Donnell Oakley, Cori Marquis, Kyle Marshall in "O, round desire"

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":




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