Good Directors Cut!

Few things are more enduring than the Zen thought “less is more.” In the creation and brainstorming period of a new piece, nothing gets edited; everything is put into the heap. I tend to overload each new piece with many layers of esoteric symbolism in an attempt to make it more profound.

One day, I was rehearsing a routine in my studio. After many disappointing attempts to get the routine together, I asked my friend Steve Vincent what he thought of my work. Steve’s words still ring in my ears:

“Good directors cut!!!”

Eugene Burger gives two analogies: the way of the potter and the way of the sculptor.

A potter adds materials, clay and water, and continues adding until the piece takes its final shape. The sculptor, on the other hand, starts with a large piece of stone and cuts away until he is satisfied. These can be motivating ideas when first attempting to put together a routine.

The hardest part is beginning — getting the idea into its roughest form, written onto the page, danced onto the rehearsal floor.

First, like the potter, gather all the materials: props, music, costumes, dance movements, scenic materials. Taking the time to arrange all of the materials is the dance — the dance of creation, the dance of new life. Then start adding them together in different combinations. Just play, work, and love what it is you are attempting. This is the supreme experience of magic. Edit nothing, try everything, turn off the internal censor, and simply allow your creative self to be expressed.

After everyone has gone and you are alone with your notebook and your mirror, put on the music and let your imagination wander for a few hours, alone in a room in front of the video camera. I repeat, videotape the experience. Leave the camera on all the time. Never let the camera make you feel that you have to perform, just leave it on. Keep going. Never let your self-conscious editor/critic/censor get in the way of your creative process. Very few pieces ever look finished the first time out in front of the camera.

Later, watch the tape in private. Take notes on what you see. Then ask a friend to watch the tape with you. Take notes on what they say, as well.

Now, like the sculptor, begin the process of cutting away everything that is not elegant, not smooth, does not flow. Invite your friends to come over and dance your dance for them. Make them watch. Honor them as witnesses to your creativity. Ask for their feedback. If they love you, they will put up with the inconvenience of your art.

Have fun and feel free to make many all the mistakes you can make. If not at home for compassionate friends, then where? You will often find others adding their thoughts and ideas to the routine. Always listen and write down their ideas. These are the raw thoughts and images which are triggered by the routine. The idea is to open to new ways of thinking, to allow it in, and then go back to the piece and listen to your inner voice. This is how the process works.

Start, just start.
Play, just play.
Work, just work.

These are three facets of the gem of creation.

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