Mind The Gap

Mind The Gap - Dance Notes creativity blog for teachers

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Preparation for any kind of performance is very important. But mind you don’t fall down the gap between being fully rehearsed and truly spontaneous.

Variables in Delivery

We have talked before about the importance of going with the flow and remaining alert to creative possibilities. However, sometimes our aim is to produce a distinct performance. So, how do we then best harness those things within a ‘fixed’ piece of work?

You would hope that, by the time the show/exhibition/gig/etc. comes around, you would be fully rehearsed and know what is going to happen. But within the prepared framework, there are always going to be variables in delivery. Not least of which is what is going on inside your own mind.

Set of Tools

Many seasoned performers suffer terribly from stage fright. They can become paralyzed by the overwhelming weight of expectation and crushing sense of scrutiny. And this is why many people feel they could never perform in front of others.

Working with pupils in a creative performance setting, we can help to overcome such fears, before they become embedded. And, as with all things, to do this we must have a set of tools at our disposal. Chief among which is good preparation.

Heightened State

For my part, I have experienced performance of many kinds first hand. Some of this has been informal, some formal, sometimes improvised, sometimes highly defined and thoroughly rehearsed. And in all the time I have been performing, I can only recall one instance in which I experienced no nerves. And that was not a good thing. Not at all.

Being nervous puts you into a heightened state of alertness. Which aids good performance. But it can – of course – also induce terror, if not properly harnessed. So how do we get hold of those nerves and turn them into something useful?

In The Moment

The trick – as already mentioned – is good preparation. If you are doing something technical, like playing a musical instrument or performing a dance, you will need to be secure in your core abilities. If you are presenting something more improvised, you will need to have set-out some boundaries and rules.

Whatever the nature of your creation, a live performance entails being ‘in the moment’. And this is where we can trip ourselves up. I would suggest that you need to be either fully rehearsed – to the extent that you know exactly what you will do in the performance – or, you need to be open to spontaneous possibilities and able to go with ideas as they appear.

Danger Zone

The danger zone lies between these two conditions. And I have experienced this for myself on many occasions. If you are partially rehearsed but trying to recreate something precise, there is a real danger you will find yourself struggling to remember what you rehearsed, rather than delivering an actual performance.

I would even go so far as to say that you are better off being under-prepared than partially rehearsed. If you take to the stage/space knowing that anything can happen, then you will remain present. There are, then, no such thing as mistakes, just new possibilities.

Better Than Planned

Even professional actors will tell you of times they have had to improvise their way out of a situation on stage. Someone may have forgotten a line or missed a cue. Whilst they, undoubtedly, will have been fully rehearsed, they were also able to remain in the moment and open to unexpected situations. So, the performance was not interrupted. Quite possibly, something better than what was planned may have even emerged.

In the end, there is no such thing as ‘wrong’. Which is the great beauty of all things creative. You, as performer, are in charge. You have the power to take your audience wherever you wish. Just make sure your co-performers are also with you!

You Never Know

And, most importantly: mind the gap. Avoid that vague area of half-preparedness. Make sure you are clear of what you want to say with your creation. But also be open to the unexpected. You never know where it may take you!

Just Do One Thing

What Is Your Personal Truth?

Under Pressure

Our Creative Partner: Make  Move

One Thing Leads To Another

Let’s put the creative horse before the cart. You may not know what rewards are in store. But, invariably, one thing leads to another.

Degree of Collaboration

A few years ago, I put on a live music event that incorporated elements of dance. One of the dancers was a student in her last year at university. She invited me to create a soundtrack for her final degree piece.

This dancer is also a fine artist. After graduating, she was awarded a residency at a local arts studio. At the end of this, she was to put on an exhibition of her works in the studio’s gallery. For this, she decided she would, once again, collaborate with other artists.

Different Perspectives

So, we met in early 2020, to discuss ideas for the exhibition. Her vision was to create something that reflected our different perspectives: her as an artist starting out in professional life; me as someone who has – for want of a better term – been around the block a couple of times.

We came up with the method of interviewing our respective friends and contacts. Their responses would form the basis of a soundscape, which I would create to accompany the visual works. In this way, a piece would be generated that reflected our differing circumstances, without being present ourselves. 

Creative Responses to Challenges

It turned out the best way to achieve this was to send out a list of questions and ask participants to record their responses on whatever device was at hand. For most people, of course, this would be a mobile phone. However, the quality of audio would vary according to the actual phone used, the acoustics of the space in which the recording was made and any ambient noise in the  background.

I was happy that these variations would provide technical challenges in blending and mixing the voices. I also knew that these challenges would help to trigger creative responses in building the resulting soundscape. What I didn’t know, at that time, was that we were about to be plunged into lockdown.

Extra Layer

As work began – and the recordings started to come in – we were already well into the first Covid-19 lockdown of 2020. So, this added an extra layer of social context to the participants’ contributions. And, of course, I too was immersed in the strangeness of what was happening to us all.

