All artists are faced with creativity block at some point. I’ve been learning a lot about how artists in other forms of media jog their creativity or find inspiration for a new project (more on that in a future blog), and a theme that comes up is exercising creativity.
How does someone practice or exercise their creativity?
Just like any other talent – playing the piano, drawing, or sewing for example – you have to practice your technique and strengthen your muscle memory. I think of creativity as a muscle that has to be stretched, exercised, and practiced. Here is one of my creativity exercises for you to try if you feel like you’re in a rut with creating new movements, choreographies, or exercises for your dance classes if you’re a teacher:
Poetry in Motion Creativity Exercise
- Read a random poem. Google “poem of the day” or use the Daily Poetry app from Poems.com (I like to check these out occasionally just as a fun way to start the day)
- While you’re doing your dance warmup, think about the poem. What mood does it create? What images does it conjure for you? Does it relate to a story of your own? Does it include pretty words or descriptions?
- Create those feelings or stories in a movement. It can be literal. It can be the interpretive dance of “Little Miss Muffet” for all I care. Spend just two or three minutes on this.
- Then spend another two or three minutes evolving those movements into something that feels more danceable. I like to see if there are ways I can sneak bellydance movements into the sequence, whether it’s a mya here or a floreo there.
- Now, go to Youtube or your iTunes store and type in any word that the poem sparked in your mind. Listen to three or four songs that come up and pick one that you like best – even if it’s not even remotely bellydancey.
- Spent 10 minutes setting your new movements to a section of the song. This is the step that is the best for me – sometimes I’ll spend a whole hour adjusting the movements to fit patterns in the song and practicing it over and over until it feels really confident. Next thing I know I find myself loving something about the result.
Here’s my most recent Poetry in Motion creativity practice.
The poem of the day was Void Unfulfilled (see below for the whole poem) by George Bilgere. It is a peculiar, almost mundane, musing of a guy watching his neighbor through her window as she struggles in her daily routine as a single mom. He thinks about how he could easily solve her problems by stepping through and sweeping her off her feet. Except that he’s married. So he continues walking by and that’s that. A void unfulfilled.
My dance translation of this included motions of longing…reaching, looking off in the distance, etc. Heartbreak and sorrow translate to collapsing my chest and dragging my hands over vulnerable parts of my body like my neck and belly. There’s a moment of joy when you think about helping someone else, which for me comes out in quick spins and reaching upward. And then there’s the realization that there’s something holding you back – physically being pulled by my hips in another direction….looking back over my shoulder…and then walking away.
The song I found was equally bizarre – a song called “The Void” by Junya Nakano on the Final Fantasy soundtrack. No joke. It took a lot of work to adjust my movement story to fit the little pulses of the music, and I added some hip locks that didn’t exist before because it fit the music better. But there it is:
Will I ever use this exact sequence or song? No. But I might adapt parts of it even further to a different song in the future. Will anyone ever know where it came from? No – except those of you who read this. You never know what inspires an artist. Sometimes it hits like lightning, sometimes it’s an emotion or story you are desperate to tell, and sometimes it’s something you created after some work and practice. That’s the part that doesn’t matter because it doesn’t get told. : )
by George Bilgere.
I walk past Erin’s house at dusk
and there she is at her kitchen table,
working on her book about the Reformation.
She needs to finish it if she wants to get tenure,
but it’s slow going because being a single mom
is very difficult what with child care and cooking dinner
and going in to teach her courses on the Reformation,
which I can see her writing about right now,
her face attractive yet harried in the glow
of her laptop as she searches for le mot juste.
Meanwhile Andrew, her nine-year-old son,
shoots forlorn baskets in the driveway
under the fatherless hoop bolted to the garage
by the father now remarried and living in Dayton,
as Andrew makes a move, a crossover dribble,
against the ghost father guarding him, just as I did
when I was nine, my daddy so immensely dead,
my mother inside looking harried and scared,
studying thick frightening books for her realtor’s exam.
And although I hardly know Erin,
I feel I should walk up, knock on her door,
and when she opens it (looking harried,
apologizing for the mess) ask her to marry me.
And she will smile with relief and say
yes, of course, what took you so long,
and she’ll finish her chapter on the Reformation
and start frying up some pork chops for us
as I walk out to the driveway and exorcise
the ghost father with my amazing Larry Bird jump shot,
and tomorrow I’ll mow the lawn and maybe
build a birdhouse with the power tools slumbering
on the basement workbench where the ghost
father left them on his way to Dayton.
I will fill the void, having left voids of my own,
except that my own wife and son are waiting
down the street for me to come home for dinner,
and so I just walk on by, leaving the void unfilled,
as Erin brushes her hair from her face and types out
a further contribution to the body of scholarship
concerning the Reformation, and Andrew
sinks a long beautiful jumper in the gloom.