Category Archives: Creativity

So keen to embrace creativity, passion and enthusiasm – whether in business, travel, writing or any of my interests. Grateful to some new friends who are showing me so much about how this process works, and how to nurture and respect the creative spark in so many parts of our lives.

A contract to dance a Tanda

A phrase that perhaps we are very familiar with. This idea of the agreement. Invitation, acceptance – contract.

But a contract to do what exactly?

It is certainly not a contract to spend 10 minutes together. We can so that at a bus stop. Nor is it a contract to do what you always do – with everyone – yet again.

Surely it is an agreement to create an individual dance together.

Whatever the limitations we find in each other – we are jointly contracted to create something unique and we should share with equal commitment to that venture. Perhaps we cannot yet create what we aspire to. But with patience, focus, and listening skills we can indeed create something.

This takes so much work – it is so far from easy – just look at this image of Joâo Alves dancing this weekend at La Baldosita Milonga.

He is working so hard. Not on showing his skills to the outside world – but instead on her, the music, and what they can create together. He did this all evening – dancing noticeably differently with each follower – adjusting so many things.

In my view followers listen more than most men – if they did not they would have no idea where to move. Leaders take a while to learn to listen to the woman’s body – they have a lot of other concerns of course – navigation, safety and what to lead next to name just a few. But perhaps this is an excuse.

What I am enjoying trying to learn now is how to focus on the art. On the work that we are creating. To listen to her and then to adjust totally what I lead and how I lead it – because this is her – and this is now – and that was her response.

Creation is not a science. In the context of social tango it is an artistic miracle. Great art always asks questions and people respond in their own individual way..

What I am finding is that within this context limitations actually become inspiring. In my view Picasso created some of his most powerful and engaging work with a charcoal stick and an ink pen.

Constraints help us to focus on the art itself and not on the froth of the possible. If we do not have an ultramarine blue to share then we must instead use what we have – and with care and respect create this kind of image and not that one.

Of course if we are accomplished – and I am certainly not – we would value the experience of dancing with someone equally experienced and talented. But for the rest of us we can derive great pleasure from creating the best art that we can in this moment – in this contract – with this person and to this music.

So perhaps look for someone to dance with who wants to create something individual, something transient and unrepeatable. Someone who listens to you – and above all then changes how they dance because of what they hear.

When you find them – sign that contract.

And smile.

The Draw to Perform Experience

This is a composite video of Day 1 – what a wonderful summary of such a diverse series of performances.

This was such an interesting time for me. Meeting Jan, being around such artistic talent – experiencing something new.

Artists are all credited in the video – but from me a special thanks to Jan Rae, Ram Samocha and to Domenico Dominelli for creating such a professional summary video.

Echoes

Soft things gently disturb my mind.

Routine has slipped away, the foundation and the habit have gone. I am floating in a fiction.

Parts of me have been thanklessly hacked and discarded. Ultimately despised for worn out imperfections.

I listen again and again to voices and emotions from 70 years ago. All that energy, that belief in the importance of a time and a place.

The voices have died, the time and place have long gone. The characters they describe were never real.

So why do I feel like this? Why do I keep listening?

 

Lessons for the intermediate Tango dancer – inspired by penguins

We all begin with hope – walking the lonely road of trying to progress and learn – along with thousands of other students around the world we progress through the standard class structures – walk, walk and walk again

walking in line

.. sometimes we can feel hopelessly lost and abandoned as the reality of how difficult this all is hits home.

lonely

But sure enough if we persist we begin to learn the basics –

colgada

and as we become more experienced off axis moves like Colgadas become increasingly interesting.

Two King Penguins

However with them comes danger – the lead must always be clear, especially if the floor is a bit fast.

But we hold the course! And with time, and with sufficient practise – even the giro with the dreaded enrosque can become a joy.

giros and enrosques

attitude and presence

Once we have sufficient structure and are at one with each other and above all else with the music, we can work on what we actually look like. Here presence, clean lines  and attitude make such a difference.

The danger is that we might be too preoccupied by the external view that we loose touch with the inner, quiet nature of true tango – and instead look for those kodak moments that tango certainly tempts us all with

kodak

After we have learned so much we can focus on the importance of actually dancing, the realities of standing out in a busy Milonga and trying to master the all important cabaceo become an important part of our lives.

milonga nad cabaceo

But above all else Tango is a journey. Sure small obstacles can stand in our way – but by helping and inspiring each other we can in the end progress past every crisis – and celebrate the sheer joy that tango can eventually offer us.

Pina Bausch : On the mountain a cry was heard

Absorbing a work by Pina Bausch is a process that fights my natural tendency to understand logically, to define and name things.

She leaves images to work their magic in your mind. She invites you to places that before her could only have been glimpsed out of the corner of your eye… or with Borges, or perhaps in some chemically assisted dreamscape.

She gives a physical dance theatre reality to ideas that for me, without her, would have been left as vague concepts. She brings such impossible things into a sharp physical focus.

Last night what drifted into my mind paraphrased  the opening of the old bbc series “civilisation” …as I recall it through the decades ..  “I don’t know if I can define art, but I am looking at it right now..”

