Varenka, Varenka!

Varenka, Varenka! (2003) is a choreographic work from Laurence Lemieux inspired by Fyodor Dostoevsky’s literary work Poor Folk. The novel represents a series of letters between Makar Dievushkin and Varenka Dobroselova: “Through the simple and spontaneous lines of their correspondence, their sincere affection for each other can be discerned…but this shared feeling will be the downfall of one of them.” Along with partner Bill Coleman, Laurence Lemieux transforms the words and imagination of Dostoevsky and the drama of these two solitudes into dance.

“Letters are tough to dance and today’s audiences can’t be expected to be on top of their Dostoyevsky, so instead Lemieux focuses on the emotional turmoil of her two characters, so physically proximate yet so far apart, using a movement vocabulary that melds modern dance and gestural language into a potently expressive medium.

Tall, gaunt Bill Coleman is a natural for archetypal anti-hero Makar. As painted by Lemieux, he’s a man who knows, despite flashes of irascible bravado, that the object of his adoration is likely his last chance in life. He’s a tragic wreck of a man, flailing amidst his own delusions….

Lemieux and Coleman, in real life a happily married couple, are both seasoned artists who know how to invest the tiniest gesture with meaning. These are richly harrowing portraits.”

– Michael Crabb, Toronto Star,
March 2012

“The piece consists of small moments like this – watching Lemieux seem to physically deflate, seeing the two of them suspended in air or stuck in a mechanical routine. The dancers are terrific (and have great planes in their faces that take to shadow beautifully)… “

– Glenn Sumi, NOW Magazine,
March 2012

“The current re-mount of Varenka, Varenka! at the recently opened Citadel Theatre on Parliament St. is a testament to the dedication and the immense skill and collaborative brilliance of the partnership of Lemieux and her husband Bill Coleman. Lemieux is able to move through the piece with great finesse, at one point using the voluminous folds of her lower costume to sharply inhabit the quick expressive forward movements of her arching body. Coleman’s subtle balletic movements, combined with the sharp explosive minute tableaus he creates in the finale, and throughout, reveal how the simple fold of an arm or the abrupt turn of the head can become a profound and moving example of fine dance theatre, infusing an old classic with the vibrance and immediacy of a live performing body.”

– David Bateman,,
March 2012