Do you scribble in the margins of books? Leave notes for yourself? Some might call it a bad habit, but for choreographer Doug Varone, it's lead to the distillation of 25 years of dance making into one evening-length work — of many pages.
"Chapters from a Broken Novel" is "a culmination of many different ways of thinking, ways of working," he says — "ways of sharing ideas about how people interact, how communities interact, how our body language tells us so much about what we think."
A fixture in the modern dance world for more than two decades, Varone creates dances that have been lauded for their humanness and their kinetic power. He describes this latest effort as "a way for me of putting all the types of dances I love to make in one book cover."
The work consists of 20 dances, ranging from 12 seconds to seven minutes. Each is based on a short quote drawn from Varone's library of underlined book notes. "My entire library is filled with what I call broken novels," he says, "because they're all written in or torn through. I've collected quotes and ideas that make me feel like I want to make dances out of them. Some of them are from well-known pieces of literature; others are very obscure. Some of them are quotes from films; one is from a Jeep Wrangler commercial. One is a fortune cookie; one is an Eskimo proverb. They really kind of span the universe of ideas."
Translated into dance, he says, the chapters are funny, heart-wrenching, disturbing or purely physical. They can stand alone, but are linked by some recurring characters — and by David Van Tieghem's commissioned score. Audiences won't find a narrative line, he says. But, for example, "you'll see a woman that does an opening solo, and then later on she does a duet with a man and then towards the end, that finds a way to resolve itself, but it doesn't have a linear accumulation. I love that about the dances that I make — they're more imagistic than they are narrative."
As a result, Varone says, "when you're looking at the dances I make, it's almost as if you're remembering something that you've gone through, and it triggers something very personal in yourself, so you have a connection to it as who you are, as opposed to who I am as the artist. I feel as if the last 25 years of dance making has taken me on a journey that's been able to explore many facets of what makes us human. For me, that's always been the goal in my work — how to break down the boundaries between what dance is, as movement, and what we are as people." S
Doug Varone and Dancers will appear at the Modlin Center for the Arts on Oct. 14 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10-$36. For information go to modlin.richmond.edu or call 289-8980.