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New World, New Work: DOVA’s “To My Arms/Restore”

By Elliot Walla

Promo photo from DOVA Instagram (Photo by Erin Baiano)

“To My Arms/Restore,” Doug Varone’s newest evening length work, has been years in the making, with COVID-19 being a driving force of inspiration. Beginning the process in February 2021, it is set to premiere March 16 at the Pepsico Theatre at Purchase.

Varone is the creative mastermind behind Doug Varone and Dancers, his company based in New York. The company is celebrating its 38th year of operation. Varone graduated from Purchase with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance Performance in 1978, only the fourth class to ever graduate from the conservatory.

Varone was at a residency in Florida at the Atlantic Center of the Arts, with Cortney Barth and Ryan Yamauchi, two members of his company, when he began the three-year long process of “To My Arms/Restore.”

Varone and his company explored what it was like to be in a studio again after months of being away because of COVID-19. “It was complex,” Varone said. “The routines that you build within yourself as an artist to create work was forgotten, rusty, and stale.”

 Varone asked Barth and Yamauchi to draw pictures of how they felt their bodies looked. “They came up with these really bizarre beings,” said Varone. One of Yamauchi’s legs was a skateboard, and one of his arms was completely crooked.

Picture of company member's character (Photo by Elliot Walla)

In that rehearsal he said, “Okay, anything that we create from this point on has to be in these bodies.” From there, they began to create material. Varone asked his other company members to draw pictures from the same prompt, which they have also carried throughout the making of the piece.

At a Lecture Demonstration on Wednesday in the Dance Theatre Lab, the company members talked a bit about their individual characters. Bradley Beakes, a long-standing company member, said the mood of his character changes with each day.

“I meet this character every time I do this piece,” Beakes said. The choreography stays the same, but his character is not a carbon copy of the last time they did it. “It is very much an alive entity,” he said.

Marc Anthony Guttierrez, a company member and Purchase graduate who joined the creative process later than the others, said his character is more of an imitation of the others. He doesn’t have a specific character that he created, instead he takes inspiration from other members ideas and creates his narrative that way.

Picture of company member character (Photo by Elliot Walla)

The piece is made up of two parts. “To My Arms” comprises of small, intimate dances, mainly solos, duets, and trios. “They are awkward, they are claustrophobic, they are about love, they are about loss,” Varone said.

“Restore,” the second portion of the work, counters the first. Varone wanted it to be about moving forward and moving away from the COVID-19 time capsule. “The sun would come out and we’d all be happy again, but it didn’t happen that way,” he said.

In the creation of “Restore,” Varone realized the world would never return to how it once was. He said the second section, “takes these characters and spills them out into the world.” They go from their confined COVID-19 spaces to stepping out into a changed society.

Jake Bone, a DOVA company member since 2015, said some of the drawings were abstract, while others were more literal.

“There are duets and trios and solos, all from this creature-being, of a sense or sorts of us coming back from COVID,” Bone said. This is the first New York performance of an evening length work since COVID-19.

After premiering on March 16, the piece will have its first New York performance at Skirball the following weekend, accompanied by live singers, a live baroque ensemble, and a live DJ manipulating the sounds.

Students can get rush tickets for the performance at the PAC for $5.



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