Terpsichord Spring Concert to Feature Work from New York Choreographer Doug Varone

Additional pieces choreographed by Terpsichord leaders and company members
After months of preparation and rehearsals, the Terpsichord Spring Concert begins its two-night run this evening at 7 p.m. in the Frierson Theatre. The show, titled Coalescence, runs around an hour and 45 minutes and features 14 choreographed pieces, danced by sophomore, junior, and senior members of the GPS dance company. 

Director of Terpsichord Laurel Moore Zahrobsky ’90 said of the show, “This weekend's show is titled Coalescence because the dancers feel that each piece of work adds to our community and makes us stronger. There are fun and light dances, dances that make you think and ones that take you on an emotional journey. Our audience can expect to leave the concert feeling curious, inspired, and fulfilled. All but four of the dances are choreographed by our students and in each of their works you can hear their voices through the movement. It's really beautiful to experience because young people have a lot to say and it's worth hearing.”

One of the biggest draws of the night is the opportunity to see the piece Strict Love, choreographed by Doug Varone, owner and artistic director at Doug Varone and Dancers, and staged by Jake Bone, the organization’s company and tour manager. Strict Love premiered at Playhouse 91 in NYC as part of the 92 Street Y Harkness Dance Festival on December 9, 1994 and was created in residence at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia with generous support from the Carpenter Foundation. 

“The dance is set to a series of Motown classics, the kind I sang along to when I was a kid,” Doug explained. “The lyrics are about losing a girlfriend, getting her back, climbing the highest mountain for love and so on. Love in all its elements. The dance is the complete opposite of those songs and uses a strict vocabulary that doesn’t allow for a lot of emotion. It is that juxtaposition between the lyrics and what we are seeing that gives the dance its tension, humor and insight.” 

Doug and Jake were connected with Laurel through Mike Esperanza, who taught during last year’s Terpsichord Summer Intensive. In October, Jake visited campus for several days to meet the girls, teach the choreography, and set the piece on stage, and in February, Doug came to GPS to finalize the piece.

Both Jake and Doug were impressed with Terpsichord during their visits to campus. Jake said, “Laurel and Amanda have created such a nurturing environment for the dancers to challenge and better themselves as people, movers and artists without fear of judgment or criticism. Where the dancers can learn and grow from personal 'failures' or 'mistakes' and allow those moments to shape and strengthen them and not define them.” 

Doug shared Jake’s sentiments: “I love the program they have helped to build at GPS. It is rare for schools to have this extensive of a dance program. Understanding the interconnectedness of the arts and academics is imperative I think.” 

Typically performed by professional dancers, the opportunity to dance Strict Love at the high-school level is uncommon. Abigail Carpenter, Grace Sharp, Julia Steffner, Lauren Gardner, Mabry Cook, Sadie Buhrman, and Sutton Salter have worked hard on mastering the difficult but extraordinary choreography. 

Strict Love is a deceptively hard piece. It's a physically demanding piece with quick, large and bound movements,” Jake said. “I think the girls were surprised by the endurance and stamina needed after their first run. It's such a fun piece to perform and one of my favorites." 

He continued, “I had an amazing time and experience working with the Terpsichord girls. Everybody was so welcoming, generous and hard working. They were also open and eager to try new things. A lot of them had never heard of the company or tried this movement style before, and I was so proud of them for not backing down or feeling defeated. They learned a lot of specialized material in a short amount of time.”

Laurel said working on this project with Doug has been an incredible experience for the dancers. “The process of restaging a piece of work from a professional took our dancers to another level. It was amazing for them to see a professional who is demanding but kind, talented, and relatable. His expectations were not lowered for them as high school students, and the dancers wanted to meet those expectations because he believed in their capability. Setting that kind of example can only help form them into the kind of adult and professional they want to be—no matter which profession they seek to achieve.”

Both tonight and tomorrow night’s shows are free and open to the public. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., and the show begins at 7.

*Funding for this project was generously donated by Ellis Phillips Thomas ‘05 and Dr. Janak and Lina Naik.