Words of Wisdom and Curiosity from Doug Elkins
After a program of Doug Elkins' works last Saturday, I moderated a post-performance talk with him. This was part of the high-powered Peak Performances series at Montclair State University in New Jersey, in which Doug premiered a film and a new dance and reprised his popular Mo(or)town/Redux. Students from MSU as well as Rutgers, where Doug teaches, were in the new piece, O, round desire.
Doug is a wild one to interview because his mind races all over the place. But he's also terrifically entertaining, so I had the feeling the audience was hanging on his every word—and every impromptu sound effect. Here are a few of his scintillating remarks, lacking exactness due to the fallibility of my memory:
• "Abstract and narrative are not opposites for me. They are on a continuum. It's like a Venn diagram, where you can see the overlap."
• "I swim in many oceans, and I sample from each one."
• "I don't have one train of thought; I have a whole squadron of planes of thought."
Kyle Marshall, Donnell Oakley, Elias Rosa and Cori Marquis in "Mo(or)town/Redux," all dance photos by Marina Levitskaya
• "I am in conversation with every dancer in the room. I work with their corporeal history."
• "When a child steps out of the bathtub and hears a party going on downstairs and he goes there naked to grab a potato chip, he's not being provocative. He's just doing what his senses tell him to do."
Elkins, photo by Christopher Duggan
After the talk, Doug emailed me with two more bits of explanation:
• "I often find myself oscillating or vibrating between causal logic and emotional association. For me, the place where they meet is in movement, in dance. It's why I've always loved Trisha Brown's description of herself as 'a bricklayer with a sense of humor.' "
• "Stories are irrevocably affected by the fallibility of the human mind, its limited perspective, distorted perceptions and the decaying of remembering. I can only offer glimpses of moments of things and let you, the viewer, connect it, causally or otherwise, as you see fit."
Doug also made a sort of confession about his new piece, O, round desire: "That's me as a B-boy having a crush on Trisha Brown."
For more Dougisms, watch his "Choreography in Focus":
We knew that New York downtown dance darling Okwui Okpokwasili was a big deal. Critics and audiences have been raving about her dance-theater works for years, and the new documentary about her, Bronx Gothic, has attracted the attention of the larger arts community.
But never in our wildest dreams did we imagine she'd show up in a Jay Z video, along with flex dancer Storyboard P. Though we're slightly less surprised to see Storyboard in Jay Z's "4:44" video than we were to see Okpokwasili, we're jazzed that two of our favorites are featured on such a huge platform. (We're also feeling #blessed that we didn't have to subscribe to Tidal to watch this.)
Throughout the years, choreographer Seán Curran has worked with a diverse array of talented collaborators—from Kyrgyz music ensemble Ustatshakirt Plus to the the Grammy Award–winning King's Singers. But perhaps none are as meaningful as his most recent group of co-choreographers: At-risk teens from the after school program and nonprofit The Wooden Floor.
Curran has been in residence with The Wooden Floor since June, where he's worked with students to build choreography based on their lives and communities:
Their creation will be shown July 20-22 at The Wooden Floor Studio Theatre in Santa Ana, California.
"Besides the stage, baking is my other happy place," says New York City Ballet corps member Jenelle Manzi.
Four years ago, she thought her baking days were over when she was diagnosed with gluten intolerance. Manzi had been dealing with pain, frequent illness and joint inflammation for nearly 10 years. Once she cut out gluten, Manzi gradually started to feel better, noticing a transformation in how her body felt and functioned. She found her joints were less inflamed, and she got sick less often.
New York City Ballet soloist Unity Phelan and American Ballet Theatre soloist Cassandra Trenary spend every day making their hard work look effortless and graceful both in the studio and onstage. That's exactly what makes them the perfect spokesmodels for the dance-inspired activewear line, Belle Force.
To celebrate our 90th anniversary, we excavated some of our favorite hidden gems from the DM Archives—images that capture a few of the moments in time we've documented over the decades.
This image was captured during a 1978 New York City Ballet tour that took the company to Copenhagen—home turf for Adam Luders (right), who trained at the Royal Danish Ballet School and briefly danced with the company before joining NYCB as a principal dancer in 1975. Next to Luders is (of course) George Balanchine, in conversation with ballerina Suzanne Farrell. And looking on with a smile? NYCB's current ballet master in chief Peter Martins.
On March 8, 2016, Rami Shafi found himself inspired to film an impromptu dance video of his best friend, Aaron Moses Robin, improvising on Gay St. in New York City's Greenwich Village. Thus was born Pedestrian Wanderlust, a collection of dance videos that has grown to include a monthly improv jam.
Shafi works with anyone who wants to take part in the project, filming videos in locations chosen by the dancers and later adding music. The videos are shot on Shafi's iPhone in one take and, other than the starting and ending points, are entirely improvised. The editing afterwards—including the music choice—is minimal. "I don't like to edit too much. It's just what it is," says Shafi. "I usually can do the editing on the train ride home."
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Though a dual career can be fulfilling, simultaneously inhabiting the roles of dancer and choreographer requires focus, organization and a great deal of energy.