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The creative Break

A lot of books in the old library of Stangass Asylum
A lot of books in the old library of Stangass Asylum

When you are deep in a creative project and force yourself to work on it every day, chances are high that you will encounter some sort of mental block on your way.

For people who write we call it writer’s block. It is a state where you seem to can not proceed any further in the process of creation. While there are many recommended ways how to deal with this kind of issue, there is only one that works well for me. To walk away from the project for some time. This does not mean you have to stop doing your work completely. It just means you should leave this topic alone.

If you write, you can write another story. If you do choreography, you can work on other music. The goal is to give you mind a break from the thing that causes the block. Of course the best thing is to do something completely different, if you can.

When you do this, your subconscious mind keeps working on the issue and more often then not, the solution will come to you in a moment where you are doing something totally unrelated to the topic.

I am out, going to play some video games, to cure my writer’s block.

don’t talk to talk

I am not quite sure if I’ve become intolerant or if our society cultivated a certain kind of behaviour where it seems more important to talk about stuff, than actually doing it.

For every guy out there that is creating something or doing his own thing there are five that talk stupid behind his back or upfront without ever trying to do the same he does.  That is plain stupid.

I think most of us know when they have something valuable to say and when not. If the big NOT is the case, it is a great thing to remain silent or openly state that you have nothing to contribute in the actual matter.

Of course there is nothing wrong about giving feedback to other people. That is one hell of an important tool that helps us grow in whatever we do. But giving somebody shallow or crude feedback that is far beneath the amount of thought that went into creating the thing or idea in the first place, is an affront and a waste of precious time.

If you want to waste some time, waste yours. Don’t get into the way of people who actually do things.

Understanding Music

FraGues Maschine Mikro
FraGues Maschine Mikro

When I teach advanced students I put the focus of education on understanding conceptual work inside the dance and understanding the music. I already started the dance concepts series and I will start a series of texts about music soon. I wanted to call it “music theory for dancers” but that would be misleading because it is not really music theory.

So for lack of a better name I call this new series “understanding music”. I will cover topics like:

What is counting and why do I need it? Alternatives to counting and their applications. Why the f#~k do we count until 8 and start over? What is a bar, a measure, a meter, a rhythm, a polyrhythm, a syncope, a backbeat, a clave, a triplet … and so on.

I will explain why it is a good idea to know this stuff and how to take advantage of that insights. In order to do this in a understandable way I will have to create some audio examples. Therefore it might take me a little longer to come up with this posts.

I will start out with the basics, so that everyone has the possibility to follow the rest. From there we can go into any direction. So if you have preferences on which topics to cover first, let me know.

conquer the space – an introduction

Using the space that is available for your dance is one of the most widespread concepts out there. What it means is that you consciously work with the space that surrounds you.

This can be as easy as trying to remain stationary or being everywhere in the space at some time during your dance or as difficult as following a predefined path with a set speed or chasing an opposing dancer in a battle.

Using a lot of space in your rounds results in a more dynamic look compared to being stationary. In a performance setting you can guide the audience towards important things in your performance by strategically changing place to let them know about a change in your story.

To get started with conquering the space around you pay attention if you favor stationary movement or moving through the space. Try to find a balance with those two and try to move in directions that you don’t use normally.

A simple exercise to improve your movement is to mark a path or form on the floor and try what you can do with your dance by following it. I will give you more complex instruction on this concept in the future and some additional exercises in the newsletter. For now, try the “follow the path” exercise to get used to using the space for a specific task.

Reading Matter for the next Year

In my last post for this year 2017 I am doing nothing but recommending 5 books that I enjoyed very much this year. All of them gave me some new insights and helped shaping the work I do.

Without further bla bla, here are my top 5 book recommendations to read, if you haven’t read them yet.

I) Tribes from Seth Godin. The book is about global community building and how the concept of the tribe has evolved through the internet age.

II) Rework from David Hansson & Jason Fried. Rework introduces ideas that change the way one can approach work. A lot of these are completely the opposite of the status quo. The authors explain why they do things different, so you can decide for yourself if you stick to the old ways or the suggested ones.

III) Steal like an Artist from Austin Kleon. This really small gem is an introduction into doing your work as an artist. It installs methods and rituals that help you do your daily work.

IV) Die große Hitze from Jörg Mauthe. This one is fiction in german language. I don’t think it is translated to other languages and it’s relevance to readers from outside Austria might be small. For everyone living in Austria or having friends there, get this book and have an excellent satiric novell about austrian officialdom and dwarves. (No joke)

V) The Prophet from Khalil Gibran. Philosophic stories and metaphors about dozens of timeless topics.

If you have any books that you recommend, let me know in the comments. If you already read some of those above, share your thoughts.

Balancing Inspiration

Most forms of enternainment can serve as inspiration for getting your own creative juices going. But the abundance of options and the volume of material that can be consumed might become a source of further procrastination.

