his work back to Chicago after 17 years and share his dance with a whole new generation of audience members.

And, in an era with more entertainment possibilities and shorter attention spans, making a connection that keeps the dance replaying in the audience members’ heads is what Varone reaches for.

“I’m hoping when they leave that they will remember the dance the next day, and for me that’s really important,” he said. “In this era you can turn on multiple cable channels and just keep flipping every 20 seconds and then go to bed, and to really remember what you watched the night before—I love that possibility.”

Doug Varone and Dancers perform at the Dance Center at Columbia College from Feb. 8 through Feb. 10 at 7:30 p.m.

Miriam Finder Annenberg
Miriam Finder Annenberg