A friend and mentor asked me that question recently. Say, what? I was initially taken aback, as he has known me for years, has discussed my dance and writing passions with me at length, has seen me perform.
I am a dancer/choreographer and writer, remember? But that’s not what he was asking me. His question was tougher. Deeper. His question is about intention, identity, integrity. Vision, even.
If I believe myself to be an artist, how do I live that belief? Maybe you’ve given this a lot of thought and already answered it comprehensively. Maybe I am late to the party (again). While I’ve ruminated at length about art and creativity, I had not previously done so precisely in these terms.
Why I am thinking about this today is primarily because of the afternoon’s session with one of the students I volunteer to tutor in writing. Things got off to a bumpy start, but finished with resounding success.
Combing back through my euphoria, I realize that a main reason we had a breakthrough is because of how I am an artist. When I learned we had no specific assignment to work on yet forty minutes of writing practice needed, I was flummoxed only for a moment.
Then I quickly looked around the room and did what artists do routinely: sought inspiration and improvised with what was at hand. (In reality, we are all improvising all the time as we create our lives, some improvs working better than others :)). And presto! I created writing prompts based on the room’s contents, leading to laughter, discovery, and yes, success.
I appreciate even more fully now that part of how we are artists is that we constantly cultivate imagination. And resourcefulness. That’s a major part of our gig. What potent ingredients to have for living!
As I love to share the amazing roller coaster ride called “creating,” I suddenly jumped in and started writing a response to the prompts today. I surprised my student…AND myself. Why just sit there when I could be working my writing chops, right? We compared essays, and both learned something valuable.
Beauty and grace are major inspirations, and so on a glorious, sunny afternoon like this one, I am noticing how the light dapples and I wonder at the beauty of a woman’s smile as she says hello. Through some magical alchemy, this results in creating a dance phrase.
As a dancer, I am generally on the lookout kinesthetically. People’s gestures and unique gaits fascinate, so much so that I often attempt to mirror them once folks are out of sight. I rehearse choreography and generate movement on my walks, either through slight gesturing or full out dancing in the street. More public art-yahoo!
The desire to stretch artistically galvanizes me to overcome the intimidation factor and sign up for a choreography workshop and a class in a new-to-me dance form. Wholly nerve-racking. But as essential as to artistry as checking out and supporting other artists.
Miraculously and refreshingly, how we are all artists is unique. Ain’t that grand? So now I am wondering: how are you an artist?