Doug Varone & Dancers to Celebrate 30th Anniversary at Jacob's Pillow This August
As Artistic Director and Founder of the company, Doug Varone has been an inspiration to the contemporary dance field for decades. Varone opens this program with an ode to his life's work titled Nocturne(s), a partnership of self-performed solos from the past and the present, including a world premiere on Varone himself. This reflective dance is followed by Varone's iconic group piece Boats Leaving and his newest work, ReComposed. The company's Jacob's Pillow program if full of both fresh ideas and historic moments. Their week at the 2017 Festival gracefully compacts the decades of inspiration and growth Doug Varone & Dancers has both experienced and given back to the dance community.
"We are delighted to be celebrating the 30th Anniversary of this important American contemporary dance company at the Pillow! Varone's work has extended beyond dance into opera and theatre worlds, and he has influenced the work of countless choreographers over the past three decades. We will have the chance to see Doug Varone himself present a new Nocturne to go alongside one that he performed at the Pillow in 2001, and we will experience his newest work, ReComposed, with a visual and movement palate that simply explodes onstage," says Jacob's Pillow Director Pamela Tatge.
In this retrospective, Varone will present his 1987 solo Nocturne in D Flat Major, Opus 27, #2, performed to Frédéric Chopin's music. Varone says this "seminal work explored the blur between pedestrian movement and pure dance, and set in motion a vocabulary and style that I've been mining ever since." His choreographic trajectory is showcased in the premiere of his new solo Nocturne in D Flat Major, Opus 27, #1, also danced to Chopin's composition. At Jacob's Pillow this summer, Varone will revisit his history as well as welcome a new creative chapter in the form of a world-premier solo. Speaking on this project, Varone explains, "Thirty years ago...I created a solo for myself...Now in 2017, I've created another...solo as a companion to the original. Together side-by-side, they form bookends framing a career."
Eight dancers will take the stage next for Varone's New York Dance and Performance ("Bessie") Award Winning Boats Leaving (2006). In this piece, danced to classical and religious music composer Arvo Pärt's "Te Deum," dancers use their emotive bodies to create a somber community onstage. As The New Yorker writer Andrew Boynton notes, "Boats Leaving limned a community under siege." Abstract in their motions yet narrative in their intention to each other, "none of Doug Varone's dancers said anything aloud. Yet there are so many conversations going on in the movement...surely there were voices. Varone moves the whole conversation into new emotionally treacherous waters" (Linda Belans, The News & Observer). Boats Leaving showcases Varone's quintessential choreographic approach. He leads the audience on an individual and emotional experience through contemporary and virtuosic movement, fueled by the dancers and the music.
Closing the program is the company's most recent work, ReComposed, which premiered in 2015 and is inspired by visual artist Joan Mitchell's pastel drawings. In a New York Times Review, Brian Siebert described "bodies tangle and untangle at high speed...if their paths left marks in the air, the result might indeed resemble one of the Mitchell pastels" (Brian Seibert, The New York Times). Their physicality is supported by striking lighting, music, and costuming; this merging of inspiration and product questions the labeling of "performance art" versus "visual art." Lighting designer Robert Wierzel "gives the back wall and stage floor the appearance - and, remarkably, the seeming texture - of a blank sheet of white paper" (Brian Seibert, The New York Times). Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung dress the dancers in black bodysuits with varying bright colored stripes, covered in a white mesh that sheds away as the piece progresses. Seibert additionally notes that musician Michael Gordon's "Dystopia" grasps at qualities of Mitchell's drawings through "an orchestra swooping and sliding with a sense of barely controlled chaos." Emblematic of the company, Varone's dancers illuminate the visual and aural aspects of Recomposed with a surprising and comforting exploration of connections. Playing with their own impulses, each other, and the music allows one to "see that individuals were following the various rhythms of the score, and this held the piece together like the color palette in Mitchell's painting" (Marcia B. Siegel, The Arts Fuse).
ABOUT THE COMPANY:
Doug Varone & Dancers is a New York City-based company that presents work internationally, influencing new generations of dance makers and performers for three decades. Varone has been commissioned by companies such as Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Martha Graham Dance Company, and Batsheva Dance Company, and has staged dances on students in more than 75 college and university programs. Within its lengthy and prestigious career, Doug Varone & Dancers has devoted itself to the humanity and virtuosity of dance, believing that this mindset has allowed for the company's longevity. Varone notes "each creative process is a tremendously collaborative event with the dancers, embracing all of our imaginations, instincts, and artistry." The company is well-respected in the contemporary dance field, receiving 11 New York Dance and Performance ("Bessie") Awards and touring to more than 125 cities and 45 states across the U.S., Europe, Asia, Canada, and South America.
The company has performed at Jacob's Pillow in 1999, 2001, 2003, and 2009. As a professional dancer, Doug Varone first performed at the Festival in 1981 for choreographer Lar Lubovitch. Varone's own work was presented for the first time at Jacob's Pillow by Dayton Contemporary Dance Company in 1991.
After Doug Varone & Dancers performs at the Festival this summer, current company dancers Xan Burley and Alex Springer will stay on as Jacob's Pillow Research Fellows, and will create a site-specific work which will premiere on August 16 on the Inside/Out stage.
IF YOU GO:
Doug Varone & Dancers
Ted Shawn Theatre, August 2-6
Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 8pm
Saturday & Sunday at 2pm
$69, $49, $39
A limited number of $35 Under 35 tickets are available; adults ages 18-35 are eligible. One ticket per person; each guest must show valid I.D. when picking up tickets at Will Call. Other discounts are available.
Jacob's Pillow, celebrating its 85th Festival in 2017, is a National Historic Landmark, recipient of the National Medal of Arts, and home to America's longest-running international dance festival. Each Festival includes more than 50 national and international dance companies and 350 free and ticketed performances, talks, tours, classes, exhibits, and events. The School at Jacob's Pillow, one of the most prestigious professional dance training centers in the U.S., encompasses the diverse disciplines of Ballet, Cultural Traditions, Contemporary, and Musical Theatre Dance, as well as an Intern Program in various disciplines of arts administration, design, video, and production. The Pillow's extensive Archives, open year-round to the public, chronicle more than a century of dance in photographs, programs, books, costumes, audiotapes, and videos. Notable artists who have created or premiered dances at the Pillow include choreographers Antony Tudor, Agnes De Mille, Alvin Ailey, Donald McKayle, Kevin Mckenzie, Twyla Tharp, Ralph Lemon, Susan Marshall, Trisha Brown, Ronald K. Brown, Wally Cardona, Andrea Miller, and Trey McIntyre; performed by artists such as Mikhail Baryshnikov, Carmen De Lavallade, Mark Morris, Dame Margot Fonteyn, Edward Villella, Rasta Thomas, and hundreds of others. On March 2, 2011, President Barack Obama honored Jacob's Pillow with a National Medal of Arts, the highest arts award given by the United States Government, making the Pillow the first dance presenting organization to receive this prestigious award. For more information, visit www.jacobspillow.org.
Pictured: Doug Varone & Dancers. Photo by Nikki Carrara.