Following up on an article in their November issue, representatives from Collaborative Magazine came to a video shoot for my Local Musician Choreography Class. The photographer said to me: “I’ve been watching, and this is incredible. I mean, you give them the choreography but, at some point, it’s out of your hands.” He marveled at the fact that every dancer was expressing the same movement in such unique ways and, in his observation, concluded that once I delivered the choreography I had to essentially, in a sense, let go.
Having never thought of my work this way, when his words made their way to my ears, I saved them for later reflection. I needed to process, and because of the regard I have for their speaker, I sensed that his words carried a secret for me to unlock. The words were easy to understand, but what did they really mean in the context of my potential to work within my craft? How can I actively employ them to impart greater value to the varying ways in which people bring my pieces to life, enhancing our process and outcome?
On the day prior to this, I announced to my previous dance company that I would not be returning as Artistic Director for a second season. So, on that night, seeing most of them for the first time since telling them the news, my emotions were running very high. I was feeling insecure and uncertain about what was next. Was I good enough? Would I be good enough if I tried another venture in the future? Would they be mad? Did they feel abandoned? Would they want to dance with me again? Was I only good because of them? Did I make the right decision? What did I learn from this experience, and what would I do the same, what would I change? So, his words to me only one day later, had an impact I don’t think he could’ve anticipated they would have- and on a night I perhaps needed to hear them the most.
I took about a month to mourn and reflect on leaving the dance company before seriously considering new ideas; one of them being to expand my work with local musicians. A conversation with Girl Blue over coffee one day, where I shared my rough-around-the-edges idea, confirmed that I should venture into the next chapter. She was enthusiastic with me, and we brainstormed ideas for the dance company. Synergia Dance Project was soon born. This is really when the photographer’s words to me on that December night started to live.
For this new experience I decided to embrace his observation. It was clear that the way I did things before didn’t work for me, so what did I have to lose by doing things differently? Trusting his words, I began to actively embrace a certain amount of “letting go,” reminding myself and becoming excited that I was intentionally surrounded with artists who had incredible things to offer that I couldn’t even begin to imagine and that, if I held on too tightly, I would never get to see.
This is what I do now, even though I’m still learning how much, and when, to let go a bit. The results have been beyond what I could’ve hoped for. We talk about the concept, story, and vision for the piece and when I’m stuck for what to do next, where to take the piece, or anything else, I ask for their input. Often, I even go into my classes and rehearsals without solid choreography prepared, trusting our natural tendencies, skills, experiences, and personalities will guide the tangible parts of our process - while holding tightly onto the core concept and story.
I’m surrounded by people whose talent, experience, and intentions I hold in high regard. They are my friends, colleagues, fellow artists, students and teachers. It’s important to acknowledge that if you are going to surround yourself with highly qualified people who have tremendous insight and talent, not to stifle it with ego or fear. Trust that you wanted them to be part of your process for what they have to offer and allow yourself to learn and grow together. If you let some things get “out of your hands” now and then, not only will you refine your instincts and enhance your craft, you’ll produce a caliber of something you could never have done alone.
Column first featured in Collaborative Magazine