I love the weekly prompts you send out; they're so varied and rich. Can you share a little bit about how you've come up with them (if it's not a secret!)?
It’s definitely not a secret, and I’m happy to share! I come up with them on my own from anything that sparks my interest. I personally love using literature and poetry as a prompt, but I try to keep a good mix of literal and abstract ideas so that there’s something for everyone, and everyone is challenged at some point.
When you have the task of creating prompts and you know you have to have one every week, you start looking around for ideas. The more you look, the more you see. The more you see, the more you want to keep looking. Lucky for me, it’s a positive feedback loop. It’s really just the creative process!
How has TIP created more community for you, personally, as a dancer and choreographer? And what have you heard from other participants about how it has impacted or changed their creative habits and community?
In the process of trying to grow TIP, it has forced me to reach out to colleagues and former professors I haven’t spoken to in a while. It has forced me to ask for help and really build a community for myself, so that I can work on building it for all of The Iteration Project's members.
As a member of the community, I love seeing how everyone responds to the prompts each week and finding inspiration in their individual and unique points of view. As a choreographer, you can get stuck in your habits and in your safe space. Getting to see how others move, think, and share, is so refreshing. I’ve enjoyed taking the TIP prompts into rehearsals to explore with dancers, and also using them as a jumping off point in my courses.
Lastly, artists tend to be solo creatures. The focus can be on the individual and how the individual is climbing the ranks in the larger landscape, rather than how they’re supporting it. It takes a village, and I think we forget that in the race to produce work and get our work seen. The Iteration Project is a village, and because of that it’s a continual reminder to reach out, to comment, to like, to support each other. The only other alternative is for TIP to cease to exist.
You say on the site, "The key for creativity is to continue to create, everyday." From my writer's perspective, that means consistently sitting in the chair and plunking words down, even if they're crappy to begin with. I'm curious how you as a dancer and performer approach the daily creative process. I imagine it might have some parallels to the writer's (same time each day? same space? etc.), but I'm wondering if there's anything different about the two, especially since the writer's is often more physically sedentary.
Yes, yes, yes. The same is definitely true for me and for dancers and choreographers in general. You take classes because if you don’t, you regress. You make, because if you don’t, you lose your skills. You create because it’s a practice, and you create whether or not what you make is any good. The simple act of making something is what’s important. By making something consistently, you’ll continually get better.
I personally don’t have a set time and space to make each day. But others certainly do. The physical aspect is interesting, because sometimes you just don’t feel like getting up and moving. But as dancers, that’s what we’re trained to do and so we’re used to doing it whether we feel great or horrible. I think the creative process is largely universal. You get up and you get to work. Some move, some write, but ultimately, you make.
Has TIP changed how you create, or how you work with other dancers as an educator?
It has definitely made me realize that making is not like riding a bike. You can’t just get back on after a 10-year hiatus and ride it like you did when you were a kid. Now that I know that, I know I have to do it consistently to feel comfortable doing it at all. The minute I stop engaging in some creative act each day, I feel like the mountain is too high to climb and I hesitate to start. It’s a bit like Sisyphus, in that you just have to keep doing it. You don’t have a choice. Because if you don’t keep doing it, you’ll likely walk away from it with the likelihood of picking it back up diminishing with each passing day.
A piece about The Iteration Project was featured in DANCE Magazine in April, which to me says that you are definitely addressing a need that creative minds besides your own are seeking. What are some of the conversations you've had with others (in dance or otherwise) about this need?
The conversations I’ve had with others have mostly focused on artists leaving the nation’s large art centers either because the cost of living is so high, or because the competition to survive and thrive is too great. We live in a huge country with a lot of opportunity, but for artists, those opportunities tend to be concentrated in a select few places. We have to change the landscape in order for it to be possible for artists and creators to feel like they can truly live and work in the places that inspire them.
I feel like one of the biggest barriers to changing that aspect of the landscape is isolation. As an individual, if you have to make a choice between being isolated or being in an over-saturated market, being in a known community versus uncharted territory, you’re going to choose the known saturated market. That market at least has the community, even if the resources are stretched thin. It takes a lot of work and a lot of energy to strike out on your own and build something from scratch in an unknown market. The hope is that TIP is making that more possible by meeting artists halfway and providing a community, providing inspiration. The only thing they have to do is to take advantage of it and create their own practice.
What would you say to the "closet creatives" out there, who might be nervous about submitting a prompt response, or sharing their creative gifts in general?
I totally get it and I hear you. There are days when it takes all day to muster the confidence to post or to share. But the thing is, once you do it, you realize that there is no right or wrong. There is no good or bad. There just is. If you don’t share it, how will we ever know about you? You are a gift to the community. We want to hear your voice. We need to hear your voice because without you the community doesn’t exist. You are crucial.
The beauty about a community is that it takes everyone. It takes young and old, professionals and amateurs. Closet creatives and weekend warriors. We are all better off because of you. So please share.
As you approach the one-year anniversary of TIP prompts, what are you looking forward to in your own creative life and in the life of this community you've built up?
Yes! Almost to one year of prompts! I’m looking forward to creating more in my own life. I’m working on a full-length evening performance of my work right now. That feels pretty daunting and terrifying, but I know it’s something that I have to do if for no other reason than to learn some very valuable lessons.
As far as the community goes, every time someone new shares something, I do a little dance. I love it. I’m looking forward to the community continuing to grow. To helping people find collaborators. To building our own platform where people can share, and developing some new and exciting accountability and inspiration opportunities for members. There’s a lot in the pipeline right now that I can’t say too much about, but that I’m so excited for. I guess you’ll just have to stay tuned to see what’s next!