As I write this, it is pouring rain in LA, we have just “sprung forward” for daylight savings, I’ve recently recovered from a mild case of Shingles, and the world has eyes on the Coronavirus. Any one of these things would be enough to feel at least a little unstable, but all together my foundation feels completely rocked. Earlier this week, I spent hours continuing the development of my next performance, set to premier later this year, and awoke today to find theaters and other events being postponed indefinitely. I also reworked a duet I’ve been choreographing, removing all physical touch as a health precaution, only to have future rehearsals for the piece entirely canceled.
Even before this week’s events, I’ve been lately experiencing a constant background stress that I haven’t quite figured out how to release. I’ll wake up stressed about my to-do list or the number of emails in my inbox, but by the end of the day, when I’ve checked everything off, I have an uneasy anxiety that I somehow haven’t accomplished enough. This results in a never ending cycle of adding more to my daily action items only to continue to feel unaccomplished at the end of the day. Now, with the world on pause, all efforts toward productivity seem futile and background stress has moved to the foreground.
Even so, I just got off the phone with a colleague to discuss creative ways to restructure a collaboration we’ve been working on. I hung up feeling excited, energized, and hopeful. It reminded me of the development of my solo, this is not the end. It was created during a time when I was making the least amount of money I had ever made, spending hours in the car commuting crazy distances just to make a little cash, living alone in a tiny studio apartment, and just feeling consumed by what seemed like hurdle after hurdle. The only way I knew how to shake myself out of it was to dance, so I forced myself to create at least a minute of movement material whenever I had some time at home. I didn’t have money to hire dancers or rent rehearsal space, but I had my body, and I had my kitchen.
After 6 months of this process, I was introduced to a music composer. He had worked mostly in indie-film and was interested in new collaborations. We started talking about what an original score to my kitchen dance might sound like and before I knew it, I had an original orchestration performed and recorded by 65 musicians. It was the exact opposite of the scarcity that prompted the choreography, allowing the music to serve as a metaphor for the abundant nature of the creative spirit. The solo has gone on to be performed at numerous dance festivals, including an International Solo Competition in Poland. What started as a therapeutic exercise became my most performed work to date.
None of this is to discount the dread, anger, worry, fear, sadness, or pain we all are experiencing right now - those feelings are real and valid. I don’t have any solutions for our state of affairs and don’t claim to be an expert in how we should move forward - and I am definitely not a proponent of feigned positivity. But in this moment I’m grateful for the infinite supply of creativity we humans seem to possess. I’m seeing it in how our community is responding to this crisis and I’m excited to see what creations, infrastructures, and practices will be born from this period. Creativity thrives in restriction. So for now, I will create. Just for the sake of creating.photo: Andrew Pearson performing at LA Dance Festival 2017 © Cheryl Mann