Sometimes a cuddly kitten ready & willing to play with you... other times, a dangerous, elusive, ominous creature lurking just out of sight, ready to pounce on your last good idea and devour it whole.
In other words, sometimes you find 'flow state' in your creativity, easily & intuitively... and OTHER times, you just gotta work your butt off, push through the problem-solving, get over your ego, and just...
Ok, so let's be clear, I am writing this blog AS I'm engaging in said 'Creative Process', so this is going to be a live-recorded, straightforward, documented account of my own journey of working on a short project, of course sprinkled with a good dose of theory on Creativity that I've learnt over the years.
It’s a 3-part-process of documentation, and trust me, it's going to be down-to-earth & very real, warts and all!
So I invite you to come with me, as I open the door to a new possibility… in this case, a new dance work, a solo choreography with a deadline of completion in 6 weeks.
*rolls up proverbial sleeves*
Where to start.
Can I just say first of all that I am a HUGE fan of Creative Process? I have literally studied it passionately over the years, personally, professionally, practically, spiritually, and more. I have bookshelves filled with books on theories of creativity, ranging from art books, psychology books, books with therapeutic contexts, books on creativity as a human experience… all of which embrace a diverse range of art forms.
In particular, however, my studies on Creative Process centre around dance, theatre, creative writing & performance art- all my own special areas of personal interest.
So… while I ‘document’ this journey of working on a short new fusion bellydance choreography, please note this is only my own humble experience, peppered with thoughts & perspectives that have been drawn together over many years of walking the knife edge of being an independent artist and living with the constant joy & wrestle of creativity & art making.
Oh, and remember, it’s going to be a 3-part series… So keep your eyes peeled for each new edition as I mark my progress.
So… where to start the Creative Process of making a dance???
With the music of course?
Haha, yes, probably so this time, as I generally seem to have a little backlog of songs that I hear and say to myself “Yes!! THAT inspires me, I'm gonna make a dance to that one day!”
But let me be clear, it doesn't ALWAYS start with the music. And it certainly doesn't have to.
In fact, quite often when you challenge yourself by choosing another 'way in’ to the creative enterprise, you find some truly imaginative gems emerging.
A few ideas might be...
To start with the movement. Some combos you love or are currently learning and beginning to own, or movements you WANT to own in your body and this is a chance to develop them through focussed practice and creative play...
Often an end-goal or deadline can help you focus your efforts in these early stages. Even if there isn't a performance booked, having a timeframe anyway, in your own mind can be useful.
That's thing about creative play, it's as unique as each of us are, so just go with works for you.
Movement can be traditional bellydance, or patterns & combos you know well, but movement can also be abstract, and by offering new shapes and tableaus to your process, you may find that your dance piece is forming as you explore simply through and with the body.
You can also start with a concept, a theme, character or story.
As a theatremaker and performance poet, I usually DO start making dances from this origin. So for me, and for many contemporary dance choreographers, the musical choice is often a secondary layer in the process.
But for today, I'm going to be more 'conventional' and I'm choosing to start with the music.
And so here I am in the studio, listening through my back log of Top 10 ‘one day I'll dance to this’ tracks.
I'm even digging up old favorites that I actually DID make dances too, but perhaps never really felt a sense of completion around, or, looking back at how my dance technique and body awareness has grown over time, maybe I could revisit one of these older pieces and re-work it, making it fresh, more complex and of higher excellence.
So many possibilities!
But let’s just see what grabs me today. It's kind of like figuring out what you feel like eating for dinner, or what color you find most attractive on a given day.
I would say, always go with your gut, let your instinct lead. So often making art is about following that inner voice... which can feel risky, but trust me, it's the safest way to be creative!! Your gut is as unique as you are, so if you are 'true' to that, you are already being creative! Win!
And now, the fun begins… this is known as the ‘collecting’ phase of creative process… gathering your materials, inspiration, and resources. And in this case, it's finding the right song!
Love it, such a great groove, mid-tempo, beautifully light & floaty, just the mood I'm in today!
Not sure if there are enough dynamics in the music to hold an audience’s attention. If I work it carefully I can do that with my choreography, building dance dynamics into a somewhat 'monotonous' track, but realistically, I don't know if i have enough time to develop a dance piece requiring that much crafting.
