You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas.

~Shirley Chisholm

Have you ever caught yourself complaining? Are you acquainted with anyone who is known for their tendency to gripe? When you’re facing a problem to solve, how do you get in touch with your creativity before bemoaning the issue?

Everyone you know, yourself included, is dealing with a similar set of rules and circumstances here on Planet Earth. Water is wet, people are puzzling, and gravity always works one way. The mark of maturity and emotional intelligence is just how elegantly a person navigates the inevitable foibles of our non-linear universe.

The younger you are, the more complaining is built into your operating system. When you’re an infant, the only way to get fed is to cry and scream at the top of your lungs. For the young and helpless, raising a ruckus is an essential survival mechanism.

A huge part of growing up and becoming a functioning family member or contributing member of society is learning how to face obstacles and tackle problems on your own without making things worse for everyone around you. Learned behaviors like patience, clear communication, and problem-solving are the metaphysical muscles we build in order to leave the infantile approaches behind.

Resilience, tenacity, and the ineffable quality of grit are all key to facing whatever your world might put in your way. It helps to look at these through the lens of their inherent energy. In particular, how is the energy of complaining different than the energy of creativity?

Complaints are narrowed down, closed off, and immobile. Creativity is expansive, open-ended, and in motion. The really interesting thing that I’ve come to realize over the years is how there’s nothing that shuts down creativity quicker than resorting to a complaint.

It’s almost as if the two are like oil and water or fire and ice. When you are complaining, it’s practically impossible to be creative. The difference between positivity and negativity are brought into stark relief. It’s even more insidious when the complaint is about someone who is not there to relate their own point of view — at that point, the complainer is veering into gossip, which is even further down the low-vibe scale.

Complaints are best heard with a healthy grain of salt. Anyone who has ever served the public or hosted events knows that the people with complaints will MAKE SURE that they are heard, while the folks who had a perfectly pleasant and satisfactory time will quietly go home without a word. There may be ten times more happy people, yet the cranky ones are ten times louder, so you’ve got to keep your eye on the big picture and keep things in perspective. The squeaky wheel may get the grease, but don’t let it steer your ship.

Here’s one of the real reasons why some folks choose to complain — it’s the easy way out. Especially in a group setting, there are often those who prefer to sit on the sidelines and contribute nothing but criticism.

Because what happens when you apply your creativity to the problem at hand? An opportunity to solve it appears! And what’s standing behind the door when opportunity knocks? Work! That’s right, any creative solution is going to be an invitation for someone to roll up their sleeves and get the job done. Action requires effort, it’s the law of nature.

So all too often you’ll notice that complaints are the refuge of the lazy. It’s even more obvious when the creative solution might require some effort from them as well, and they scramble to find yet more ways to pull back and point out the flaws in the plan.

So what’s a fair-minded person like you to do as you’re dancing through life’s inevitable ups and downs? The key to keeping your creativity flowing is to embody the spirit of inquiry and ask open-ended questions that invite the opportunity for solutions to arise.

There’s a big difference between acknowledging or reporting a problem and turning it into a complaint. What you want to avoid is the tendency to load up any description of the matter at hand with any pointed personal insults or opinions. “Sally was being careless again and smashed my precious flower vase on the floor” is a far cry from “The vase fell and broke by accident, we’ve got some water and broken glass to clean up. ” In the immortal words attributed to Dragnet’s Joe Friday, “Just the facts, ma’am.

It’s a short step from blame to victimhood, and if someone is coming off like some entirely accidental mishap that you caused is really because they just don’t like you and want you to know that they think you’re a bad person, then they are just being insufferable. You might be tempted to tell them to “Play me a song on your tiny violin” but the wiser choice is to simply disarm them with a pleasant smile and ask if they have any idea about what you can do in the moment to solve the problem.

Using your creativity to neutralize complaints is like a ninja super-power. If you meet every barbed comment or passive-aggressive posture with an honest search for solutions, folks will soon realize that you aren’t the one to join them in their drive towards drama. It can be tempting to join in the chorus of invective aimed at a third party, but even if you’re part of a large group that’s been wronged, being the creative voice of reason leading the search for solutions is the high road to take.

Championing your creativity for the week ahead! Much love till next Monday!


Mark Metz
Director of the Dance First Association
Publisher of Conscious Dancer Magazine

Dance First Event Spotlight – 7th Annual Contact Improv Retreat in Costa Rica with Moti Zemelman!

