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.

Return to Youth with Anti-Ageing?? Get Over It

Can we please eliminate/eradicate the term anti-ageing?

There is no such thing. Anti aging=death. It’s a ridiculous phrase. It’s added as a descriptive term to advertising far too frequently. It’s understood to be undeniably positive, promoting everything from diets to yoga, face cream, lipstick, underwear, to acai berries. Let’s be truthful. Anti aging = anti-nature. Can’t be done. Don’t waste your time or spend you $$$. Or give it credibility.

We all age at different rates. If you’re like I am, you have already looked around at people your own age, wondering how some look so young, or what happened to make others look so old. There’s a wide variation among us. Some things in life accelerate the aging process, but if you have the pleasure (let’s hope) of living a long life, YOU WILL AGE SOONER OR LATER. Better to face it, than to flee.

Just as mid-life provides us with an opportunity to examine our lives and make changes as necessary, ageing provides a similar opportunity if we can jettison all the nonsense that surrounds it that just isn’t worth the dwindling time we have.

The somewhat obvious spin-off of anti-ageing rhetoric is designed to make us dissatisfied with ourselves and our naturally ageing bodies and minds.  It does just that if you don’t have your ears perked up and call it out for what it is.  It’s ultimately anti-life.

I don’t want to be approached by a pretty young thing patronizingly offering me a creme to make me look younger. Fuck off.  I’ve earned my place in life and I’m quite ok thank you very much. I’m not ashamed to look my age although I must admit to being a little too happy when I’m told I look younger than I am!  Old thought patterns don’t let go so easily.

I have zero desire to strut around in very high heels to make my body look better.  I’ve already played that painful game.

Now that I am approaching my late 70’s, I see ageism all around me. In myself too. We are SO culturally conditioned. I don’t like it in myself . I resent it in others . But, I’m becoming more and more aware of it. I’ve decided to become active in identifying it when I see it and calling it out. Others are doing it too. It’s well past time to be realistic, don’t you think?

… the success of the anti-ageing industry that caters to the needs of the elderly, like alternative medicine, it owes much of its success to its fundamental, albeit ambiguous, relationship with science. This particular sector in consumer society is shrouded with an aura of science that is used for the promotion of a variety of goods. It thrives on symbolic uses of science, while passing over its requirements for experimental evidence, peer review and official regulations. The aura and the discourse of science are skilfully applied for product enhancement in response to a fast-growing demand from the ageing public (see McConnel & Turner, page S59).

The anti-ageing market is replete with products: yoghurt cures, enema regimens, cell injections, magnetic devices, skin creams, herbal elixirs, glandular extracts, hormonal therapies, vitamin supplements, fad diets and exercise programmes. They give us anti-oxidants to neutralize oxygen-free radicals; chelators to bind heavy metal ions such as copper and iron; dehydroepiandrosterone to rejuvenate the immune system, improve brain function and relieve stress; growth hormone to increase muscle mass and function; retinoic acid to decrease skin wrinkling, and many more.  EMBO European Molecular Biology Organization

The Quiet Lives of Old Photographs

The photographs of my life huddle together in the darkness, secure in a bedroom cabinet. They now lead quiet lives, disturbed only occasionally. They once brought only pleasure to me and upon inspection, wonder. Now going through them brings a quotient of sadness too. The scale began to tip about 10 or 15 years ago. Their nearby presence exerts an energy that often tempts me to pay them a visit, but one that I usually resist. It’s a bottomless journey, that once begun leads down a road that’s too nostalgic. It invariably leads to sad emotions that I’d prefer to not indulge. It does show a rich lifetime of family times, travel, holidays and joyful events. The photos allow me to visit people who were once an important part of my life, now no longer available for one reason or another or sometimes for no reason I can state.  They just faded away.

Were my eyebrows really once that full and dark? Gazing at a photo of myself holding my infant children in my arms, I can still feel my daughter’s softness and inhale her sweet baby scent. Those sacred pleasures vanished too quickly. Pangs of times passed too quickly and unconsciously.  Another photo yields a glance of smiling faces at a school graduation. That was long ago, when there were more beginnings and a door closed meant that another door would soon be opening.

home from college, visiting my Dad

Yesterday, I uncovered a long-lost photo of my mother in her 20’s with a man other than my father. She and her gentleman friend looked very happy. I remembered her telling me many years ago that this man was her boyfriend before she met my father. They were close to engagement. And then they weren’t. The road not taken, but still present in my stash of snapshots. Does the gentleman still have a photo of my mom that his children puzzle over?

