How to be Original…

This topic of Originality/Creativity/etc has popped up a lot recently for me. A respectable choreographer/artist/dancer Emma Portner posted a Facebook status addressing the issue the same week I had a reading due for my Dance Composition in Special Topics class that, also, addressed the subject. It is the same tired question we, as artists, all rack our brains with… Is what I am creating original? Is this thing that is regurgitated out of our minds and onto our bodies born from my own creative perception, or am I entirely influenced by the work of other dancers of which I both watch and practice?

“We all like to see something fresh, not least the presenters who put the work on, but the problem is you can’t make a piece by trying to be original. If you make a piece by trying to be original, then the piece will only be about trying to be original… It helps to keep your eyes open, but to know also when to close them.”- A Choreographer’s Handbook by Jonathan Burrows

Hypothetically I wonder, what if we all stopped watching other people’s choreography? What if I stopped dancing other people’s choreography? Basically, what if I pull a choreographic Thoreau? Will I be able to find the patterns my body naturally creates without the subconscious guidelines of other works I have seen? Maybe…but we don’t live in a hypothetical world. Thoreau couldn’t even completely cut himself off from society, because dinner with his mother was JUST that important.

We, as creators and artists, cannot escape our media-driven world; we cannot shield our eyes from the work of other artists for fear of morphing to their artistic style. Maybe it’s like dessert; it’s good in moderation. Or maybe when you’re in a choreographic process you make a conscious effort to take time to explore you’re own body’s patterns and leave the viewings for another day. Maybe there is no such thing as originality since every idea must be sparked by some piece of inspiration that already exists.

I constantly question my choreography. Common phrases said when choreographing:
1. Nope, that is too predictable.
2. Nope, I always do that move.
3. Does that look good?
4. Ughh I give up…

Part of it is the aesthetic parameters engrained in my mind from 17 years of technical training, and the other part is youtube. Another part is whether or not my professors and friends will respect or like my creation. I can be really self-conscious, but what I always forget is the response I get after sharing my choreography or teaching a class combination…it’s always really good and satisfying. I, like many other young artists, psych myself out trying to be both original and a crowd pleaser, but in the end “it’s just a stupid dance.” (Burrows).

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