The Impulse to Create

I am now in the thick of it. Cell phone constantly plastered to my ear. Collaborators at every rehearsal with questions and new ideas to bring into the mix. BREATH. Computer crashes that threaten the composer’s work and timeline. BREATH. The dancers getting more and more articulate at the physical vocabulary we have created and now I can see what I actually have created … oh dear, the questioning begins. BREATH.

Such an exciting time and a time of little rest, but it all leads me to wonder what drives the creative spirit, and what could possibly possess me to undertake such a massive project? I can’t say that I know exactly what the answer is, but it does bring me back to the start of this project. When I first proposed the idea of creating a work based on Experimental Design to my original collaborator, Dr. Mark Winston, in 2008.

Mark is the Academic Director of the Simon Fraser University Centre for Dialogue. He had been impressed with my first work created through this collaboration with scientists (in the field of Behavioural Ecology) and he wanted to help spearhead a new piece, even larger in scale and more ambitious in content. I was gamed. So he asked, “what would you want to create a piece about?” I said, “Experimental Design in Science.” He was surprised, to say the least. What I said next, however, hooked him. “Experimental Design,” I told him, “is as much a reflection of the personality and personal beliefs of a scientist, as it is a reflection of the natural world under investigation. And the elegance of a good design is as beautiful as dance.” He totally agreed and totally jumped in, feet first.

Mark was visibly thrilled that I understood this aspect of experimental design that it is a mirror for personality and a pursuit of elegance in how to ask a refined question. I guess he knew that it was the consequence of having fallen in love with a scientist and seeing first hand the passion, the wit, and the artistry that my husband brings into the process of designing a good experiment. I love how the personality of a scientist is so evident in their experiments–a witty mind creates a trap, a romantic mind seeks evidence of deep connectivity between things, a social activist looks for the influence of community on individual actions in animal behaviour. I was charmed by the spirit of scientists, like when you first begin to see the personality of a child emerging from a newborn.

I was also charmed by how scientists use language. As terse as poetry! Melodic like music. They speak in a way about their research, that gave me a sense of accompaniment for dance. Precise, razor-sharp, impassioned.

These are some of the starting points for this project and they are beginning to become visible in the outcomes of our creative process. Months of experimentation and finally I find myself deeply satisfied to witness what was only in my imagination finding real expression in movement, music, etc. The impulse to translate their poetry; to capture their personalities inside their experiments; interpreting the elegance of a clean set of results with an elegant phrase of dance. I think I am finding the answer to why I undertook the massive endeavour …

I had the idea that Behavioural Ecologists and Choreographers sharing a key aspect in our work–that we both interpret movement and actions as meaningful information, enough to build a career around. A cool idea but until it is presented in some way, it remains only that … an idea. To be brave is to speak that idea out loud through this production.

EXPERIMENTS: Where Logic and Emotion Collide at the Scotiabank Dance Centre, November 25-27, 8pm (plus a Discover Dance noon show on Thursday Nov 25).


2 Responses to “The Impulse to Create”

  1. Jeanne Says:

    Beautifully written, Gail! How articulate and enthralling. Thanks for blogging. I’m so glad to experience what you are doing and observe a sliver of what goes on in your world/in your head.

    You are a regular visitor in my dreams… every few months I hear from you, and it feels very natural.

    Anyway – it sounds like your life is busy and rich and good. Love to Alejandro, Twyla and your extended family.

    We are all well here, by the way.



  2. Science and dance in Vancouver « FrogHeart Says:

    […] by Lotenberg where she describes the impetus for the piece (excerpted from Lotenberg’s Oct. 29, 2010 posting), Mark [Winston] is the Academic Director of the Simon Fraser University Centre for Dialogue. He […]

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