Text copyright 2006, 2016 Philip W. Sandstrom. Photography by and copyright Tom Caravaglia. Originally published November 29, 2006. Republication sponsored by Slippery Rock University Dance & Donna Scro Samori / Freespace Dance.
NEW YORK — December 8 will see the birth of a brand new work from Doug Elkins, one of the most celebrated choreographers of his generation, to music from a very old and equally celebrated work, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “The Sound of Music.” Presented by DancemOpolitan at Joe’s Pub and produced by Dancenow/NYC and Joe’s Pub with the assistance of longtime Elkins cohort Amy Cassello, the work stars Archie Burnett, Keely Garfield, Mark Gindick, Jen Nugent, David Parker, Nicole Wolcott, Johnnie Moore, members of the House of Ninja and the choreographer himself.
I worked with Doug Elkins and designed lights for a number of his works in the early 1980s, touring with his company throughout the U.S. and in France. Like many in our field, we drifted apart and lost track of each other’s work. When we spoke in mid-November, we began by catching up. While his company is not currently active, Elkins has not been idle. He continues working with the Flying Karamazovs, whose shows he’s helped stage for 13 years. American Repertory Theater artistic director Robert Woodruff has hired him to choreograph or stage four productions. And last season at Juilliard, he choreographed the musical “The Listener.” Like me, Elkins has also delved into teaching, taking a regular post at Town Unlimited, a performing arts high school in Manhattan. On Monday, the Martha Hill Dance Fund honored him with its inaugural mid-career award.
After a long discussion about where we were, where we went, what we did, and where we are now, we finally got down to the item at hand.
Philip W. Sandstrom: Let’s jump right into it. Your new dance is called “Fraulein Maria”; about the music, are you really using…?
Doug D. Elkins: Yep, it’s the Rodgers and Hammerstein “Sound of Music.”
PWS: The whole thing?
DDE: As much as I can finish by show time.
PWS: So, what’s your structure?
DDE: Obviously I’m not working in a linear narrative. I’m hopefully drawing from the collective memory in the room.
PWS: Let’s get into specifics: Are you using “How do you solve a problem like Maria?,” a.k.a. “Maria”?
DDE: Yep, we just finished that this weekend.
PWS: And “Doe a deer,” a.k.a. “Do-Re-Mi”?
DDE: “Doe a deer,” yes, and, let’s see, “Edewlweiss,” “Sixteen going on Seventeen,” “I Feel Confidence.”
PWS: I don’t remember that one.
DDE: (Sings a few bars) You remember, it’s when she’s kicked out of the convent and is girding herself up to be the au pair for seven children. It’s the vehicle to get her over to the Von Trapp house.
PWS: But why “Sound of Music”? What was your inspiration?
DDE: The inspiration was watching “The Sound of Music” with my son Liam; he loves the “Lonely Goatherd” section. Liam would want to watch this ten times before bedtime. We’d watch it and dance around. It drew me out of a depression.
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