The Choreographer: Elana Jacobs

Photo by Megumi Shauna Arai

In the summer of 2011 choreographer Elana Jacobs danced her way across the country. Starting in Boston with friend and fellow Skidmore College graduate Emily Sferra, Jacobs packed her belongings into a Subaru and started the 3,000-mile trek to Seattle, where she planned to launch her own performance company. The duo made one rule.

“Whenever one of us found something beautiful, we had to pull over and dance in it,” Jacobs says.

Jacobs and Sferra took turns filming each other; the footage became Patience is Our Only Feature, an eight-minute film in which they sing along with the radio as they drive, spin in a cornfield in St. Cloud, Minn., and jump in the grass of a Motel 6 in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

The road trip became the foundation for Jacobs’ company CabinFever. Rather than perform in theatres, CabinFever creates on-site performances—specifically in people’s homes. A rotating cast of dancers spends time with the home’s residents, interviewing them and learning about their lives. They culminate with a reflective piece performed within the walls of the house.

“I’m interested in the human condition, in conversations, interactions, things left unsaid,” Jacobs says. “Looking at someone’s house—there’s a real personal history there that’s full of emotion and rich with stories.”

In 2013 CabinFever bypassed the traditional stage in a big way. With the help of a 4Culture site-specific project grant the company held their first large-scale show, Heart Content, at the historic Stimson-Green mansion on First Hill. Attendees wandered around with maps, encountering performers, musicians and singers in the parlor, the bathroom, an upstairs bedroom, the billiards room.

Nine months later Jacobs (who recently completed an artist residency at Town Hall) hit the road again for a 25-day Salutations tour. Starting in a barn in Carnation, Wash., where audiences watched the performance from the former hayloft, Jacobs and a company of dancers, musicians, a lighting designer and a videographer traveled through five cities, performing in a house in the Colorado mountains, a gallery-like art director’s residence in LA and a communal-living Victorian mansion in San Francisco. In each city they asked one or two local artists to join the show. They often didn’t know their hosts, and Jacobs found that the houses themselves were as revealing as their residents.

“Architecture is like choreography because it makes people move through a space in a specific way,” she says. “Even though the original idea came from the emotional content of the families we met, I’ve realized how much the walls of the home hold meaningful content as well.”

Jacobs is currently editing a mini documentary about Salutations that will debut this spring and preparing for an East Coast tour later in the year. 

Age 27
Hometown Boston
Greatest inspiration Elevator banter
Current obsession Seattle bands Mitts and Heavy Petting
Least likely influence Talented lip synchers

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