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.

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.


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.




Open that door

So many things just need us to start – to move – get an opportunity, meet someone – and then if we do take that first step and stay for a while we begin to understand so much – our world changes and we are all the richer for it.

Before then ‘it’ was the kind of passion that ‘other people did’ – not us.

Sometimes, at rare intervals in our lives and for whatever reason you receive some kind of invitation, someone opens that door for you and asks if you might like to follow them – or perhaps  simple chance just waits  to see if you will react.


But however it happens for that brief moment a door will open for you and you do, or you do not, walk though. And if you are incredibly lucky then  behind that door lies a whole new world.

A world like dance, or writing – or photography – or whatever it is for you that engages with you and presents such an unlimited space for you to play,  to learn, and to progress.


And playing, learning and curiosity surely defines what it is to be human. To be alive.

Such a precious moment – but so few open the door, and even less walk through.

Don’t stand still. Do it.



The Team Player

Yesterday I was lucky enough to be taken to listen to David Peace in conversation with Mark Lawson. The occasion was triggered by the visit to the UK of David Peace, and by the success of the recently published ‘Red or Dead’ – a work that explores the life of Bill Shankly.

And listening to the readings last night central to that man was certainly the concept of the team – that Liverpool was a team above all else and that no individual was as important as the team – a concept we hear so much of in our business life.

watching the gesture


But that wasn’t actually the only reason why I was thinking about teamwork – my post is more a result of watching the performance of Mark Lawson, as he flawlessly performed the role of the perfect foil for David Peace.

This role of the support man really in my view takes a lot of talent, an ability to be quietly confident, full of opinions but not opinionated.



We see this role in much of life – certainly in sports – perhaps the best example is the tireless support given to the lead riders in the Tour de France by the ‘domestiques’. And in business – the incredible talent that work behind the scenes and in the boardrooms of some the most creative CEOs – allowing them to perform as they do.

But what fascinates me now is that I see this too in certain people and the way they live their personal lives. Normally past the nervous stages of youth they are increasingly comfortable in themselves, they quietly smile, are full of experience but still loving the process of learning what is truly important to them.

They take a joy in helping others through nervous times, they enjoy being a friend.

They have found a way to use their personal experience and talent away from the direct light of the spotlight. What a great way to be.

Dream Spaces

Sometimes the conscious mind disengages and we are left in a dream space that is so imaginative and within which so much is possible.


These images reminded me of this sensation. So many different meanings and interpretations.

I know some people achieve this freedom with meditation, Yoga, being alone in moving landscapes, or perhaps in spiritual places with deep connections.

But for me this happens most often when I am dancing. I can feel the logical side of my mind shut down.



It can be a hard landing when the music ends and we are pulled back into the present moment with all it’s noise, clarity and ultimately unsatisfying detail.

But what a wonderful landscape we inhabit while it lasts.

Black, White, Urban and Intimate

This evening I decided to look back at some images I have taken in the last year.

Within a few minutes I realised that the ones I really love share some basic aspects in common.

  • They tend to be intimate – often shot from the hip, on the move, while walking past the subject.


  • They are in black and white


  • They are Urban


  • They are of people. I hesitate to call them portraits, more a kind of capture the moment.

They also seem to be reflective somehow. Pauses in conversations, or thoughtful reflection.


They are so often taken when traveling – I have commented before that the act of travel just seems to make me reach for a camera.

It is enlightening to see these images side by side with ones that don’t mean so much to me – and plan now to proactively build up my expertise in these kind of areas in order to create more that I really do feel satisfied with.

But I also think one of the messages for me – personally – is that it is time to live in a city again. So much of what interests me is urban.

Matisse, Guillem, Maliphant and Liberation

In the last week I have been fortunate to spend time at the Matisse cut outs at the Tate Modern, and to get a chance to see again Sylvie Guillem and Russell Maliphant in Push

Both of course are wonderful – such talent.

I was really moved by a particular Matisse – Acrobats – a work that I had never seen before. It spoke to me of so many things.

One of the many examples on show inspired by the circus, to me it spoke of a journey between two realities – the one constrained and the other free.


Matisse Acrobats

I was thrilled to feel the same message in Push. I don’t think that these artists necessarily were thinking on these lines at all – but that is one of the reasons that abstract art and contemporary dance are so strong – you are free to connect with it in a way that makes sense for your own soul.




Sylvie Guillem and Maliphant in Push

So what this mean for me – am I constrained? Stifled?  Or free ?  Is it a progression over time?

I like to think that it is – and that in the last couple of years I have become far freer than ever before. But I know I have a long way to go – I am still too intense, too demanding, poor at just relaxing and enjoying the moment. At staying in the present.