This week’s Dance First Members Spotlight shines on Moti Zemelman and his 7th Annual Contact Improv Retreat happening February 22-29 in Costa Rica! Moti is well-known as one of the foremost advocates for Contact Improvisation anywhere, and his annual journey to the Goddess Garden Retreat on the Caribbean Coast is one of the highlights of the year!

I recently had the opportunity to ask Moti some questions about the retreat, and learned some amazing facts about his work and why it’s far more than just another trip to paradise! First of all, he’s done a huge amount to bring the spirit of C.I. to Costa Rica and integrate with the local community. “ Every year I always make a point to offer free or subsidized classes and workshops for the locals in order to help support the local dance community to thrive. Six years ago myself and one of my colleagues Costa Rican dancer, Natalia Harvey Sanchez, started a day long festival together in the capital city of San José called “Maratón de Contact.” Sponsored and held at the University of Costa Rica dance studios, the festival is free of charge and now draws over a hundred local dancers, plus my international group of students. This cross pollination of dancers from all over the world enriches everyone involved.

He’s committed to making the retreat available to dancers in the region, regardless of income. “Five years ago I started a scholarship fund to make the retreat more financially accessible to Costa Ricans wishing to participate. Every year the fund has grown, and last year due to the generosity of our community of worldwide dancers committed to diversity and accessibility we were able to raise enough for two Costa Ricans, one Guatemalan, and one Nicaraguan dancer to attend!” (Here’s the link to donate to this year’s fund:

I asked him how he got started in bringing Contact Improv to Costa Rica. “I first started teaching in Costa Rica ten years ago when my wife and I went down for a vacation. I generally don’t do “vacations” in the mainstream sense of the word – I prefer to connect with the local people in meaningful ways. So I Googled “contact improv Costa Rica” to see if there was an existing community of dancers that I could connect to. I only found couple of people who practiced the form but no community to speak of, so I emailed those two, one of whom became a long-term close friend. I asked if they would like to host me as a teacher and ended up invited to teach a weekend workshop for the local Costa Rican dance community back in 2009 (It helps that I’m fluent in Spanish). The second year I came back and taught a week-long workshop through the same local hosts and I also visited Goddess Garden Eco Retreat in Cahuita, (a small town on the Caribbean Coast) to see if it could be a viable location for me to teach in the future. I fell in love with the enchanted Caribbean Sea and the magic of the rainforest. The following year I taught my first international workshop at Goddess Garden and have taught there every winter since. The location is gorgeous – jungles filled with monkeys/sloths/toucans/tree-frogs/blue morpho butterflies, pristine beaches, and the center has two large, open-air studios. Additionally, the couple that run the retreat and all the staff are delightful.

But don’t just take it from Moti and my word, here’s what some enthusiastic participants have to say!

“Costa Rica is a welcome escape from any northern climate in February! This is the first time I’ve had the luxury of dancing with the same people every day for a full week. That experience really allowed for a deeper connection with others, which then facilitated a level of trust in taking risks in the dance to elevate my learning experience.”
Kara Wood, Northampton, MA

“This retreat was an absolute highlight in my over 30 years on again off again CI dance life. Moti is a sensei, a true master teacher, who has fed my love for CI on a very deep level and has brought out new curiosities and inner explorations into my being a CI practitioner, who wants to see this form spread to the edges of the earth.”
Cornelia Hoehle, (USA/Germany)

“Moti’s CI workshop has  been one of my favorite CI expeditions, and I would love to go again! The diverse array of offerings, and being in a beautiful jungle with amazing CI dancers from Costa Rica/Central America, you are always in a dance of inter-connectedness, not just with bodies, but with nature (even the jungle sounds), and culture! Magical, playful, delightful…mmm!”
Moé Kishida (Phoenix, USA/Japan)

“Fue una experiencia maravillosa, de gran crecimiento y aprendizaje. Sentir el cuerpo vivo y en movimiento, concentrarse en la pequeña danza, alejados del mundo por unos días para descubrirnos y abrirnos a la maravilla del contacto. Asistir a este retiro fue una experiencia que como artista escénico y ser humano, es invaluable.”
Marianna Musso, (Argentina)

This year’s retreat at Goddess Garden happens February 22-29, 2020 and is already filling up with amazing participants.  Plus, he’s offering an extension of the $100 Early-bird discount for anyone who registers by Nov 15th and mentions “Conscious Dancer!”

Learn more and register today!

7th Annual Costa Rica Contact Improv Retreat
February 22-29, 2020, Goddess Garden Retreat, Cahuita, Costa Rica

Costa Rica Contact Improv Retreat Facebook Page