In 2014, I was fortunate enough to be accepted as the Education Intern at Jacob's Pillow in Massachusetts. I spent the whole summer watching exceptional artists in the class, in rehearsal, and onstage. One such artist was the choreographer Doug Elkins- I was particularly fascinated by his piece, "Mo(or)Town", a retelling of Othello using the music of Motown and a blend of dance styles. The work also referenced a modern dance piece by Jose Limon titled "The Moor's Pavane", a quartet with a similar premise.
As blown away as a I was by the dancing, it was nothing compared to how I felt after his talkback following the performance. I stuck around hoping to quickly tell him how much I enjoyed the work- instead, he and I discussed a variety of topics stemming from similarities in our backgrounds. He had a deep interest in martial arts and had come from Vogueing. I had grown up studying karate and exploring raving as a dancer.
I was mostly struck but the odd alchemy that came from seemingly disparate influences to create trains of thought that were wholly original. He seemed almost like a mad scientist, with ideas pinwheeling off of him even as he absorbed more information from whatever was around him.
Studying tango is often treated as a singular obsession that blots out all others and many people pride themselves on the extent to which tango has consumed their lives. Remembering my interactions with Doug from two years ago, I would rather be more like the mad scientist- finding space in my passion for the many influences from other aspects of my life.