Vicarious Artist In Workboots

Vicarious Artist In Workboots

Julie Ana Dobo talks about the artform—and people—she loves

If expressive features, an extroverted laugh, and agility atop ladders are anything to go on, Julie Ana Dobo could be a performer. But her swift practical stride and calm efficiency provide the real clues. Not to mention the boots.

“I didn’t really fit into the Hollywood image of a woman,” she says of her early dream of acting. “You know, long blonde hair and high heels, God forbid!” Dobo displays a stout workboot. “Because it’s all about the boots!”

These days those boots ensure that artistry at the Joyce SoHo, where Dobo is the technical director, runs smoothly and on time.

A decade as a freelance technician encompassed gay rights marches in D.C. and tours with Urban Bush Women. Then a gig at the Joyce Theater’s new converted firehouse in SoHo fell into her lap. Dobo’s been there ever since. Offered a permanent position as the space’s technical director, she found herself unexpectedly settled, with stable employment and benefits.

Domestically she’s settled too, in a Cobble Hill co-op with her partner, Vera Johnson, and an iguana, Good Girl. Fortunately Johnson, a hospitality coordinator, is in production too. Dobo said thankfully, “We understand each other’s schedules.”

Dobo, who grew up near Washington, D.C., wanted to be an actress, but in college she decided on a less uncertain profession. Although she started out stage-managing and lighting theater, she soon discovered a strong preference for dance—and for dancers.

“I thought the dancers were extraordinary,” she said, “and they expressed themselves through a vocabulary I wasn’t used to. They were so nice and so beautiful.”

Lighting dance offered Dobo opportunities to express herself, too. In theater, she had to reproduce natural lighting. In dance, Dobo felt free to use colors and create worlds.

At the technical rehearsal for each new company at Joyce SoHo, when Dobo’s designing the lighting, she performs her own structured improvisation. Her fingers fly over her keyboard as the piece occurs on stage, marrying her preconceptions of colors and light levels to the inspirations of the moment.

It shows Dobo’s strict professionalism and warmhearted enthusiasm for dance that when she plays dual roles—technical director for the space, lighting designer for the artist—she wears them so lightly.

Perhaps that’s because she sees the relationship between the different personality types of technicians and dancers as symbiotic, not opposing.

“I love mopping the floor,” she said with all sincerity, “because then I know it’s clean for the dancers! I’m a vicarious artist, I think. I don’t necessarily like to perform myself. But I know what they need.”