There are so many photos! My short-term attempts at organization have always run out of steam. I can never throw out enough of them to even make a small dent in their number.  Now they lay, slightly deteriorating by the day, in boxes, albums, and stacks. They give testament to a life and youth gone by. They recall young children, departed relatives, exciting trips to Europe and Japan, important birthdays, a long-lost pet. I want to bring them to life, if only for a brief visit.

The gang in Brooklyn on Halloween Eve, many moons ago!
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A gorgeous early summer day near Stockholm.

I almost gasp when looking at photos of a long-ago party at my house, celebrating the visit of Doug Elkins Dance Company in 1998. Everyone was sooo young and so drunk.

Just Married, saying goodbye to parents as we head out for the honeymoon.  1963!

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New Year’s Eve 1999

I found a photo of my mother with her arms around two of my daughters, probably taken 40 years ago. They all looked relaxed and happy. This photo brought me joy because my mother hated to have her picture taken, consequently, I have few photos of her where she seems happy and looks the way I want to remember her. She died of Alzheimer’s so my last memories of her are painful to recall. This photo helped me make her real and healthy again. The image is now on my desk and in my heart.

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My favorite look (for many years)

Thousands of digital photos sit right under my fingertips at my computer’s keyboard. They’re so easily accessible, and visited more frequently. They’re available for immediate recall and better organized.  I imagine that my grandchildren will have no boxes of photos to store.

Once again there came the time to put these memory capsules back in their cupboard.  After writing about them this time, I lovingly put them away, and even managed to feel happy.

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meeting the final grandchild!

Coming Home

Maya Angelou

“The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”
― Maya AngelouAll God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes

 

I’ve been thinking about the word “home” lately.  Not as in I’m goin’ home, Lord, but as in where or what is home for me now? What does coming  “home” mean?  At the moment, I spend time in several disparate places, each of which is “home” while I’m there.  Maybe not home home in the idealized sense of the word, but home enough, if you get my drift.

 

Alain de Botton

“We need a home in the psychological sense as much as we need one in the physical: to compensate for a vulnerability. We need a refuge to shore up our states of mind, because so much of the world is opposed to our allegiances. We need our rooms to align us to desirable versions of ourselves and to keep alive the important, evanescent sides of us.”
― Alain de BottonThe Architecture of Happiness

 

We think about home all through our lives, I believe.  It’s meaning changes as our experiences do and as our sense of belonging to a place waxes or wanes.  I’ve lived in places with houses that provided me with shelter, but they never got under my skin enough to feel attached.  they were just places to live.  When I walked away, it was as if I’d never lived there.  Those spaces bored me but didn’t challenge, welcome or change me.  They were not what I consider home, even though I lived there with family.

What do I mean when I say I feel at home?  comfort?  familiarity? People I know and love?  Most definitely. But there’s more.  For me, add birdsong on a spring morning. Anytime, anywhere= home.  Ditto crickets on a late summer evening. The sound of wind in the trees.  The scent of jasmine or lilacs.  The crunch of snow. A New England lobster. A small grocery store.

“Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.”
― Gary Snyder

Recently we were in Key West, Florida.  The turquoise ocean, sky, sun on my back and the tropical vibe remind me of my years at college in Miami.  Although it’s been decades since I’ve spent time in Florida, it took little adjustment to feel “at home.”

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MIddle home was ours in Athens, GA in the 1970’s

The front porch of the house we were in reminded me of the front porch of the 1920’s home we lived in during the 70’s in  Athens, Ga. I’ve concluded every house should have a front porch.  It’s so damn neighborly. People biked or walked past our house frequently, helping to make me feel connected to my surroundings.  Instant gratification.

Knowing people where you are can help to feel as if you belong.  Anonymity goes just so far. Initially, it feels liberating, but can quickly lead directly to loneliness, in my experience.

Santa Barbara has become home for over 20 years.  I happily call myself a Californian and a Santa Barbarian. There’s a strong sense of place in Santa Barbara that I enjoy.  It’s home enough too, meaning that I’m not pining to live elsewhere.Maybe that’s all we get once we leave our childhood home. I realize no place is perfect at least not in the long run!

All pundits make it clear that you can’t go home again.  I can no longer return to the home of my parents.  I hold those early images within me, always available to access if I feel the desire. Luckily,  I have no desire to go back to my old hometown.  Once my parents passed away there was no longer a reason to return. Most of my friends moved elsewhere and there was really not much to return to.

 

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My childhood home

 

If I’m honest with myself, I still have a deep longing to revisit rural parts of New England that were a part of my earlier life.  Give me a rambling river or stream.  Throw in a  perfectly proportioned village built in earlier centuries. Arrange the white colonial clapboard houses around a village green.  Call me nostalgic, but there’s no more pleasing look to me anywhere.  Maybe I’d find living in such a place stifling.  I guess I’ll never know. Now, with advancing age, it’s unlikely that I’ll have a chance to try it out.

