Turning a corner
I’ve been in a bit of a creative rut lately. Work is good (great, even), I’ve adjusted to living in another city, and I’m starting to form a bit of routine. But creatively, I just haven’t felt engaged or energized. The result of that is little energy to actually create something like a blog post, and less energy overall (the more you can put out, the more you receive – it’s funny that way). In the process of the last few days, this has meant that I’ve had an abundance of time to sit with nothing to do but meditate and reflect.
Spending time in this state is valuable, but it can be tiresome too. As a driven person, I reach the point where I’m once again ready (eager, even) to feel traction under my wheels and start driving myself forward.
One of the aims I have this Spring is to continue my growth as a dancer. This process has been ongoing for years, but recently I have taken note of three specific landmarks. The first was during the Summer of 2009. I was still working in software, and took a week-long trip over to Vancouver for the opportunity to dance and train with some of the originators of Popping, House, Locking, and HipHop. It was an amazing opportunity, and was the first time I had been exposed to this depth of knowledge. I left this week feeling like I had been shown what I needed to know, rather than what I had wanted to know. This feeling was a bit disconcerting at first, but is ultimately an indication that you have learned something deep, and fundamental; something that will stay with you for the rest your creative pursuit.
The second milestone occurred this Summer, and culminated with the second Get Down workshop. I was opened up to the social element of dancing, thanks to the fantastic teachers that I got to train with and the warm and welcoming people that make up Vancouver’s dance scene. This too was an experience that caught me off guard, as up until this point, most of my dancing had been at home or doing drills with friends in front of a mirror. I had been opened up to a side of dancing that I had been sheltered from for the better part of my first ten years spent dancing.
The third milestone was this Fall. I returned to Victoria with a greater sense of what I wanted to have exist on our own island, and took steps to plant the seeds that would hopefully develop into something greater as time went on. I also came back with a wealth of knowledge that I hadn’t been able to articulate, let alone been truly aware of for the first part of my time spent teaching dancing. This time I had worked with better teachers than I, and been shown so much more that I wanted to share. Although my classes were smaller this term, I felt like it was the best set that I have taught since I’ve begun teaching.
Now I’m back in Vancouver for another term, and the creative rut that I’m determined to climb out of has lead me to consider what some of my personal projects should be. I’m talking about dancing, so it’s obvious that that’s the goal I’m going to be talking about today.
Before we go any further, “dancing”, by itself, is not a goal. How do I know when that goal has been accomplished? How do I gauge if I have made any progress in that goal? Does doing anything related to dancing qualify? If I think about dancing for ten minutes tomorrow, does that count?
I’m of course using hyperbole to make my point here, but I think that what I’m describing makes intuitive sense. A lot of times, we tell ourselves we’re making a goal, and then leave it utterly vague. ”Budget more”, “Eat out less”, and “Save” are goals that I’m sure more than a few of us can relate to. However, no one ever teaches us that a goal needs to be broken down to be meaningful. Until we have a handle on something like this, our goal is nothing more than an abstract desire to do something differently. Most importantly, it’s no help.
My goal is ultimately continue to improve as a dancer. Now, while this is already a violation of what I’ve described above, I’m deciding up front that the means by which I will accomplish this more abstract goal is to take efforts to put myself in situations where I’m not the best dancer.
Let’s talk about that. This does not mean that I think I am a fantastic dancer (But I do know that I love it and work at it), nor that other people dancing with me are bad. This goal is purely an articulation of my desire to train with the people that are best going to be able to pull me up in terms of my skill level. Truly talented people can be intimidating, but the key is to replace that intimidation with an awe and a genuine desire to soak up what you can from them. The more often you can surround yourself with talented people, the more their particular talents and way of looking at the world will rub off on you (genuinely a positive thing). Of course, the opposite is true as well: the more time you spend with people that are narrow-minded and have a cynical view of the world, the more that will wear off on you.
So the goal here is actually quite simple: seek out those that are better than I, and spend time dancing with them in whatever capacity I can. Taking classes is one way that I can ensure that I achieve this aim. Actually committing to going out to practice with other dancers at any jam-times available is another way. If I only ever dance by myself or in front of a mirror, I will only be able to improve within the confines of the box that currently defines my working set of creative knowledge. If we want to truly achieve greatness, we need to ensure that we associate with people that help us continually push at the boundaries of our own knowledge and conceptions about how the world works. (Incidentally, one of the tragedies of ignorance is that it causes people to turn inwards and get defensive toward the very type of personalities and concepts that would help shed them of that very ignorance).
I have another goal this term. I intend to teach my own classes somewhere downtown in Victoria. I have already been teaching classes, but up until now have been doing it for Vibestreet Dance (big ups to VSD). However, VSD does not have classes this Summer, and it seems like an excellent time and opportunity to begin putting my own thing together. I’ll be working with my friend Jesse to put something together, and we’re also planning to teach a Soul class together, focusing on grooving, feeling the music, and ultimately, just learning how to get down and be funky. Jesse is one of the most creative people I know, and I think the opportunity to work with him will be fruitful. I’m excited to see what our synergy will result in.
Time, weather, and city permitting, I’m going to be giving very informal classes at Centenniel Square, right downtown. These classes will be very cheap (probably no more than $5 to drop-in), and are basically a way for people to continue to grow as a dancer. Focus will be on fundamentals, and this kind of class is an excellent way to get more comfortable dancing where people can see you. This is one of the biggest challenges that many dancers have to face (I certainly put myself in that category), and it’s hard to get much more legit than getting down, outside, in an urban setting.
If you’re interested in hearing more about these classes, join my group on Facebook here.
So, it’s back to Vancouver that I go, now with a new goal, and some personal projects to work on over the coming term. I sense that I’m starting to move out of my creative rut, and can begin to apply some focus in a direction that I’m excited about. Stay tuned as I will continue to blog about my progress, anything new that I learn, and the status of the projects I’m working on.
Lastly, I want to give someshout-outs to the great teachers that I get to work with in Vancouver: Johnni, Jamieson, Kim, and Dennis are all contributing significantly to my growth while I spend time in Vancouver, and it’s a honour to get to work with people that share their passion and talent for dancing so generously. These guys help me become not only a better dancer, but a better teacher. Thanks guys!