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Elapse: Dancing about Climate Change

This is the first in a series about the process of creating a new work entitled "Elapse"

Elvis Costello allegedly said that “writing about music was like dancing about architecture.” As a choreographer, I agree. It's challenging (though rewarding) to create work about anything besides dance itself. I love to see meaning emerge from movement, even if it dissolves back into abstraction within seconds. In my mind every piece I’ve created is about something outside dance---rivers, threads, cats, whatever. And sometimes that meaning is discovered very late in the process---through the search for a title or the writing of a program note.

In this case, however, I was assigned a topic: “A Future Place”. I was to be on a Ballet Memphis triple bill with fellow choreographers Joshua Peugh (A Past Place) and Jennifer Archibald (A Present Place). I knew about the commission over a year in advance, but until a few days before my first rehearsal I didn’t know what approach to take.

I did a lot of reading though. And since it's hard to imagine a future place without thinking of environmental change, that was the path I chose from the outset.

My research led me to The World Without Us, by Alan Weisman, a thought-provoking book that addresses questions like What if humans disappeared tomorrow? How would nature reclaim our world, and how long would it take? What sort of fossil record our civilisation would leave for future beings? I loved the images of abandoned cities, of Lexington Avenue becoming a river, of roots and shrubs crumbling concrete, and of silt and sediment burying the record of our existence.