Teacher Tune-Up | Create

by Sandi Duncan

create (verb): to cause to come into existence; bring into being; make; originate; esp., to make or design (something requiring art, skill, invention, etc.)—Webster’s New World College Dictionary

I had the pleasure of witnessing some phenomenal choreography at the American Dance Awards competition in Massachusetts this spring. The inspiring pieces ranged from high-energy jazz to classical pointe, feet-afire tap to storytelling contemporary, all brilliant enough to be on the professional stage. All this thought-provoking choreography propelled me to inventory my own methods of creation. Lately, as I try to envision new works each dance season, I have felt creatively challenged.

“Creativity is just connecting things,” Apple co-founder Steve Jobs told Wired in 1996. “When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.”

These words resonate deep in my creative soul. Yet, after producing choreography for so many years, is there much left in my soul to share? I am unsure of my voice as an artist, and in search of what I still want to say to the world.

Choreography is an important part of the job when you teach at a studio. So creative block can be spirit-crushing, putting our egos at stake. We want to be inventive, fresh, innovative, and free. We want to create work that challenges our students and the minds of the audience. How do we find that flash of inspiration to move us from feeling stuck to feeling “in the pocket” with our creative works?

Here’s what I’m doing: I have a plan. I am making a shift.

I’m on a mission to be more aware of my surroundings, taking note of sights, sounds, colors, behaviors, movement, textures, and weather changes. I’m looking for the “thing” that whispers or screams, “Create me!”

I will visit museums, see shows, read more books, take longer walks outdoors, and engage in deep conversations. I’ll ask other artists about their thoughts on life and what drives them to create the work they love. I will head into the city to immerse myself in a more culturally diverse community in hopes of seeing life with a new perspective.

I look forward to the influence these experiences will bring to my creative process, inspiring me to connect movement to real-life events. I hope to develop an entirely new approach to and love for the art of choreography.

Photo by Kimi Duncan

As you move forward in your own choreographic journey, I encourage you to be open to the inspiring offerings of everyday life. Take time to see the textures, colors, and events of the world around you. You never know—something happening right in front of you today might influence your best work tomorrow.


Sandi Duncan is a senior staffer at Melissa Hoffman Dance Center. A certified life coach, she conducts team-building seminars and workshops for studios nationwide.