Skip to main content

One of my pleasures in life is the discovery that one part of my life has unexpectedly overlapped with another. Currently, my work in the world of contemporary dance is aligning with my ongoing love affair with Japan.

Doug Elkins is our 2018 DANCEworks artist-in-residence. Last fall, he accompanied me and my husband to Japan to discover inspiration there for a new work he will create later this summer during his Santa Barbara DW’s residency. As far as I could tell, he spent a lot of his time in Japan and Kyoto wandering around and doing his own personal form of exploration. We’d chat about lots of stuff, enjoy dinners and mornings together. I had no clue until a few weeks ago as to how his Japanese visit would influence him.


A few weeks ago he made it clear. Kintsugi! I know what it is, but not a lot more. It’s such an interesting concept and so different from the way our own culture regards things that are old and broken, that I want to share it. As a point of departure for a work of dance, I think it will be fascinating. Did I mention that Doug Elkins has a brilliant creative mind that goes where few others can or dare to?

So what is kintsugi? It is the 400-500-year-old art of repairing broken ceramics or other fragile items with lacquer and gold. The repaired item, with its veins of gold, is then regarded as more beautiful and more interesting than the original unbroken item.  Kintsugi was an offshoot of wabi-sabi and like many other pursuits in Japan, it became an art form, studied and perfected.

The repaired item transforms.  What might have ended up in a trash heap, has become a work of art to be treasured and used again.

Is there a personal message here for all of us ?

…and, how will choreographer Doug Elkins create a dance with this theme?


The importance of Wabi-sabi in traditional Japanese aesthetics cannot be overstated. According to Wikipedia, In traditional Japanese aesthetics, wabi-sabi (侘寂) is a world view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection.[2] The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.” 

Dianne Vapnek

In an attempt to slow life's quickening pace, I'm writing to share my personal perspective on the aging process, its dilemmas, the humorous self-deception, the insights and the adventure of it all. I spent the bulk of my time in beautiful Santa Barbara, CA, but manage to get to NYC a few times times a year. I've been a dancer/dance teacher and dance supporter almost all my life. For the past20years, I help create and produce a month-long creative residency in Santa Barbara for contemporary American choreographers and their dancers. It's been incredibly gratifying. This year, I decided it's time to retire! Big change. I also now spend several weeks a year in Kyoto Japan, residing for several weeks in the spring and the fall. I've been magnetically attracted to Japan for many years. Now I live out a dream to live there part-time.


  • Ann starck says:

    Yesterday I brought home to Terry an article in the LaBelle weekly paper on kintsugi & wabi-sabi (written by the early-twenties husband of the woman who painted our house). Last night I read your blog. A month ago, during the major sort of saved photos & miscellany I’d come across 2 tiny sheets of paper with “wabi-sabi” written on them. Terry read the article & said “I’ve been practicing kintsugi all my life but without precious metals.” The closest word I’d found to describe was bricoleur, a restorer of old, worn damaged things. The world needs more of those. If wabi-sabi & kintsugi are spreading to backwoods LaBelle, FL, there is hope.

  • Sheri Overall says:

    As I approach my 75th birthday I am grateful for this concept, as life doesn’t let you reach this age without some chipped and broken parts. Perhaps we are made stronger by the repairs that life allows us to make and we realize that beauty comes in many forms.

  • Linda Mason says:

    I did not expect Japan to have the impact on me as it did. On so so so many levels. As an aside, does anyone remember Kasuri Dyeworks in Berkeley? xo

  • Judi Miller Wallner says:

    As I work to get ready to leave the country my mind races and my temper flares at all I have to do….this is just what I need to read today. Thank you, Dianne