Doug Elkins: A Choreographer AND a Philosopher?

Some of you have heard me say that choreographer Doug Elkins has an encyclopedic memory for details, for music, and for information.  He has an active and fertile mind.  If you listen carefully while he speaks, his references and quotes can unlock new doors to making the most of life. Perhaps he is our 21st-century dance philosopher?

His recent research into making his new work Kintsugi, coming together NOW at DANCEworks, has revealed the following little gems which Elkins shared with us last week during DANCEwork’s Friday Club.

All acts of communication are acts of translation.  Jeanette Winterson, Written on the Body
There is a thin semantic line separating weird and beautiful.  And that line is covered in jellyfish.

The world breaks everyone and afterwards many are stronger at the broken places.
  Ernest Hemingway.

Doug Elkins is interested in intersections of cultures and forms. Actually, Doug Elkins is interested in everything! His unique process somehow manages to make each object of interest look better once juxtaposed with the other. Same goes for dance!

While visiting Japan, Elkins coined a word, Japanizing.  To him, it means the Japonization of another culture’s memes, so that once Japanized, it becomes a new thing unto itself and can be viewed differently than its original form. For me, it’s a harmless form of cultural appropriation, taking something I’m very familiar with, such as ice cream sundae or a bacon/cheese sandwich and kicking it up a few notches, making it more enticing and delectable.  My own easy-to-access references!

I hope I’ve intrigued you enough to check out Doug Elkins DW’s Residency.  I can promise you won’t be bored.  I can promise Doug Elkins will give something to think about. Likely, he’ll give you something to laugh about as well.  And, I can promise you’ll be spending time with one of the most gifted and interesting choreographers of our generation!  Be sure to come to the final performance that will preview Kintsugi on September 7 & 8, at the Lobero Theatre.  Tix at box office or lobero.com.  Stay up to date on the residency at www.sbdanceworks.com or on our facebook page.

Our Earth is Not Well

All is not right. I am asked frequently, as are most of us in our daily interactions, How are you? I’m very well, I respond. As you may be too. But the truth is the planet I am part of is not well. Not at all well. Its symptoms of illness have become obvious this year. If the planet I live on is ailing, I have to honestly say that I am not so well as I might like to think I am.  Even for those of us who admit climate change is a reality, it becomes very painful to acknowledge it regularly.

The lead headline in today’s NYTimes finally blew it out in the open.

2018 Is Shaping Up to Be the Fourth-Hottest Year. Yet We’re Still Not Prepared for Global Warming.
It’s hot. But it may not be the new normal yet. Temperatures are still rising.

Living in California this year has given us a film forum’s worth of wildfire videos burning year round. Hotter, longer and more destructive. In Santa Barbara, the current drought has just been proclaimed the longest on record.

My daughter, now visiting in Vancouver, told me that the whales are dying in the Northwest waters.

Last year, one of my favorite streets in Santa Barbara lost several of its century old Italian stone pine trees from the drought.

pine trees

From Florida come disturbing photographs of thousands of dead fish and marine mammals killed from a brutal red tide, exacerbated by warmer than normal temperatures. An iceberg is melting just off the coast of  Greenland threatening to raise sea water levels. Japan is experiencing its hottest summer on record, causing dozens of deaths and requiring cancellation of some traditional summer celebrations. The very existence of small islands is threatened and whole populations might be required to flee their homelands.  The monsoon season in India and Bangladesh brings more flooding than usual.

I watched the movie On the Beach when it was released in 1959. It left me disturbed for a long time. It’s the post-apocalyptic story of life in Australia after a nuclear war that has doomed most of the planet. Australia escapes the immediate destruction but has to live with the knowledge that the deadly radioactive cloud will be arriving at their doorsteps soon, dooming everyone and every living creature remaining. I am reluctant to admit that my sense of impending doom is tipping in that direction. We are seriously threatened. Crops are being affected. Species that can’t adapt will die off. In some quarters that means humankind.  I want to feel like climate change is being handled and addressed!

What the hell is wrong with us?

On top of the reality of confronting a most likely irreversible and catastrophic climate change, we have to suffer with a nutcase president who is a climate change denier. It might not feel so hopeless if our nation’s leaders spoke the truth and were leading the way to at least stabilize the environment.

So the truth is, I am pained. Not at an acute, not-able-to-function level, but more at the level of knowing deeply that life as we’ve known it, is in trouble. NOW.

I didn’t think the changes would be so obvious so soon. I guess I’d hoped I wouldn’t have to face the consequences in my lifetime. But here it is. I’m not comfortable with accepting this as the “new normal.” I support environmental groups who are working hard collectively to make change. But now, more seems to be required. Please tell me if you’ve personally found an answer that brings hope.

I think the Most Important question we must ask every candidate for political office is about their stand on climate change. If they waffle or deny, they’re toxic. If they’re concerned, ask what do they intend to do about it. Not just my life or your life depend upon recognizing the urgency of this issue. It’s the fate of our home planet and all the wonders it contains that are now at risk.