The main image is from that great Christopher Bruce ballet – Swansong – that I last saw at Sadler’s wells back in 2007. At the end of that work the prisoner is finally liberated by death – and that image of him walking slowly offstage towards a distant light has stayed with me so strongly.

Each of us has some version of our own prison – some sense of how our wings are clipped. But once you see a way to free yourself… it’s just amazing – what else is there?


What interests me?

Getting interested in something is weird – right? I mean – why does it actually happen? What gets those synapses to fire, those connections to build.. what makes us go after something – while  something else leaves us cold..?

The image for this post is from a book I am thoroughly enjoying – to give full credit immediately it is called ‘How not to be wrong – the hidden maths of everyday life’ – by Jordan Ellenberg.

The image is a page that introduces part two – but I could have picked many other images and thoughts.

So – what is it that so interests me – because this is exactly the kind of writing and playful though that  does indeed make me smile  and turn that page. It is hard to think this through objectively, but I think that for me there are some main important themes to this :

  • Learning

I love to learn – and this writing is absolutely encouraging me to be a student – if the author delivers on his promise I am certainly going to learn from reading on. I am so curious about some of these topics, and I want to learn.

  • Connections

As a generalist I have always loved drawing the connections between things, dance –  art – literature – running a business – I remember so loving ‘Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid’ by Douglas R Hofstadter – so many years ago now but such a wonderful example of exploring such different perspectives and the way they illuminate our existence.

This extract is promising exactly that kind of connection, of illuminating this particular idea with the light and perspective from some very different understanding.

  •  Authority

This is part two – I have been reading for a while – so I have within me a respect for Mr Ellenberg that is for me very meaningful in some deep way.

Mentors, coaches, teachers – they are all so  important to me – and they need to be the best I can find. Perhaps this above all else is what matters to me .. this quiet time on my terrace this particular evening with this particular book and a glass of wine is a chance to share time with someone that is able to communicate great ideas to me. To help me on my journey.

Thank you Mr Ellenberg – I raise my glass to you. And if you could see me do that I think you might choose to smile, and quietly nod  back at this student in the very back row of this evening’s maths class.

It can’t be Christmas every day

I was at a Tango event when one of the followers I was with got to dance with one of the best professional dancers. When she sat down someone remarked philosophically that it’s all downhill from now – she had already experienced the best.

To which she replied – “it can’t be Christmas every day”

Which was a great response actually. And like so many people I just sat and thought – why not?

But I mean – really why not?

Why can’t we live at that intensity all of the time. Why do we accept mediocrity? I don’t mean we should drive ourself to exhaustion – just do everything really well. Dance better. Relax better. Make love better. Read better. Work out better. Chill out better. Cut out mediocrity – just don’t accept it

Is it just reality getting in the way? Perhaps we plan to have the most intense and pure experiences but we get distracted by everything that life throws at us? I don’t think so. I just don’t think most people are wired to want to excel. They don’t plan for it. They aren’t sensitive to mediocrity.

Why is it so hard? Surely life would be more exciting, more fun. The reward is there – who doesn’t want the most fulfilling life possible?

Surely there is more to relaxing well than just not trying very hard to do something else properly.

I have lessons with Greg at the Tango Club, and he often says ‘Just dance better’ – or ‘dance for her – make her look beautiful’ – we laugh that for some reason he doesn’t need to say how – but it still works and we dance better – he is so right – what is important if you have any creative sensitivity is that you focus on it, you care, you project into that woman so much attention and energy that she feels completely liberated and so, so special.

Before he said ‘dance better’ we had lost that focus, we were going through the motions, not celebrating Tango for what it is so capable of being. He snaps us back to the present, requesting more energy, more precision. He asks us to make this moment the best it can be.

How rewarding is that. I should do it all the time.

So uplifted by world class contemporary dance

Last night I had the privilege to see the Nederlands Dans Theater 1 performing Sehnsucht / Schmetterling.

I just stand in so much awe of the truly creative people that can make such an evening happen.

Schmetterling ( “butterfly”) was one of the strongest works I have ever seen. It truly captured me, it got into my heart and ran me through the full spectrum of emotions from laughter to profound sadness.

But most of all it made me feel energised, passionate and involved. I left the theatre feeling so very, very alive.


I was so desperate for it to keep going, to never end.

And in a way that is exactly what a performance of such greatness achieves – it is within many of us who shared that evening and so will never truly end. Ripples of thoughts reach out to so many parts of my life, changing perspectives, shining a light on such difficult subjects to talk about.

And that is one of the thoughts that has stayed with me – how dance can be so eloquent at phrasing such difficult subjects as age, death and love. The human body is capable of so much – and words are sometimes such an approximate and closed way to articulate complex ideas.