Time is of the essence with only 6 weeks to showtime... (...and I only have part time to focus on this choreography as I'm also doing heaps of other things... like being mumma to an 18mo bubba, co-founder of The Gilded Mask - http://www.thegildedmask.com.au/, newly appointed Co-Manager of Mother Tongue Women Speak - https://www.facebook.com/mother.tongue.community/, and Art Therapist in a local community arts group - https://www.urbanseed.org/)
Very, VERY atmospheric and almost hypnotic, however, also not very textured for a solo. Though i had a great jam of ITS (Unmata Improvised Tribal Style format - see http://www.unmata.com/) which I'm also currently studying with a view to become a Certified teacher one day. Currently, there’s only one ITS teacher in the whole of Australia, the amazingly talented, kind and beautiful Regan Gardner in Adelaide, of Belly Dance Arabesque - .http://bellydancearabesque.com.au/
So yes, good dance jam to this song, but it's not solo material.
Well actually, it’s 3 songs, 3 different variations on the same song....
So I guess this should read "Songs #3, 4 & 5!!"
And voila! It seems that I am MOST inspired by the idea of a musical mashup, I think that is how I'm going to get the textures, playfulness and dynamics I'm really looking for.
So let me explain ever so briefly...
A 'mashup' is a mix of different songs blended together. It can be as simple as a 'cut-n-paste' end to end OR it can be a fully complex, diverse exploration of weaving the different tracks & samples together to create a new soundscape, a new song, altogether.
I confess I am lucky enough have some music editing skills (and software) up my sleeve to make this musical vision a reality.
If you don’t have said skills, I strongly recommend you either learn a basic program & tools or find a good person to work with. As you can see, sometimes it's hard to find the right music that has all the layers, complexity and contrast you want to support your choreographic ideas.
And being able to edit your music is such an empowering experience. You can really shape & play with the sounds, rhythms & lyrics to create a unique offering for yourself.
Or by editing your music, you can simply dance a more clear, concise & fully articulated 3 minutes rather than a 5 minute unedited version of the song that makes your dance seem to go on for 'just.. that.. bit.. too.. long.'
In this edit, I'll be aiming for under 5 minutes, probably 4 is perfect for me as a dancer right now.
That’s more than enough to challenge and stretch me as a choreographer and performer!
In my humble opinion, unless you are either a Really Talented or Really Experienced performer, I think that sticking within the 5 min range is ideal for many solo fusion bellydance performances.
So, the obvious next steps for me will be to listen, listen, listen and find the ways in which I wish to shape and craft this little mashup.
On a side note, Antaresia recently danced with Slamboree Soundsystem -http://www.slamboree.com/ - for the umpteenth time (a friendship forged at Rainbow Serpent Festival 2014 that continues warmly to this day!)
Every time they come over to Australia from the UK we have had great creative jams together & shared a love of similar tasting music... and this particular track with which I have fallen in love is an oldey-but-goody.
The original jazz track is sung by Nina Simone in 1965 and then our own beloved-in-bellydance-land musical artist & songtress Natacha Atlas did a remix in 2001.
This latest version of the same song is a crunky, chunky, deep-bass-bouncy rendition that is really meant for the dancefloor, but hey! I'm on the dance floor, the Studio Dance Floor, so that must count!
And in conclusion of the aforementioned 'side note' I'd like to thank Freear for sharing his ever-amazing taste in music with us!! Mike, your tunes make us groooooovee... Thanks so much...
I'm all about dancing for joy and pleasure these days, so let’s have some fun.
And now that I've made my choice I know this is the project I'm MOST drawn to work on, and that is the best reason I've found to follow when working on any creative project... at least in these early stages.
Hard work might come a bit further down the track, so if your inspiration is strong, the motivation of that inspiration will support the discipline required to push through to completion.
Remember that. ;)
“If your inspiration is strong, the motivation of that inspiration will support the discipline required to push through to completion…”
I'll be working out my ‘musical landscape’ within the next week, alongside playing with some combos, shapes and maybe even a few character ideas, as this naturally song/s lends itself to a bit of sass.
In fact, ill start playing with those for the rest of today's session so as not to waste valuable studio time, and I can approach this piece in a bit of a patchwork style. Just like how films are often shot out of chronological order, so can we craft a dance out of chronological order.
I'm going to find the bits of the music that are most inspiring to me, today, here & now in this present moment and work from there.
It's exploration time, let’s see what happens!
Stay posted, I'll see you in a fortnight for Part 2 of Creative Process : A Solo Choreography in the Making.
Til then, may your own Creative Process be as playful as the kitten...
With love, light & creativity,
Brigid Morgan of Antaresia Tribal