Aaah, summertime — it makes us think of the beach, barbeques, sunscreen and watermelon. For dancers, it’s often a slower time with fewer classes, rehearsals and performances. You may be eager for the break. You may instead wish you could keep the high-speed train going, continuing to refine your technique and artistry day-in and day-out. Yet there can be a way to grow as an artist as well as take a bit of a break — making your creativity flourish! Let’s look at some ways to boost creativity over the summer!
#1. Take new classes, maybe in new forms.
Summer can definitely be a time to give your body a bit of a break, but it also may offer an opportunity to try classes and dance/movement forms that are new to you; your schedule may be open for certain “drop-in” classes or workshops in ways that it wasn’t before. If you’re a hardcore bunhead or contemporary dancer, something like ballroom or classical Indian dance (Bharatanatayum) could challenge your body and mind to grow.
Dancers are called to be more and more versatile all the time, so who knows, this basic exposure could come in handy during an audition or rehearsal! Even if in a form with which you are more familiar, a good teacher will have something new and valuable for you to learn — a new physical skill or approach, a new perspective on art, a new tool for improvising. These fresh ways of thinking and moving way very well get your creative mental wheels turning! Just be sure to stay hydrated, and not be overzealous when it comes to stretching and flexibility (as muscles can feel very pliable in very warm weather, and it can be all too easy to overshoot the mark into injury).
#2. Do something artistic that’s not dancing.
Your schedule might also open up for non-dance creative activities — a painting or pottery class, a guitar lesson or taking in a play. The dance field is at a place of high interest in how different art forms interact, so it could be quite useful to engage in other artistic media yourself. Learning how to compose music could stimulate choreographic ideas. Painting could inspire a new movement quality that you want to explore.
The sky’s the limit when it comes to how different art forms can interact, and how that could inspire you creatively! Keep a lookout for free summer offerings that can assist in this multi-modal experimentation, including free or low-cost music-inspired yoga/movement classes, plays, concerts and the like. (Bonus: these offerings are often held outdoors!)
#3. Indulge a non-artistic interest of yours.
As much as our life is filled with dance, there’s really a whole world out there outside of dance. Dancers are also naturally curious, driven and engaged people. Chances are that you’ve said something like, “I’d love to do (x), but my dance schedule is just too crazy lately.” Well, with that schedule perhaps lightening in the summer, maybe it’s a good time to do (x)!
Learn a new language. (There are free apps with quick, easy language lessons that you can do on your own time.) Volunteer at an animal shelter or other non-profit. Take a science course at your local community college. Get involved in local politics, organizing, or activism. Whatever it may be outside of the arts that interests you, it can expose you to corners of the world out there that are new to you. You may very well be creatively inspired as a result.
You never know, maybe you also make friends along the way who you expose to dance — and who then become dance lovers! Maybe you’re inspired to make work about a topic that will engage more people outside of the dance world. There’s no downside here!
#4. Try “morning pages”.
In her nonfiction book, The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron recommends a specific, practical technique for boosting creativity — morning pages. The technique involves writing three pages immediately upon waking. (You can of course do something like go to the bathroom or drink some water, but otherwise it’s the absolute first task of the day.) Cameron advises not worrying about grammar, clarity or even punctuation. This is, in other words, “free-writing”.
Why do this the first thing in the morning? One is not caught in the stresses of the day, and creative thinking is more unhindered. Recalling dreams could even contribute to insightful, original thinking as well. The subconscious, a key source of creativity, can reveal itself through the writing in this just-woken state. Cameron also stresses that this technique has the greatest impact when done over a sustained period of time. For dancers, when you might not have to rush off to class or rehearsal like you usually have to, summer may offer a great time to do morning pages morning after morning. Then, you can just enjoy seeing what creative thinking unfolds!
#5. Foster friendships with those outside of your dance circles.
Just like engaging in areas outside of dance can expose you more to the wider world out there, so can spending time with people you care about who aren’t directly involved with dance. For instance, I personally tend to keep friendships mostly in the dance/movement/fitness world. Yet, I recently attended a party of a good friend’s girlfriend (both of them non-dancers). It was on a Brooklyn rooftop, on a lovely summer night. Fireworks, the music that was playing and structures on the rooftop had my choreographic brain whirling. I even improvised a bit on one of the structures (yes, in my platform sandals).
More interestingly for myself, however, were conversations I struck up with people there — on philosophy, mathematics, artificial intelligence, politics, mythology, painting, performance art and more. With all those things in combination, my choreographic brain was whirling even faster when I left. I just enjoyed those conversations while they were happening, however. People out there are full of intriguing ideas, all of which can inspire you creatively if you engage with them. Making new friends through the process isn’t a bad thing as well!
#6. Get outside!
From an evolutionary biology and psychology perspective, humans are meant to spend most of our time outside. Nature has so many gifts to offer — the sounds, the smells, the colors, the feel of a breeze on your skin. There is so much in all of that sensory offering that can be creatively stimulating. Something as simple as the color and shape of a certain type of flower, or the jumpy movements of a little bird, could inspire movement vocabulary or choreographic concepts.
Thankfully, as long as it’s not too hot and/or one can find some shade, summer is a great time to spend outdoors. Even in cities, parks are never too far away. Outside of nature, per se, people doing outdoor things — throwing frisbees, playing soccer, having a picnic, even just walking — can be fascinating creative inspiration. (Just be sure to be respectful and not stare.) The outdoors has so much to offer, if you go to it to receive. From there, just let the creative juices flow!
By Kathryn Boland of Dance Informa.