If you are diving into movies, books, videogames or music for inspiration you should know that these different types of input effect you thinking in different ways.

Television or cinema (everything that is moving image) give you a very clear image of what is happening. There is very little left to imagination. You might be engaged emotionally but most of the time your brain is not really motivated to work because it is getting everything served. It is dumbing you down, especially when you apply the repeated patterns that are imprinted deep into television productions.

Video games are very similar with the difference that they require you to actively engage.

Music and reading are not as clear about the things they say and you make up a good portion of what might be happening on your own. When two people read a character description in a book, they still envision the character differently. The same goes with music. While we hear the same sound, it triggers different emotional responses in everyone of us.

There is nothing bad in turning on the tv or going to the cinema. But in order to keep your mind active I highly recommend that you grab a book or listen to music more often than you switch on tv.

Have a good night everyone.

The Sacred Place

At the moment I am reading “die empty” from author Todd Henry. It is a book about doing your work as good and as commited as possible, so that you “empty yourself from everything you can give”. This idea of not saving anything for later cultivates an urgency to look for new stuff every day, thus challenging you to reach for stuff outside the status quo often.

The author mentions the concept of the sacred place. He advocates that everyone needs to find that place where he can do the work that he really cares about. Not the work that is urgent because it brings the food to the table, but the one that is important because it feeds the souls and follows the path that you envision for yourself. The sacred place shall be a place that is not to be used for stuff that is not important, otherwise is loses it’s inspirational impact.

As a lot of us can’t have an extra room in their flat or rent something for that purpose I suggest using the sacred place as a metaphor. Create a sacred space within your possibilities. You can always install a real one later. For a dancer this might be the practise room of his crew or a writer might have his favorite table in the cafe around the corner. Be creative as this must suite you and nobody else.

My personal “sacred place” at the moment of this writing is the 90 minutes at the end of the day from 22:30 to 00:00. My wife and my daughter are already asleep and I find the time to write. It does not matter if I write for one of my blogs, a screenplay or a poem. The thing is I have time to create without having to think about anything else.

That is the purpose of your sacred space. Whenever you are there, it is about creating. Try it. Here are the rules:

I) find a place or a time frame that gives you the possibility to disconnect from everything that might distract you from doing your creative work

II) use this to do your important work every day

III) focus only on doing the work

IV) don’t bring anything else to the sacred place

I am doing this sacred place practise for only 37 days now. But I did not miss one. It is like medidation. Helps you calming down an focusing your awareness on the things you want to accomplish. It might not be for everyone, but it works for me. And it might work for you. There is no loss in trying.

Marketing vs. Good Work

If you do good work, they will come.

A lot of good people live by that belief. But in my own experience and within of the range of research I did for an upcoming project, it looks like this is not true.

I guess most of us have that friend that is creating either great music, having awesome business concepts or doing some other part of great work for the sole purpose of creating. We have been told, that putting out good work will make the audience come and find you. This might have been true back in the days. Today good work is everywhere because technology helps people creating and so many people can do great work now that was not possible without computers and stuff.

But due to this fact there is a total overload of information and there is a very small chance that people who are looking for what you do, find you without you putting in the work into the marketing side of things too.

Promoting your art and selling it is not bad. There is no selling out if you stay true to your craft and vision. Selling out is doing whatever works in order to get the money.

So the question is not if you should focus on doing good work or marketing. In order to be successfull with your art, you need both.

In order for our work to have an impact, it must first have an audience.

The basic questions to ask every Move

This post is a follow up to last weeks introduction article about dance concepts. I introduced the following key-principle.

You should understand every move as an abstract set of instructions that can be applied in different ways.

Yo, right. But what do I do with that information?

When you see every movement you learn in this way, there are certain basic things that you can alter. This gives you a lot of possibilities how to apply this move in different ways.

I’d like to call this basic things that we can alter “the basic questions that we ask every move”. Of course this is only a metaphor as we do not really ask, but I love the dance = language metaphor and will entertain it a lot in the following posts. So it is better to get used to it.

Let’s get to the questions:

The question of direction. How does it look when presented from different angles. This includes choosing different orientation in the space as well as rotating during the move.

The question of speed. What happens when you execute it faster or slower. Every move has a certain speed imprinted to it, that is set by it’s traditional connection to the music. But often a change to this brings really interesting results.

The question of energy. How does a move change when I reduce or increase the amount of energy used. Energy is not always directly related to speed. You can do every movement with a different intention and amount of force. This changes the movement itself.

The question of size. Size does matter in dance. There is a big difference if you reach out in the space as big as possible or try to keep the movement small.

The question of rhythm. How does a change in rhythm change the movement? Like with speed, most moves come with a basic rhythm attached to it. This is usually the rhythm the moves are taught with. But this does not mean that it is the only way to do it. Change the rhythmic phrasing of the move and get some interesting variations for free.

By exploring all the possibilities above you create a whole world of moves from within one movement.