Mentorship. It is everything. It is being asked, not asking. Answering, not questioning. Being led, not leading. It is critical, necessary, and too often neglected. Simply by having the tables turned and having to answer questions instead of formulate them, things become so much clearer. All of the floating thoughts and disparate musings must find a place to live, and to live together. While they have always lived, they are now alive, as one, bound by structure, on paper.
Mentorship drives. It drives by asking for clarity from vague, over-arching, broad statements. By asking for more information. By suggesting action associated with revelation. It doesn’t micromanage. It stands back. It comes forward. It is present and absent at all of the right times. It gives one the freedom to flounder, to find, to lose, and to succeed. Simultaneously.
This is my clarity. Here is my more. Finding my action. Thank you, Christian Burns, for your mentorship.
Everything I “knew” about making work has either been completely confirmed or completely denied (large statement. please expand.)
.…Deep down I knew and understood that making was a practice; that it is a second language, a skill, a way of seeing and responding, a conversational ability that takes time and effort and practice to maintain. However, I never truly experienced it as a practice before coming to San Francisco. It was already built into everything I did on a daily basis. I had never experienced the difficulty of loosing that language or known it to be anything but an automatic practice. There wasn’t an understanding of what it means to jump back into the studio with a looming deadline or a big vision and a huge goal without practice. It was only when I found myself having not practiced and needing to come up with something that I really began to understand that it is a language lost if not used.
…I have also grown to understand more fully how strongly the space in which one creates can impact the work either positively or negatively. For me it’s not enough to simply have space to create, but more importantly to have the right physical space in which to create. I have often heard teachers, mentors, fellow students talk about preferences for studios or rehearsal spaces and to a certain extent I understood what they were saying because I had preferences, too. But all of those spaces had minimal differences. They had marley flooring, mirrored walls, and high ceilings. They had beautiful natural light and plenty of space. However, after having worked in different places here in San Francisco, I feel like I finally understand. There are places that, no matter how cheap or free or available they may be, I am affected too strongly by their light, their space, their volume, their smell, their existence. Those spaces can suffice for a while, but ultimately become too overbearing on the outcome.
I’ve also realized that there has been a big shift in the type of work that I thought I wanted to make and type of work that I actually make. Reconciling one’s thoughts with the reality of the work has been interesting, difficult, disorienting, and necessary to say the least. (vague. details please.)
…As far as the type of work I thought I wanted to make and what I’m actually making: I used to, and still to an extent do, want to make things that have depth and context but that are ultimately beautiful. But recently, I have found that using my old fall backs of how to put together a piece structurally are unsettling. I can’t come to terms with them anymore. At first that was very difficult to deal with because it meant that what I had figured out about making work and how to do it no longer worked for me. I used to know that if I put these dancers here and those dancers there and they did x, y, and z that it would all work out. Every time I tried that in this residency, it was bad. Really bad. I also hated all the music I thought I wanted. Pretty much everything felt wrong. Having to say, “Okay, I can’t do what I’m used to doing. I can’t approach this like I’m used to approaching this practice”, felt like learning to walk again. That has been the biggest challenge regarding process: the usual entry points were all closed and unsuitable for the kinds of things that were actually happening in the studio versus what I was creating in my mind.
Other things I have learned:
- Entry points into the work are not always visible, but the more you dig and have patience and faith that eventually they will show up, the better off you’ll be.
- Even if you have no idea what you’re doing, still show up and do it.
- Stop micromanaging. I thought I was okay regarding this. I realized I’m not. Know when to give details, know when to hold them.
- Don’t have all of the answers. Don’t share all of the answers if you do have them. Sometimes it’s better to stop looking for answers if you don’t have them. Sometimes it’s better to look harder. Knowing which approach to take is the difficult part.
- All that time you feel like you’re wasting in rehearsal talking about seemingly irrelevant things is important and necessary.
- If you create slowly, you create slowly. If things come quickly and easily, they come quickly and easily. Be okay with creating how you create and find those people that are okay with it too.
Ultimately, creativity is a practice and it is clear that despite having created work while in San Francisco, my practice of it has been neglected. It feels good to finally be finding my sea legs again. (act on it. find someone to make work on every week.)