The Creative Conundrum
19 02 2014
It’s day three of the creative workshops at the Biennale and I’ve had the privilege of sitting in on the process so far. Despite my much-envied AAA status (All Areas Access) my experience is, nevertheless, fragmented and incomplete. With five workshops ongoing simultaneously, I have weaved in and out of the different studios, sharing tentative beginnings, mid-point cruising levels and pre-lunch sugar lows, weary endpoints and euphoric conclusions – but I have chosen to sample the full menu rather than to follow one single process from beginning to end.
It has, of course, been fascinating to see different creative processes unfold, and to see students from diverse backgrounds and training systems respond to them in their individual ways. There are students who might be more familiar with improvisational creativity learning sequences of taught movement, and students who might be more familiar with the choreographer as the primary ‘maker of steps’ creating material of their own. These multiple variations of relationship would make it impossible, even if it were the intention, to draw conclusions about any kind of optimum conditions for creativity, but the working processes are certainly throwing up lots of questions for me as I watch.
So here are a series of key questions, observations and comments that are playing in my head after two days. I hope that once the week is complete and my thoughts settle, I might be able to create my own outcome – in writing – from this creative process.
• I loved Maggie Donlan’s opening remark to the gathered participants, that she is ‘looking for mistakes and misunderstandings, as they are doors to a great creative process’. The potential for mistakes and misunderstandings is vast, given the range of languages spoken here and the likelihood that words will be mis-used and misinterpreted. The potential for creativity must, therefore, be vast, too.
• Many of the workshop leaders ask for authenticity, for the dancers to be real. For the trained dancer, what are the challenges of being ‘real’? And what is the role of ‘real’ in the act of being creative – i.e. in making something that is new and therefore, at that point, unreal?
• In English the words wild and natural are often interchangeable – we talk about the natural world and ‘in the wild’ as meaning the same thing. It’s clear in these workshops that ‘natural’ is a learnt state, as difficult to master as the most complex ballet trick – and it’s likely to involve unlearning techniques and undoing habits that are ingrained. For a dancer who has trained in a particular technique and style, there may be as much discipline and rigour involved in uncovering the natural state as there was in learning to dance in the first place. Patterns of movement are locked into our brains through long-established neural connections. How do we unlock them? Even if you want to, it’s hard enough to break down an established way of moving.
• What is the connection between creativity and the ability to explore and master different movement dynamics? Can you be creative without a full range of movement dynamics in the toolbox… a full range of colours in the palette? Creative potential must be enhanced when there is more to play with….
• How to nurture the connective movements? The conjunctions can be as important as the verbs and nouns in sentences of movement – emphasizing the connections changes movement quality and opens up new choices.
• What behaviours facilitate creativity? What can contemporary learning on child development tell us about optimum conditions for creativity?
• What pressure do we put on the creative process by an implication that ‘creativity’ is joyful and fulfilling? Is it possible that dancers feel cheated and dissatisfied in themselves when this eludes them? Creativity is a working process – it will have its ups and downs.
• Restrictions release creativity.
• Knowledge underpins creativity… new ideas are built on existing knowledge, they don’t come from nowhere.
And now back to the workshops….
Director, Cultural Partnerships
King’s College London