Curated by Doug Varone
DOUG ELKINS BRINGS MO(OR)TOWN/REDUX TO 92ND STREET Y HARKNESS DANCE FESTIVAL, MAR 2-4
Friday, Mar 2 at 8pm
Saturday, Mar 3 at 8 pm
Sunday, Mar 4 at 3 pm
New York, NY: January 26—Doug Elkins presents Mo(or)town/Redux for week three of the 92nd Street Y Harkness Dance Festival on March 2, 3 and 4. How does this version compare to his original 1990 version of Mo(or)town? “It’s much better, I think!” Elkins says. “I’ve lived with the material longer, I’ve gone through the ideas and themes in my own life, and they have matured along with me.The first version was just a sketch of what it’s become.”
The format of this year’s Festival, curated by Doug Varone, is “Stripped/Dressed:” the choreographer brings the audience into the world of the studio, where dances are created, and strips a particular work down to its essence, showing how he developed it before showing it “dressed,” with costumes and lights. It’s a perfect venue for Elkins, who is eloquent, ebullient and overflowing with ideas, to explain and illustrate his ideas about classicism. “A pavane, or the music of Purcell, were vernacular before they were classical,” he says – just as the vernacular Motown hits of 40 or 50 years ago are now classic pop songs that today’s kids enjoy. Elkins also hears echoes of the medieval troubadour in the “Willow Song” that Desdemona sings in Shakespeare’s play and in Marvin Gaye’s recording of “Heard it Through the Grapevine.”
Elkins looks forward to taking the audiences at his Festival performances on a carousel ride of ideas, as he explores the many elements that have gone into Mo(or)town/Redux. “My work is conversational, not oratorical,” he says.
Mo(or)town/Redux is a dance re-telling of Shakespeare’s Othello set to Motown and soul classics. But the dance is deeper and more layered than its clever title suggests. The work is also influenced by José Limón’s modern dance classic The Moor’s Pavane; like Limón, Elkins uses four dancers and a handkerchief to tell the story of love, jealousy, enmity, and tragedy. The choreography also owes a debt to the classics Elkins grew up with – the smooth, smart dance routines of singing groups like the Temptations and the Jackson 5. And of course, there’s Elkins’ own background—be began his dance career as a B-boy hip-hop dancer.
Contrasts between black and white abound in the materials of Mo(or)town/Redux – the story of a black man in a white world, Elkins’ experience as one of the early white hip-hop dancers in what started as a black dance form, and the sounds of a white soul singer, Amy Winehouse, among Motown classics by black artists. (Elkins notes that Winehouse’s songs are a perfect fit for the mood of the dance, and he had them in mind long before the singer’s untimely death.)
Elkins is eager to give audiences different points of access to the dance, whether it’s an interest in Shakespeare, Motown, social dance or modern dance. In the end, the question for Elkins is, “How can we draw you in? Let’s start from where you are,” he says. “Like Shakespeare, we want to fill the seats!”
ABOUT DOUG ELKINS
Doug Elkins is a two-time New York Dance and Performance (BESSIE) Award-winning choreographer whose work embraces an array of movement styles, including hip hop and martial arts form. He is perhaps best known for his critically-acclaimed work Fräulein Maria, a loving deconstruction of The Sound of Music set to the movie soundtrack by Rodgers & Hammerstein. He began his dance career as a B-Boy, touring the world with break dance groups New York Dance Express and Magnificent Force, among others. Doug is a recipient of significant choreographic commissions and awards from the NEA, National Performance Network, Jerome Foundation, Choo-San Goh & H. Robert Magee Foundation, Dance Magazine Foundation and the Metropolitan Life/American Dance Festiva.. He has received a Brandeis University Creative Arts Medal, sharing the stage with author Philip Roth and photographer Nan Goldin, the Martha Hill Award for Career Achievement in 2010 and the Elliot Norton Award for Choreography. Doug has taught and choreographed extensively in the US and Europe and has created original work for Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company, Flying Karamazov Brothers, MaggioDanza, Pennsylvania Ballet, Union Dance and CanDoCo of London, as well as a number of university dance companies and the renowned Mini & Maxi of Holland. He has collaborated with Joanne Akalaitis and Philip Glass, Robert Woodruff, Pavel Dubrusky, Annie Hamburger, Molly Smith, Craig Lucas, Barbara Karger and Michael Preston, and David Henry Hwang. A graduate of SUNY/Purchase, he received his MFA in Dance from Hollins University/ADF in 2007. Until recently, he taught at The Beacon School on the Upper West Side of Manhattan where his tenure is the subject of Where the Dance Is, a short film by Marta Renzi. He is currently a Resident Artist at Joyce Soho with theater director Anne Kauffman, a program funded by The Joyce Theater Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation’s NYC Cultural Innovation Fund. He is the choreographer for Taming of the Shrew, directed by Arin Arbus for Theatre for a New Audience (March 25-April 21 at The Duke on 42nd Street). The original Doug Elkins Dance Company was founded in 1988 with dancers Lisa Nicks, Jane Weiner, and Ben Munisteri, and disbanded in 2003 after performing nationally and internationally for 15 years as an ensemble of eight. Since summer 2009, his ongoing independent projects are organized under the umbrella of doug elkins choreography, etc. www.dougelkinschoreography.com
Upcoming and 92nd Street Y Harkness Dance Festival
Fri, Mar 9 & Sat, Mar 10 at 8 pm; Sun, Mar 11 at 3 pm
Fri, Mar 16 & Sat, Mar 17 at 8 pm; Sun, Mar 18 at 3 pm
About 92nd Street Y Harkness Dance Center
In 1935, what became 92nd Street Y’s Harkness Dance Center provided a home to the fledgling American modern dance movement and its leader, Martha Graham. In the decades that followed, every great American dancer and choreographer – visionaries including Alvin Ailey, Merce Cunningham, Jerome Robbins, Agnes de Mille, Robert Joffrey and Donald McKayle – spent time at the Y, building the foundation for modern dance as we know it. Through the generous support of the Harkness Foundation for Dance, the Dance Center continues this proud tradition of dance teaching, creation and performance, serving the professional world and the community at large. Technique classes range from ballet and modern dance to hip-hop and Flamenco. Rounding out the program are several performance programs including the annual 92nd Street Y Harkness Dance Festival; a professional development program for dance educators; and several teen dance troupes. For more information, please visit www.92Y.org/dance.
About 92nd Street Y
92nd Street Y is a world-class nonprofit community and cultural center that connects people at every stage of life to the worlds of education, the arts, health and wellness, and Jewish life. Through the breadth and depth of 92Y’s extraordinary programs, we enrich lives, create community and elevate humanity. More than 300,000 people a year visit 92Y’s New York City venues, and millions more join us through the Internet, satellite broadcasts and other digital media. A proudly Jewish organization since its founding in 1874, 92Y embraces its heritage and enthusiastically welcomes people of all backgrounds and perspectives. 92Y is an open door to extraordinary worlds. For more information, visit www.92Y.org.