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Promised Land

ae1-1New performance art piece tackles turf wars in Santa Cruz history

In 2009, an altercation stemming from the utterance of the word “Westside” ended with a Santa Cruz youth slain. “It is clear that many factors and details surrounded this heinous crime, and yet there was a noticeable surge of conversation and debate on the topic of territorialism and the representation of turf,” says Eli Weinberg, a dancer/choreographer whose latest project was conceived as a response to that tragic event. “One of my goals with this work was to try to understand how, in a city of less than 60,000 residents, such clear demarcation of territory came to be and how the identification with one side or another managed to permeate so many sectors of the community.”

Weinberg noticed that there seemed to be a growing trend to distinguish “that of the Westside from that of the Eastside.” According to Weinberg, his interest in the phenomenon soon expanded to a desire to explore other aspects of land use—ideas concerning territory and how inhabitants have connected to and identified with the landscape of Santa Cruz.

“This Land is My Land,” which will be debuting at Motion at the Mill on Nov. 16-18 as part of Santa Cruz Dance’s “Incubator Project,” is a dance/performance art piece that will bring audiences along to witness, observe, and explore the many relationships that have existed between the inhabitants of Santa Cruz and the physical terrain of the region.

“The work is bound by a historical timeline that extends from the establishment of the Santa Cruz Mission in 1791 to the present day,” explains Weinberg. “There is a sense that ideas about land, ownership, and how people identified with territory shifted ae1-2dramatically with the construction of the mission, which is why I chose to work within this particular timeline.”

A wide variety of questions regarding the history of territorialism in Santa Cruz, turf wars, the lumber industry, and much more are asked in “This Land Is My Land.” “I would not characterize this work strictly as dance,” says Weinberg. “I believe that my work is expressed in a variety of ways—sometimes delivering moments that are more literal and follow a narrative, while at other times living in the realm of the senses and creating a particular atmosphere.”

As such, the piece incorporates multiple mediums, and involves a number of collaborators. The production has developed from its original seed of inspiration to include eight dancers, plus actors Chad Stender and Tyler Watson, and features live music by violinist Chris Lynch of local band Audiafauna.

The show presents an opportunity to support local arts, and work that tackles themes directly inspired by the Santa Cruz community and environment, performed by emerging and established artists working in live music, dance, theater, and film—and all for the price of dinner and a drink.

“First and foremost, I hope that audiences will be engaged and entertained,” says Weinberg, of what he hopes audiences will take away from the piece. “This work has been created with an attempt to delve into the many perspectives and realities of Santa Cruzans over time, and so my goal is that anybody from any walk of life, young and old, can find meaning in this work,” he says. “There are moments of play and moments of sorrow, moments of struggle and moments of surrender. If an audience member leaves the theater having connected with any number of these themes and connected to the way in which they were presented, I feel as though the work has then fulfilled its purpose.” 


“This Land is My Land” takes place at 8 p.m. Nov. 16-18 at Motion at the Mill, 131 Front St., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $13-$18. For more information, visit santacruzdance.com. Photo credit: Rosie Chesney

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