ST A G E L I FE
How the Body Moves
By Gwenyfar Rohler
Part of the trouble with writing about
dance is trying to describe something that exists purely in the moment — and how it can communicate something about the human experience that transcends words.
Same goes for Tracey Varga. But if there’s one thing about this modern dance maven that is for certain, it’s that behind that beautiful smile, self-deprecating laugh and bright, quick eyes, a Renaissance woman is waiting to leap out. You think I’m exaggerating? How often of do you hear this? “I struggled back and forth whether to major in dance or med school, so I went back and forth and back and forth . . .” she laughs and trails off, then recounts that her father finally helped her find the answer. He sat her down over Christmas break and said, “Tracey, you do not need to get a degree in dance to dance.” If she wanted to dance, she should go to New York; otherwise, get a degree in something she would use. “So I ended up minoring in dance and majoring in biology and went on to physical therapy school,” Varga explains with a laugh. When you think about it, PT is the hybrid between dance and medicine: How does the body move, and why?
Salt • August 2015
Speaking of how the body moves, Varga’s introduction to dance was somewhat incidental. “My mom thought I was a little uncoordinated, so she took me to Carol Jean Dance Studio in Livermore, California, and had me start taking tap.” That was at age 5, Varga points out. “I think she had no idea she was going to have to drive me to dance almost every day of the week from then onward.” Varga discovered classical ballet and trained intensively all through high school, but it wasn’t until a chance jazz class during her senior year that she discovered modern dance. “I loved it, I absolutely loved it,” she slices the air emphatically with her hand. “It was very hard for me to move . . . to let my weight down and actually go on the floor. What are they doing? Ballet is so up! Up!” She pulls an imaginary string above her head upward. But she adjusted and hasn’t looked back. Varga is to modern dance in Wilmington what British actress/fashion muse Tilda Swinton is to film: She disappears into the background while holding up half the sky. What I mean is that it seems like everywhere you turn, Tracey is producing work and bringing people together to collaborate, but she shies away from the spotlight and the accolades. The annual Art Sensation is a great example. Every spring, Varga drums up musical collaborations from across the artistic community for a benefit production to support another nonprofit — not Forward Motion Dance, the dance company she founded. Past beneficiaries have included Full Belly Project, Lower Cape Fear Hospice, Domestic Violence Shelter, DREAMS of Wilmington and Indo Jax Surf School. Chamber Music, The Art & Soul of Wilmington
Photograph by Mark steelman
Dancing diva Tracey Varga is everywhere these days, sharing her gifts and vision
The Art & Soul of Wilmington