The below blog is part of a series of blog posts that Commotion Dance and Guests are writing this year to address the importance of being creative. This is in response to the BBC article published early this year about creative subjects being squeezed out of schools.
I don’t know if this is just me but every morning, without fail, I wake up with a song in my head. Sometimes it’s a pop song, other times it’s a theme tune, but every day there is a song. At the same time as this song playing round and round in my head I also have the normal morning thoughts whirring around; what time is it, I really should get up now, what shall I have for breakfast etc etc. The thoughts and the song are simultaneously in my head, left side and right side of the brain working at the same time. Isn’t that clever, the brain is creatively thinking and being logical all at once! This concurrent way of thinking, I now realise this is how I choreograph.
Whenever I watch one of my shows, I’m not watching the performers; I trust them and know they will perform brilliantly (logical brain working, knowing they have rehearsed for weeks). What I am watching is the audience, their reactions, the body language, the smiles, the curiosity, the whispers. Watching the dialogue between child and parent and seeing those sparks that click in a child’s brain where their creativity and imagination have been unlocked.
That’s why I create. I want to inspire, I want to keep that creative brain alive, in those who watch my work and the people who I work with. Being creative isn’t just about coming up with an exciting idea, but it’s how you put that idea into practise. Creativity is at the very heart of choreography, how you make something out of nothing, how the body and the mind meet. Choreography is about telling a story with our bodies, and about making movement become a form of creative conversation between the performer and the audience.
The audiences who watch my work are mainly under 5 years old and a lot of people ask me the same question, “how do you choreograph contemporary dance that will keep their attention?!”. The answer to this is simple; it’s through being creative.
I start with a small seed of an idea, perhaps I was inspired by a book, a song or an inanimate object. This idea will turn into discussion with my fellow Commotion gang, and the discussion will then inform the beginnings of a dance piece. I come into the studio with choreographic ideas to try out with the dancers and also some of my own choreographed material. We work together to find movement that makes sense to that idea, cutting and pasting throughout the entire making process. When I see ideas start to form and take shape I will then check in with our target audience, inviting them in to see our creation when it’s only half complete. There is something quite magical about having an advisory board who are all under the age of five!
Creativity isn’t something you learn, we are all creative people. I am just lucky that my job allows me to continue to use my creativity on a daily basis. As a child, I had a very enriched creative upbringing, I was able to discover and explore and play. I used creativity as a tool to help me (when in an assembly and I couldn’t pronounce a hard word so I made it into a game with the rest of the class), as a form of expression (when my friends and I all became one of the spice girls and I taught them a routine to Wannabie), as a way to persevere (when the Primary Headteacher told my parents I would probably just about get a couple of GCSE’s and have a ‘nice’ job*). No matter what job we have, or where we grow up, creativity plays a huge part to how we go about our daily life and without being creative what type of world would we live in?
When I create dances, whether that be on the dance floor at a club or in a dance studio with colleagues I am always using both sides of my brain. I often choreograph a whole dance in my head before experimenting on the body. Working in picture format, it’s as though I dive into the creative part of brain and taking thousands of small images, weaving them together with a number of endless possibilities. What would that look like if I did this, how do I get my leg to move over there, if that person was to move their arm up there would it look better, does that facial expression go with that movement etc etc. Then my logical brain jumps in to support the creative ideas and I come to a conclusion on how that idea or phrase should look.
Choreography is about asking a lot of questions and finding one answer, your answer might be different to the person next to you but that’s ok. And that’s what I love about being a choreographer. Dance enables us, as creative human beings to be joyful, share passion, and express ourselves creatively. I challenge anyone reading this to have a go at making up your own dance, maybe to a song you are singing in your head, and I bet you will be smiling by the end of it.
Artistic Director of Commotion Dance Company
*coughs, look at me now Sir