Monday, November 14, 2011

Obstacles and Creativity

Ruth St. Denis, New York Public Library
Have you ever wondered how you can be more creative? Ever watched another dancer's amazing performance or choreography and wondered, "How can I do that?" Or, if you're like me, have you ever tried to choreograph something new, or improv to a song that felt really inspiring when you started, but now feels like an un-rhythmical mess? You've probably told yourself that you just aren't that creative, or maybe you're not cut out for performing, but in fact, there is a way you can help your creativity along.

There are a lot of suggestions from other creatives on how to get past your "dancer's block." Find an inspiring piece of music, watch other dancers, try a new style of dance, record yourself dancing over and over until you find what works--there are plenty of things you can do to spark your creativity. But one of the best things you can do is to limit yourself, rather than trying to step outside the box.

Psychological studies have shown that when people are given limits and obstacles, their imaginations soar. Our everyday lives are all about maximizing efficiency, and eventually we just try to find the easiest route (remember those one-class wonders who are professionals after one session?). However, when your brain is forced to operate within certain constraints, you are forced to come up with new ways to be original. Just look at ballet: a dance that has been around for more than a century, has strict rules on methods of movement, costuming, and music, and yet it's still one of the most beautiful art forms. Even instructors of modern dance, with all of its outside-the-box style, recommend that students study ballet first.

So how do you apply this to your own dance practice? Drill, baby, drill! Practice the basics, over and over, and then see what you can do with them. It's how the greatest fusions are born. Dancers started out in jazz or flamenco or ballet, started studying bellydance, and fused the two together because they knew the constraints of each dance and were able to take them to greater heights. But even if you're just sticking to bellydance, put on some music and practice the moves that form the foundation of bellydance. You're never too old to pretend to be a beginner. Or, if you're a little tired of drilling, find a difficult choreography and work on mastering it for a performance.

As for me, I'm going to start taking ballet next year. I've always loved it, and after going back and forth on different dances to try, I've chosen to stick with the classics. Of course, it is also the easiest class for me to get to--I don't want to make my obstacle too big!

So if you want to get more creative, give yourself an obstacle or limitation. Try to master a basic move you've had trouble with in the past, start taking a new dance style in addition to the one you have, or learn a new choreography. You'll not only get better at your new skill, but you'll also find your imagination expanding!

 Source: Need to Create? Get a Constraint

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