Jun 16, 2014

Dance: How to be more creative

We are often misled by two concepts: Only talented-born people are creative and one can only be creative when inspired. 

First, mastering one skill or craft is not the result of natural talent, but the combination of training, encouragement, motivation, opportunities and PRACTICE. Second, inspiration is not reliable. If we wait for inspiration to strike us in order to create something, we will never go far. At a personal level, this was one of the hardest things for me to learn and overcome.

How could I create when I was not inspired? How could I be creative when I wasn't in the mood to create? or when I didn't have my perfect setting? What is creativity in the first place? Can I train myself to be more creative?

1. Keep learning and training

Become more curious about your own training and what it truly means to you. The better you understand yourself in relation to your craft, the more you will be able to deepen your creative practice. Be humble in order to begin as many times as needed with wider eyes and being more compassionate each time.

"Few showed early signs of promise prior to parental encouragement." No one reached high levels of achievement in their field without devoting thousands of hours of serious training. Mozart trained 16 years before he produced an acknowledged master work. Moreover many high performers achieve levels of excellence today that match the capabilities of a Mozart, or a Gold Medalist from the turn of the century" (The Vancouver Sun, September 12, 1998)

2. Adopt a Cubist perspective

Photoshoot with Denise Marino
Cubism was invented by Picasso and Braque who were able to reduce matter - into its most basic elements - in order to capture its essence. We don't perceive the world from one focus only, which is why they decided to paint their subjects from multiple perspectives (in both time and space). They wanted to create a 3D reality in a 2D space. 

Adopt new perspectives in space by trying all possible angles (applying this to dance, imagine you want to include one particular move in your choreography but it doesn't feel as a fit... try the same move from, literally, a new angle). Adopt also new perspectives in time. Look at the people you admire and their best creations (for example, if you are also a bellydancer and admire Dina or Aziza, go on YouTube and look at their dances, it will give you new perspectives).

3. Witness creativity
Mariangel Martinez, Peruvian ballerina

Watch artists you admire as well as new rising artists. Go to theaters, exhibits, shows, open stages, cinemas... Learn to see. Finding new hidden connections and insights within a performance will help you find new ways within your own creation process. We cannot expect to create something new if we resist to learn new things. Make notes, talk to other people about what you just saw or learned, wonder.

4. Remember to ask questions

Adults tend to ask 4 questions a day, while children ask around 100 or more questions a day. Regardless the amount of experience you have obtained or the amount of time you have dedicated to your craft so far, embrace the mind of a "beginner". Ask questions and learn to listen to other people's questions as well. Understanding the emotions and thoughts of another artist while creating will help you comprehend better their creative process. This will nurture your own creative path. When you get the chance to talk to an artist you admire, don't feel afraid to ask questions.

5. Feed your diversity

Painting in Florence
Train in diverse areas. Whether you are a musician, a painter, a dancer... learn new styles. Be curious. Regardless or not you dedicate yourself fully to that new style, the learning process will provide you with a goldmine of ideas. Combine ideas, find new connections. This will replenish your creative stock. If we get stuck with the same creative repertoire, it will be harder to come up with new ideas. We may even become blocked. Become alert and learn to self-nourish your creative mind. Replenish your own process with field rotation. If you are a dancer, learn a new dance style, or consider to take a painting lesson for example. This will give you a break and feed your own creativity from a new perspective.

6. The traditional start point doesn't necessarily mean your own start point

In the book "The creative habit: Learn it and use if for life", Twyla Tharp, the author and a world-known choreographer, states clearly how many artists have problems developing their creative practice because they tend to think we all must start creating from the "start". As a dancer, you may think you HAVE to start creating your choreography from the 0.00 minute of the song. This may work for some, but I know it doesn't always work for me. The structure society teaches us to follow is start-middle-end. However, don't be afraid to start creating from the middle point, from the end, from wherever you want. Many famous writers start their books by narrating the end. Creativity comes along with breaking barriers.

7. The 3 Ds: Dedication, Determination and Discipline

Be dedicated enough to learn about your own creative process and feed it. Be determined enough to always try one more time and to finish what you started. 
Be disciplined enough to create even when you don't want to create. As Picasso said, "Inspiration exists, but it must find you working". Give yourself a time schedule, it will help you develop training habits. The author of "Eat, Pray, Love" tells us how many artists feel overwhelmed by the idea that the "genius of inspiration" lives inside of us. This creates a sense of responsibility so big that sometimes can act as a creative block. She suggests to look at it as a separate entity instead. You are the artist, and inspiration may or may not come. When inspiration comes and finds you working on your craft, you will surprise yourself by your own creation. However, when it arrives and finds you slacking, not working, then, how do you expect to create your best work?


"Everyone has creative abilities. The more training you have and the more diverse the training, the greater potential for creative output. In creativity, quantity equals quality. The longer the list of ideas, the higher the quality of the final solution. Quite often, the highest quality ideas appear at the end of the list." (Creativityatwork.com)