How do you define art? Is there a creative bone somewhere in your body? Does your definition of artist include you somewhere?
Creativity is a funny thing. Life gives us all three dimensions of a material universe to exist in, and a soul with which to find inspiration and enact our will upon it. Some of us build things like houses or businesses. Others create families or community structures. There are those who live at the frontiers of science, medicine, or academia, pushing the state of knowledge forward. We especially need the caregivers who channel their creativity into service, providing the support that we all will need sooner or later.
And of course there are a few who fit the narrow definition of “artist” that many of us are familiar with. People who create otherwise unnecessary artifacts that exist solely to evoke aesthetic stimulation, be it joy, introspection, or levity. And these artifacts can take many forms — paintings, sculptures, films, record albums, the list goes on.
When a creative object has a functional use, it crosses the line into craft or design. Fabulously unique items are created all the time, when an object serves a need it becomes useful in a way that ‘fine’ art does not. If you can sit on it, put your coffee on it, or serve dinner on it, it’s furniture, not art. It takes a certain type of mindset to be a ‘fine artist’. I remember asking the woman I originally learned to weld from why she made furniture and things for architects instead of sculptures, and she replied “I don’t have the ego for it.”
A lot of what can be considered art doesn’t leave a trace. As any dancer, DJ, or choreographer knows, when art is melded with performance or even private experience, it exists only in the ephemeral moment in which it occurs. While some art lends itself to permanent public appreciation, your personal moments of creative inspiration are just as enlivening for your soul. Amazing meals fall into this category, food can most definitely rise to the level of art.
You could even extend the metaphor of art and craft into the idea of dance. Refined and highly polished forms that are meant to be witnessed and appreciated are closer to the ‘fine art’ end of the scale, providing awe and inspiration to the audience. Many of the participatory conscious movement modalities aim to effect personal change in those who do them. Facilitators in these modalities ‘design’ practices and ‘craft’ experiences that function as somatic therapy, a healing art, or fitness regimen; moving participants towards a higher state of personal development or growth.
I found myself overflowing with insights to share with you when I attended the Art Market at Fort Mason Center in San Francisco this past Thursday night. This annual gathering of artists and galleries from around the world is a concentrated glimpse into the current Zeitgeist of the world of art. Many of the works are obviously the result of countless hours of painstaking effort, while others are quickly captured moments of inspiration in one medium or another.
It made me think of how our weekly Dance Jam in Berkeley is an art exhibition in some sense of the word. You can easily consider moments of musical inspiration carefully crafted and captured on vinyl records as “sculptures of sound.” Every beat, rhythm, or vocal evokes a different form of movement magic from our dancers. When we string them together in the continuous groove of a DJ set, we’re ‘curating’ an ‘exhibition’ designed to interrupt your normal flow of thought, and give your body permission to move into the wisdom of your soul. When we layer the records onto one another in the mix, and your motions mesh with one another on the floor, it creates a meta-movement experience where you can nourish yourself in community and reset yourself for the week with the balm of inspiration.
Stepping into the void of the universe and imprinting your creativity upon it is generally an act of intention. A mental clearing or conceptual space invites us to step forward with an act of creation. When we are reacting to the inevitable circumstances of life or other people’s agendas, it’s all to easy to sideline our creative spark and respond by default. Learning how to know the difference, and consciously keep some space clear for creativity is one of the key lessons in the dance of life.
May my musings help you to expand your notion of creativity, and encourage your inner artist to come out and play! We’re ready and waiting for your inspiration and creations to brighten our world!
With a creative spark and much love till next week!
DANCE FIRST SUMMER SPOTLIGHT – Melissa Michaels and Surfing the Creative!
Today’s Dance First member spotlight shines on Golden Bridge’s Melissa Michaels and her recently published book, “Youth on Fire: Birthing a Generation of Embodied Global Leaders”
Many of you may already be familiar with Melissa’s work, as a long time leader in the conscious dance field she’s been making a name for herself since her early days associating with Gabrielle Roth. Here’s what Anna Halprin has to say about Youth on Fire: “Melissa Michaels is not only a brilliant writer but she writes about a unique and important subject—her work in the use of dance and the expressive arts with a link to social awareness with our youth. These are our young people who will lead us into the future. Read her book and be inspired.”
Golden Bridge is the organization behind Surfing the Creative, one of the country’s leading youth leadership programs. Surfing the Creative is also the name of their annual youth leadership retreat, happening July 13-14 in Boulder, CO, where Melissa and Golden Bridge is based.
For those of you in the SF Bay Area, get ready for a rare appearance by Melissa for “Creative Liberation: A Moving Evening of Story and Dance” on Wednesday, May 30th. This experiential evening will include stories and images relevant to these times
from her new book and be “a time of remembering the power of movement for liberation, the relevancy of rites of passage in these unsettling times, and the magic that unfolds when we focus our collective attention on creation.”
I was invited to give some insight into the shaping and development of this epic 335-page volume, and honored to write a blurb for it as well: “Get ready for a dose of optimism when you discover the dynamic work of Melissa Michaels. She’s creating incredible results in young people around the world with her dance-based rite of passage processes and leadership trainings. In her new book Youth On Fire she distills decades of wisdom learned in the trenches of transformation and mentoring young people from all cultures and backgrounds. Few people dare to traverse the tricky world of consciously facilitating adolescents into healthy adulthood. Fewer still articulate best practices and lessons learned as well as Melissa. The gems she’s uncovered from her life’s work deserve a wide audience. Pay attention to this landmark book!”
Melissa has recently been doing a serious dance with some drastic health issues, and I’m happy to report has come through the ordeal with her wellness and spirit stronger than ever. We’re really grateful to have her guiding light with us for many years to come!
Sending you love and a dancing hug Melissa, and steering our Conscious Dancer community your way!
Learn more about Golden Bridge, Surfing the Creative, and the work of Melissa Michaels here: