It has been a long, sweet summer, but this lady is (beyond) ready to get back into the studio. After essentially 4 months off, all parts of me feel twitchy for movement; my too-soft toes, fidgety body, aching mind…
The other night, M and I were driving home from New York, listening to the only reliable thing on the radio these days: classical. To pass the time on road trips, we often elicit fun conversation by asking each other questions about childhood or the future or otherwise potentially controversial fodder, but somewhere west of Worchester M wondered aloud,
“What do you think of when you hear music like this?”
From the speakers flowed a quirky sort of symphony, robust at times and hauntingly singular at others. I had already been passively picturing choreography for the past 30 miles.
“Oh, I always see ballet”, I responded nonchalantly.
Saying it out loud then- and noticing M’s visible bewilderment- I realized that maybe this was not an entirely normal condition. “I always see ballet.” Ever since I can remember, when classical music plays a miniature ballet unfolds in my mind. It just does. Sometimes it distracts me, imagined movements catching my physical self and lifting a random hand off into allongé like smoke, other times it just plays on like traffic rolling along in the rearview.
Sunday morning I was listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Ted Talk about the “elusive creative genius”. In it, Gilbert outlines the progression of society’s explanation in regards to creativity. Specifically, she notes the shift from ancient Rome’s description of creative genius as an outside force brought to the artist from a “divine attendant spirit” to the modern and arguably far more dangerous assigning of this creative genius to humans themselves. Gilbert suggests that this deviation in thinking is actually quite destructive, and maybe even responsible for the death of many brilliant, overwhelmed contemporary artists. In her gentle invitation to consider the thoughts of ancient philosophers, Gilbert recalls meeting 90-year-old poet, Ruth Stone. Apparently, as a young girl working in the fields of rural Virginia, Ms. Stone could “feel and hear her poetry” like “a thunderous train of air coming at her from over the landscape”. Stone described the poem as this physical entity, chasing her as she “ran like hell” to the house, trying to get to a pencil and paper in time to write the eager words down. The writer in me- and the dancer- can totally relate.
This idea of having work surge through you with a fervor from some unknown source is not only relatable- it’s freeing. While, as Gilbert notes, it may not always happen that way, sometimes the little bits of creative energy passing through find you when your pencil is within reach. Sometimes thoughtful bits of movement latch on to your bones when you are in the studio, flowing. Other times you are seatbelted into the passenger seat on the highway. We may not know just when or how creativity will strike, but noticing its uneven tide and appreciating the existence of any stream at all- that is the point.
photo by Tasnima Tanzim.