Slowing down, building a life-long career, cross-training, and the impact of this year's solo, our April person-of-the-month, Thomas Varvaro reveals his inner thoughts.
MA: What is your very first dance memory?
TV: My very first dance memory is forcing my entire family to watch my home made performances! I would turn the basement into a theater and give a full out one man show!
MA: Do you remember a specific "A-Ha" moment when you realized this was the career path for you?
TV: My "a-ha" moment was definitely my first dance recital! I was 8 years old and had no idea what "performance face" was but when I got on stage it all clicked! When the tap dance was over, I got so much attention from all the teachers, I was sold on dance!! Done!
MA: There are a few Ailey/Fordham graduates in EMD. Tell us about your experience there? What attracted you to that particular program?
TV: Well I grew up dancing at Ailey. I started when I was 11, I was part of the first "Ailey Athletic Boys" class, a scholarship program for young boys. I loved the atmosphere and the energy, as well as learning multiple styles of dance from the best of the best. I went on to the junior division and remember collecting Ailey 2 and Ailey/Fordham BFA flyers for the future. When it came time to apply for college, I really liked the fact that Ailey is a big part of the NYC dance scene. So many people walk through that building everyday, I liked not being in a concentrated "bubble". I also had my sights set on Ailey 2 since I was a kid.
MA: Was there a moment or person that positively effected your journey so far?
TV: I've been very lucky to have had some absolutely incredible mentors. Growing up in Brooklyn I was very fortunate to have the best teachers in the world only a train ride away. My mother is the one who made it all possible, and really sparked my interest and love for dance, movement and performance. She believed in me, before I believed in me, so I have to say my mother has had the greatest effect on my journey!
MA: If you could send a letter back to your college self, what would you choose to say?
TV: Oh this is a great question, I would tell myself to SLOW DOWN...take a deep breathe... and realize that "Rome wasn't built in a day". I have always had huge expectations of myself. Especially during my college days, I expected everything to happen immediately because I wanted it so bad. As I get older I realize that all good things in life are worth the wait, once you've put in the work of course! Success to me isn't "15 minutes of fame" it's a life's work or legacy to be looked at in its entirety.
MA: Okay, let's have a little fun now with one of my favorite questions. You're hosting a dinner party and you can invite 3 guests, dead or alive. Who gets an invite?
1. Whitney Houston
2. Martha Graham
3. George Balanchine
MA: Do you have any pre or post performance rituals?
TV: My pre-performance ritual is usually a ballet barre lots of rolling out with my soft ball, lots of abdominal work, a Starbucks (or two) and lots of Whitney Houston in my head phones!
MA: What's your cross training routine? Any particular exercises/schedules you like to maintain on and off work weeks?
TV: I love the gym, I believe it has had the greatest impact on my dancing. Cross training has opened my eyes to approach dance as a sport, helping me get through long performances. I have a love/hate relationship with the olyptical because it's tedious but feels so good when it's over! And lifting is always fun, been working on my pecs for years!
MA: You're a dedicated and passionate teacher. If one of your students told you they wanted to be a professional dancer, what kind of advice would you offer?
TV: The best advice I could give to my students is that a dancer/artist/performer MUST invest in themselves. They have to look deep inside into who they are and find a genuine friendship within. An artist must enjoy their own company and feel confident standing alone. This life is all about going out on a whim, taking chances and being independent. All while dealing with rejection and criticism. The love for your body, mind and soul is the most important thing. If YOU believe in YOU, so will your audience.
MA: Looking back at your career so far, what has been your most cherished memory?
TV: The most cherished memory of my career thus far honestly has to be the entire "Why So Curious" process. My entire life I've dreamt of finding the inner strength to stand alone on stage. And NOT to feed my ego like most would expect. To me a solo is a personal statement or declaration. It takes a certain kind of person to allow an entire audience to look into your soul. I've always admired and aspired to be that person. When Tiffany came to me with her idea for the solo, from the concept, to the look and feel, music and costume, I felt like I was in exactly the right place at the right time and life had led me here for a reason.
MA: If you could do any choreography (other than Tiffany's or Elisa's) anywhere in the universe what and where would you choose?
TV: I love William Forsythe, he is one of my absolute favorites! I love the way he looks at ballet!But! I also have a deep love for authentic American modern dance, I will always love and admire Martha Graham!
MA: Lastly, and probably most importantly, if you could come back to life as any person, place, or thing what would it be?
TV: I have to be honest and say that there is no one else I'd rather be then me! If I said someone else I would feel like a hypocrite! I am all about empowering people to love who they are, and I surely love who I am!