wild ideas

In my various roles as choreographer, video-maker, teacher (what Cat Harrison calls a “slashie” as in dancer slash maker slash …) I seek collaborations.

Collaboration places me in situations that are difficult, playful, unique and filled with potential. It is a reminder that my ideas are not necessarily worth more than another’s and challenges me to reflect on how I can make engaging and complex projects.

Recently, I happened across a video from 1999 in which employees of IDEO are given a week to build a better shopping cart. The programme is rather long-winded but the critical concerns of IDEO in working together are:

  • One Conversation at a time
  • Stay focused on topic
  • Encourage wild ideas
  • Defer judgement
  • Build on the ideas of others

Although the focus of IDEO is on designing new (or improved) objects, I find these guidelines are useful and meaningful in the (choreographic) studio. In dance, choreographers have a tendency to avoid owning up to influence — something that, for example, film makers haves no concerns about — and yet we are always building on the ideas of others. It is better to be aware of what these ideas are and who has worked with them previously, rather than make a song and dance about the desire for originality. 

Deferring judgement challenges intuitive responses and invites a more timely system of responding to ideas. This is not to say that working intuitively is not useful (or wrong), just that there is plenty of time for intuition to do it’s work. In other words, it doesn’t have to be the first (and often only) response. I see this time and time again with students who are working in groups when their first response (intuitively) is to dislike the idea of a colleague. This builds resistance to that idea (and how other subsequent permutations of it might be powerful indeed), and also the potential for ill-will in the group.

I’ve been working in the studio lately with the remarkable Colin Poole and although it hasn’t been simple or easy, we’ve worked hard to stay on topic, have singular conversations, and encouraged our fair share of wild ideas. Can’t wait to show it a bit in September.

(ABC News Nightline, 13 July 1999)

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