It is pure art. It speaks directly to the part of my brain that resists words, that is somehow primal. Metaphors about nothing, slow repetition, fragments of discomfort and pain.

pina2

I watch enthralled as yet again a large man in red underpants patiently and slowly inflates a balloon until it explodes. I watch a woman climb walls and two older men play out a mutual dependency that fascinates me for reasons that I cannot understand. Innocent girls move through their lonely journeys to self awareness while women have their hair pulled in some screaming personal nightmare.

Images follow one after the other making not so much a coherent whole – for there is no logical structure in this place  – but a multidimensional and infinitely rich physical landscape that in some magical sense came from the random wanderings of my own mind.

Such confidence, such faith that the audience would go with her. Daring to present this work on a soil filled stage that immediately cuts off so much of a more conventional dancers vocabulary.

Your cry was heard by me, just as it has been heard by so many that you have touched through your art.

When I was a child

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 

For now we see through a glass, darkly

But as the power of Christmas eve approaches I can still, after all these years, enter exactly the same imaginative landscape that welcomed me as an only child. In this small corner of our house the door has been reopened for me.

xmas-dreams

I smile contentedly. I feel so alive in the most dreamlike of ways.

I am their friend, and we are off an adventure again. We three.

Long may it continue. The other side of the dream is sad enough.

2015 – the year I stop being terrified of amazing women

As 2014 draws to a close I am approaching two years of learning this amazing dance – only a few months to go – and because it is that time of year I think it deserves a resolution.

I realised recently that I was missing an understanding of the kind of physical dancer I want to become.

Here I have made some progress – the key qualities I am looking for are : Milonguero, Precise, Playful, Still Framed, Musical, Stable and Quiet

I have also thought about my emotional response to – and engagement with – the dance. I believe that I honestly do care very much about the follower. I want her to feel respected and protected, to have the chance to dance what she feels in the music and to express herself.

But I have also occasionally had the chance to dance with truly talented, focussed, balanced followers that from the moment you embrace them are very clearly significantly more experienced than me. So much more talented, surer of who they are and what they are doing.

As soon as they hold me I can feel their focus, their restrained but electrifying energy – asking what I have – wondering if I can give them the experience they are looking for.

And always – on the few times I do get these opportunities – it absolutely and completely terrifies me.

Terrified

So that’s my resolution for 2015. I am going to welcome those opportunities. I am actually going to seek them out, to ask them to dance – rather than hide in the corner, terrified that they will catch my eye and invite me.

I am going to breathe in, focus, and stop being scared of beautiful dancers.

Tango – I have been learning ‘how’ before I knew ‘what’ ..

I tried to learn.

I listened.

We listen

I asked how to do things, and I was told – this is how that is done. And this one, and now that one. Figure after figure.

I watched.

We watch

We all do this with complex subjects – we have to start somewhere.

Over time the structure builds and the vocabulary expands – but as students we get to a time when we need to be clear. We need a vision – we need to ask ourselves difficult questions – “What am I trying to achieve? What kind of a dancer do I actually want to be?”

I know now that this is where I am. Finally having enough understanding to be able to ask the right question – “How do I do exactly this – in this particular way?”

Perhaps as social dancers attending our regular classes this is in fact a moment of choice that a lot of students – especially leaders – never actually get to. It’s hard enough to learn Tango at all – let alone in a particular and individual way. Selecting and developing a style requires authenticity, confidence and skill and these things take so much time.

With other more literal art forms than dance it is clearer – in photography the difference between a street photograph and a landscape one is fairly obvious – as soon as you look at any image you can identify them. There are clear names, clear categories. We know where we are. We don’t even need to think to get to the next level questions – “is this what I like?”, “is this the kind of image that I want to make?” – our response is naturally along these lines.

As learners of social tango it all seems so different. As we learn we are of course imprecise – so our style is ill defined. There are broad labels – ‘nuevo’ ‘milonguero’ ‘show tango’ but within these are thousands of individual interpretations and even disputes about what they actually mean – for example that ‘nuevo’ is not actually a style at all.

For me this is a very important moment – maybe some kind of crisis. Now I have to be creative. I have to decide. Only once we really know what we are trying to achieve can we pause, then rebuild our learning with a new energy and focus.

I am hoping for a new experience from this moment on – because I am thinking on a different level.

We absorb material within the context of our own personal journey. We can reject some, and absorb others. But now I can begin the process of being the kind of dancer that I actually want to be – I can try to be precise. Because, finally, I am starting to know where I actually want to be.

I want to create an image to express exactly this, to allow the follower to dance like that.

We embrace and try again
We embrace and try again

We breathe, we embrace and as always we try again.

Federico Frangi – A Photographer with a lot of drive, humility and talent

I briefly met Federico Frangi last week in Barcelona. We chatted for a few minutes, I admired his work, I bought a small version of the one that he is showing me in this photo.

federico

I admired so much about what he told me. Travelling thousands of kilometres on a motorbike across India. Using a camera that did not need a battery, printing on rice paper. Thinking about the meaning of each of his projects. Projects that took months of effort to conceive execute and present.

Many of his images are available here.

He described how in the photo I purchased Federico had been frustrated because the man had closed his eyes at the moment he took the image. But from that came the idea of presenting the project as this mans memories and dreams.

He talked about his plans to go back and find again the girl who had become one of his most popular images – to help her.

Thank you Federico and I wish you all the best with the next project – and I really hope you find her.

Let me know.