Before long, it became clear that the exhibition, originally scheduled for the summer, was unlikely to proceed. However, by this time, I was already invested in the creative process. I’d devised a method for combining and editing the voice recordings. And I had started to build a soundscape around these.  So, I ploughed on, regardless of whether or not the exhibition would take place.

Intrinsic Value

And here is the crux of what it means to be ‘an artist’, whatever your chosen discipline. In the main, artists create work for its own intrinsic value. Naturally, in most cases, an audience completes the work. However, whether or not there is an intended audience, the work is its own reward.

So, with no specific deadline or outlet for this audio production, I continued; thoroughly absorbed in the creative possibilities it provided. And – once complete – there it sat, largely unheard. Until, a few months ago, I received a call for submissions for an audio installation. This is a curated audio exhibition for an arts festival. The theme of which is the precarious state in which our society currently find itself.

A Life of Its Own

Now, my work, which started life as a collaborative project for an art installation, will have a life of its own. It could easily have been shelved and forgotten. However, the impulse to complete it, for its own sake, has meant it was finished and ready when an opportunity for presentation arose.

As a creator, one can often have the sense of working alone in the dark. It can sometimes feel self-indulgent to be spending long ours on something that is, to others, a ‘mere’ hobby. However, without this toil and commitment, there would be no end product to share. And, every so often, that sharing leads to recognition, appreciation and broader communication.

Shared Experience

Sadly, we are conditioned to see the value of something, primarily, in terms of the money it generates. But, for most of us, the truly valuable things in life are not quantifiable in this way. And, very often, these will comprise some form of shared experience.

Ultimately, what we know as ‘art’ facilitates such shared experiences. Working creatively with children, we provide them with the experience of exploring together. This then leads to sharing what they have created. And, in many cases, the process will generate some form of mutual understanding, whether of one another or the subject of their endeavours – or both.

One Thing Will Lead to Another

Through the creative process, we learn that concrete outcomes come from abstract thought. Ideas lead to actions. Actions lead to reactions.

In a nutshell – keep creating and one thing will lead to another.

Art For Art’s Sake

Just Do One Thing

Under Pressure

Our Creative Partner: Make  Move

Do You Have Something to Say?

Do you have something to say? Something you can’t ignore? Something hard to articulate in plain language? It’s time to get creative…


What is Art?

People often ask ‘what is Art? What is it for?’ I would suggest it’s the expression of the inexpressible. It’s a way of communicating ideas and feelings that can’t be put into words. Let’s be honest, there are plenty of situations in which words won’t cut it. Frankly, I’m struggling right now.

One of the limitations of written or spoken language is its linear form. Visual art allows the viewer to roam from one image to another, forming connections and patterns in her or his own mind. Sound may appear to be linear but the use of motif and repetition similarly creates patterns that transcend temporal constraint.

The Proverbial Tree

But what makes this ‘art’ is the intent behind the creation. The desire – on the part of the artist – to communicate is what provides depth and meaning. Often the meaning itself may not even be clear to the creator. However, the need to impart ‘something’ will render the work meaningful to its recipient. Even if the perceived message is other than that originally intended.

As someone who has spent a lifetime in the pursuit of art, I am constantly fascinated by what my creations mean to those that encounter them. Indeed, a piece of art could be said to be like the proverbial tree in the forest. If a painting has nobody to view it, does it really exist at all? Yes, it does – but is it then art?

Intension to Communicate

All of which may contradict previous musings on the idea of ‘art for art’s sake’. But there need not be a conflict. The process of creation is certainly its own reward. And it’s undoubtedly good practice to produce work regardless of whether an intended audience exists. However, what imbues this with meaning is the intention of communication.

At the point of creation, it may not be clear what the outlet for a creative work will be. But this should be no impediment to completing it. The fact you feel the need to say something, regardless, demonstrates that you have an artistic statement to make. So make it. 

Just Be

In fact, I’d go as far as to suggest that the best art avoids pandering to any expectation of how it will be received. True expression is, thus, ego-less. Rather than aiming to provoke a specific reaction, the creation is a pure expression of ideas, feelings or both. The artist doesn’t try to dictate how this will be received or interpreted. Rather they give freely of themselves, secure in the knowledge a recipient will form their own opinion or reaction.

In an educational context, this provides pupils with an excellent opportunity. They are consistently asked to perform specific tasks to achieve designated outcomes. In creating something for its own sake, however, they have license to just ‘do’ – and, even, just ‘be’.

Get Creative

With ever fewer freedoms and ever greater constraints, this is hugely beneficial. Children desperately need self-expression. The chance to turn this into something productive may just prevent that urge from becoming disruptive or, even, destructive.

 So, what do you have to say? How would you like to say it? Are there no words to express what you are feeling? Then it’s time to get creative.

Putting Ideas First

Art For Art’s Sake

Please Yourself

Our Creative Partner: Make  Move