The Arts and U

Vision, versatility and technical prowess

By Sheri Jardine, UtahPresents

Award-winning choreographer and director Doug Varone’s work is known for its emotional range, kinetic breadth and the diversity of genres in which he works. Since its founding in 1986, Doug Varone and Dancers has commanded attention for its expansive vision, versatility and technical prowess. On the concert stage, in opera, theater and on the screen, Varone’s thrilling dances make essential connections and mine the complexity of the human spirit. From the smallest gesture to full-throttle bursts of movement, Varone’s work can take your breath away.

Students from the School of Dance will perform with Varone’s company, along with a guest performance from Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company, when they come to Marriott Center for Dance on Feb. 23 and 24. Students have been working for several weeks with Natalie Desch, who teaches locally and danced with Doug Varone and Dancers for eleven years. Desch is teaching School of Dance students the choreography for “mass,” part of a larger work titled “in the shelter of the fold,” which explores the questioning inherent in faith.

“I am truly grateful to have been able to be a part of this process,” said cast member Katee Norris. “To become immersed in the uniquely brilliant style of Doug Varone, and to have been guided through the material by such an inspiring rehearsal director. Not only this, but to get the opportunity to perform alongside two professional companies is a dream come true.”

“One of the most exciting parts about assisting with the resetting of ‘mass’ has been working with Natalie Desch,” said rehearsal assistant Nichele Van Portfleet. “She is an incredible teacher, dancer and human, and I feel that I am learning a lot simply by being in the room and seeing her work. I am seeing the dancers grow, too, as they absorb and integrate the work into their bodies, which requires a combination of ease, power and articulation. I leave feeling inspired every day.”

For the week prior to the performances, students will also have the opportunity to work directly with Varone and the dancers from his current company.

“Doug’s work is like an extremely complex organism, every individual component has its own unique role that must be performed at a precise time in order for it to work,” said graduate student and cast member Joanna Lees. “It’s thrilling to be inside of it.”

In addition to “in the shelter of the fold,” the evening will include a performance of “Strict Love” by Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company, a duet by Ririe-Woodbury’s artistic director Daniel Charon and Desch, both of whom performed with Varone’s company for many years. Varone himself will also perform a solo piece title “Nocturne.”

Doug Varone and Dancers, with special guests Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company and the School of Dance, will perform on Feb. 23 and 24 at 7:30 p.m. at Marriott Center for Dance.

Tickets are $30 for general public, $5 for U students with Arts Pass (UCard), $10 for all other students and a 10 percent discount for U faculty and staff.

More information is available by calling 801-581-7100 or at