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Monday, August 27, 2007
Doug Varone and Dancers: “Steeping” Into History

Boats Leaving (2006) Photo by Richard Termine

Doug Varone, choreographer of contemporary dance for the concert stage and opera, is the artistic director of Doug Varone and Dancers which was named this year’s Harkness Dance Center Company-in-Residence, the first at the 92nd Street Y in decades. As a company-in-residence, Varone and his dancers will be calling the Y their home, including being at the Y for company rehearsals, workshops, classes, studio showings, Fridays at Noon performances and the unique opportunity for teens in the Y’s Harkness Repertory Ensemble to work with this master choreographer.

Varone is the recipient of numerous honors including a Guggenheim Fellowship, a New York Dance and Performance Award (Bessie) for Sustained Achievement in Choreography and, most recently, a 2006 OBIE Award for his production of Ricky Ian Gordon’s Orpheus and Euridice at Lincoln Center. He recently answered some questions from Harkness Dance Center staff for the Y blog.

Harkness Dance Center: How do you hope that this next year at the Y will help you creatively?
Doug Varone: At this particular point in the Company’s life (we are in our 21st year), it will be very satisfying to have a place that we can call home. We have been a bit nomadic in terms of rehearsing everywhere throughout the city and this remains frustrating, as the quest for studio space often overshadows the creative drive. Being able to create new work in one environment will be tremendously healthy for the dancers and our process.

HDC: What is appealing to you about being with us?
DV: I have a long history with the Y and have rehearsed here with the company (and before then even, as an independent choreographer). The energy in the building is remarkable and it fuels creativity. There is SO much going on so many different fronts, like a small city that educates and supports. It’s thrilling to walk the halls and feed off of that.

HDC: What will you be working on going into this season?
DV: I will be creating a new repertory work for my company set to the entirety of Daniel Variations scored by preeminent American composer, Steve Reich. I will take my inspiration directly from Reich’s composition, scored in four movements that alternate between the stories and words from the biblical book of Daniel, an Israelite and advisor to the King of Babylon (located in present day Iraq), and from Daniel Pearl, the American Jewish reporter, kidnapped and murdered by Islamic extremists in Pakistan in 2002. Although the work is steeped in a personal tragedy, there is a universal undertone of defiance in the score juxtaposing the written words of both universes: violence, cruelty, mercy, and compassion. I am hoping that the work ultimately will explore how mercy and compassion in the face of brutality can offer us hope as we struggle with continual and devastating human violence. I am hoping that the inspiration for the piece and the topic of the score will resonate culturally on political and religious levels and generate vigorous dialogue that will attract and engage new and diverse audiences.

HDC: How does Buttenwieser Hall affect your creative work?
DV: It is a beautiful HUGE space steeped in so much dance history.

HDC: This year at the Y we hope to have you work with teens and with seniors – any thoughts or fulfilling experiences you have to share about working with these populations?
DV: I love working with a broad spectrum of people and think that dance can truly be a connector in so many ways. On tour, we regularly work with young people in creative situations and I am always eager to work with seniors. I love hearing about their lives and encouraging movement from their own personal histories. There’s such an amazing wealth of information to glean from smart, passionate adults.

HDC: Anything else?
DV: It will be so wonderful to be part of the Y. I feel as if the work that I explore and create is very much in keeping with the humanistic ideals that the Y represents.

Stay tuned to for year-round information about this exciting new partnership with Doug Varone and the 92nd Street Y.

[All Dance Classes and Performances at the 92nd Street Y]

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