I am often surprised at how easy it is to make dance work.
I am often surprised at how hard it is to make dance work.
It is odd, but both can exist equally.
The co-existence of creativity and challenge can make for some extremely powerful work and art. At Bates Dance Festival, the process and importance of using both in order to create have become clearer to me.
Sometimes having a challenge or a problem in dance making feels fun. I am ready to get in there and sort it out. I am open to trying new ideas and playing. It is like a puzzle that requires experimentation and bravery. I am game to push myself. I feel free to not know. I can pull myself back and look at the situation from new angles and then dive back into the details.
Other times I am stuck. I don’t have any ideas, and the problem just feels like a problem. Then it is not fun.
This happened on Friday. Ellen Smith Ahern and I have been working for the last week on a new piece. We had a small amount of dance work completed and were adding some new ideas to the mix. I felt myself hit the wall. I tried to talk through my lack of ideas. I could feel myself get shaky inside. It did not matter that I have been making dances for 20 years. It did not matter that I trust Ellen. I felt tight. I started to spiral down with negative thoughts. I quickly wanted to be done, to leave the studio for the day or at least just lay on the floor in my own misery.
Ellen did a good job. She saw my lower lip start to quiver and took over. She put an idea out, and we tried it. She put another idea out, and we tried it. We experimented with her ideas until I was able to say what I liked from what we did.
I thanked her for being nice to me, for pulling us and me through that moment. She replied by saying that she was not being nice, that she was being bossy. It struck me because sometimes we need someone else to tell us what to do when we get lost in feelings of inadequacy.
It always surprises me that I can have so many feelings in one rehearsal. I can feel creative, inspired and than stuck and overwhelmed. Shifting back and forth in a matter of minutes or hours. My creative process is greatly impacted by my negative or positive thinking. Maybe that is obvious, but it is still worth looking at.
When I work alone and don’t have a helpful partner like Ellen to pull me through a stuck moment, I have to let the creative process sneak up on me. I have to relax into ideas. In turn I have made my best solo work outside of the studio. I have great ideas in the kitchen, the woods, and the shower. In the studio I often feel a sense of pressure to be brilliant. I try to force myself into ideas, and it rarely works. This is the same wall I hit on Friday. The woods or the shower can pull me out of my own head in the same way Ellen pulled me out on Friday. She took over in the same way the woods can take over. I am not thinking alone when I am in the woods. I get ideas from the trees and the grounded reality of day-to-day life.
It is clear I will get stuck again. It is clear I will have new ideas again. It is a ride that sometimes feels wonderful and other times feels awful. However, having some tools regarding how to move out of the stuck place is fundamental. I am grateful to look to Ellen. I am relieved to walk in the woods. I am glad to make dance in the kitchen.