New York City is a stopping point for me, but I’ve determined it cannot be home.  It’s just too intense on many levels for me to find the level of comfort I need.  However, friends and family continue to keep it on my must visit soon list. The saying it’s A great place to visit, but not to live (especially if you’re over 40) holds true for me.

Strangely enough, I can feel deeply at home in Japan.  The aesthetics of the ancient country resonate as do the temples and landscapes which are such a vital part of it.  Japan has nothing to do with the look of an earlier time in my life, but rather connects to something more mysterious within me, something deeper that I pay attention to, but don’t necessarily understand.

“Beautiful places are not just a joy for the moment, while you’re there. They will become homes for you, spaces of solace and comfort, where you can close your eyes and go to. Nothing you experience will ever go away. It belongs to you now. Just feel.”  Charlotte Eriksson

 

In our era of rampant homelessness and with millions of refugees roaming the earth without a country or a home, I realize just considering the issue of what a “home” is from my vantage point, is a privilege as well as an indulgence.  Ask a homeless person or a refugee and their responses and thinking about it will undoubtedly be quite different from mine.

Ultimately, I think coming home means recognizing love.  There’s not a moment in my life that has been more wonderful and fulfilling than the photo of me with my newborn granddaughter., witnessing and experiencing the miracle of new life and connection.  Truly coming “home.”

Guess who? inexperienced, bombastic, moron, #@%*#@g moron, impulsive, mentally ill, narcissist, bully, undignified, etc.

 

Watching the take-over of our country by the politicians currently in power is a bit like watching someone you’ve known and respected all your life suddenly become stinking drunk, unrecognizable and out of control.tchi You might watch in disbelief.  You might leave the room.  Both are choices.  There’s a litany of words written daily to describe the madman, now becoming all too familiar.  They do not inspire confidence:   inexperienced, bombastic, moron, #@%*#@g moron, impulsive, narcissist, bully, undignified.  And so it goes, month following month, week following week, day following day.  At the moment I’ve mostly chosen to look away,  or have left the room.  It’s just too painful and causes too much distress.

A few days ago, I thought my husband had a peculiar look on his face.  When I inquired what was the matter, his  voice was flat as he related the awful news of the Las Vegas massacre. I felt frozen in place.

Early on in our new dangerous political game, I found myself slightly amused by #45.  He just seemed like a bad joke, who would soon be forgotten.  Now, he’s toxic. Nothing remotely funny here.

Trump’s in person response to hurricane survivors in Puerto Rico? Toss them a roll of paper towels.  How to deal with this disgusting behavior NOW as a responsible citizen?  The mid terms feel decades away right now.

I was numb when I learned of  the recent massacre  in Las Vegas.  I’ve been beaten down by the daily outrages.  Numbness is not a helpful response to a friggin’ massacre.   It’s come because I know too well we probably haven’t reached the ultimate low point that might cause enough outrage to get significant gun control legislation passed. It’s come because I no longer recognize what tries to pass for leadership in my country of birth.   What’s happened to our country? Are we past the point of no return?  Is the only answer at the moment to give the stage to the lunatics and hope at some point they’ll wear themselves out?  Can they ever recognize that their votes and support for Trump et al have raised a threatening tide for everyone?

I cringe when I read about our president lying with impunity, annointing himself daily with the gold dust he requires to polish his egomania.

I’ve started to live in fear that we might be on the edge of a nuclear war with Korea.

Our environment, so dependent on humanity to set it right, is at the tipping point.

Whales are dying.  Just read that two days ago.

North Korea is flying rockets over Japan, my much-loved second home.

China is filling in the blanks at the openings our loss of leadership has provided.

I don’t want to listen to the smug talking heads on cable news assess the crisis du jour, although, when I do tune in, I foolishly hope that I might learn something from one of them. Hasn’t happened yet.

It might be time to stick my head in the sand, cover my ears and scream loudly to block out the all-pervasive irritants.  It might be time to make more art.  It might be time to plant a garden, read a book, or write a more positive blog.

Forgive me, if I’ve brought you down.

I remind myself that I’ve lived through challenging times at other points in my life, but previous experience did not prepare me for today’s threatening reality. I am capable of focusing on the good and the hopeful. I can breathe deeply. The man is just too dangerous to try to ignore, I’m afraid.

“This too shall pass,” I tell myself a little too often.

May it pass quickly!  and peacefully.  May I learn some new coping skills.