By Jenny Leigh Hodgins
LISTEN TO PART 1 of my 2-part podcast, featuring my interview with University of Kentucky educator Ryan Hargrove, on tapping the creative process. See below for details.
I had an insightful conversation about the creative process with Associate Professor Ryan Hargrove, of the University of Kentucky’s Department of Landscape Architecture. Hargrove teaches metacognition and creative thinking through a variety of projects, trips, interviews with creative professionals, and a class called “Living on the Right Side of the Brain.”
Hargrove’s future goals are to provide more active learning opportunities through creative reflection and association deep dives for all University of Kentucky students, including electives, co-curricular activities, trips, and long-term masters projects.
Viewing People & Creative Ideas Holistically
Hargrove’s teaching methods and views on creative thinking both educated and inspired me. His strength as a teacher of creative thinking is his prime focus on understanding the individual person. He looks at how each person learns best, digging into discovering how they think. This undertaking guides his teaching and mentoring strategies.
His inclination toward empathetic listening is refreshingly disarming. When teaching students, he takes into consideration that each person has arrived from a different path, with a unique learning speed, baggage, and skills.
Hargrove instructs with less of the theoretical, knowledge-pouring traditional manner, and more of a holistic process aimed at bringing all aspects of each individual’s strengths and weaknesses to navigate problems.
This resonates with the creative process itself, as it functions in connection with all aspects of the whole being, too.
His responses to my questions delving into best practices for tapping creativity were encouraging to me as an entrepreneur, writer, poet, composer, pianist, vocalist, and hobbyist photographer.
His viewpoint is valuable to any creative professional or anyone interested in tapping or improving creative flow. Here are some of the points from my dialogue with Hargrove that stood out as most useful to those interested in nurturing creativity.
Is Your Creativity Divinely Struck
Or Consistently Disciplined?
Although inspiration can and does strike sometimes from seemingly divine intervention, the reality is that most brilliantly creative people consistently work hard at their craft. By continuously doing this disciplined work, the creative person is more able to capture ideas readily and link diverse pieces of information together in a new way.
Commit To A Way Of Seeing Life
Hargrove made the point that creativity is not an “on or off switch,” but rather a commitment to a way of seeing the world. Creative professionals typically are always open to receiving ideas for inspiration. They constantly seek out new ways of looking at life, new or different perspectives, techniques, styles and experiences.
Learn To Think Creatively Versus Knowledge Is Power
Gaining knowledge is important but is not the end all. Especially as we have access to knowledge at our fingertips with electronic gadgets, learning to think creatively is a more valuable asset. This skill leads to transformative ways to solve problems and open new creative ideas.
Adjust Yourself To The Moving Target
Successful creatives don’t have the creative process figured out. They know creativity is fluid, always changing, and that their creative flow is also morphing over time. They accept this and adjust themselves to the moving target of inspiration.
Mindset Is Your Best Skill
Successful creative people know themselves well. They know that listening to yourself, and being in alignment with your creative process is instrumental toward creative production.
Divergence Is Enlightening
Immerse yourself in new perspectives to grow. From exploring podcasts, blogs, books, doing new things like painting, dancing, cooking, new music, trying a new sport, traveling to new places, to meeting new people. Engaging in conversations, working on problems with others, or trying new experiences or things are valuable in two ways:
Be Open To Inspiration
Be open to the idea that a eureka! moment can come from anywhere. Creatives know that being open to inspiration means it can come from unlikely or unexpected places.
A four-year old child. An elderly man at the park. While shampooing in the shower or during a bike ride. While taking the trash out. Or from a completely unrelated conversation with a friend. Anywhere and anyone is acceptable and welcome as inspiration!
Reflection Is Where Creative Force Ignites
Taking time to reflect on the problem or time away from a creative project or daily responsibilities is a crucial form of nourishment for the creative mind. There are two kinds of downtime that are helpful to sparking inspiration:
These are moments when you are not actively pursuing creative tasks or solutions to a problem.
Reflection is evaluating what’s going well and what you could change to improve.
Skill of Association
The skill of association is a critical aspect of creative flow. This is the ability to absorb disparate pieces of information in an organized manner within your mind. And later, combine that information to create something new or to address a problem with a fresh approach using the incorporated new information.
Having a way to organize new ideas or perspectives is key to the skill of association. This happens when you take time to sort through your experiences and become aware of interconnections with the new information before storing it in your brain.
Asking how to organize the new idea in your head, why it’s interesting, or how it could connect to other things leads to an organizing system within your mind.
This assimilation supports your ability to feel inspired by these new and interconnected things.
Craft, Skill, Experience
Creativity requires you develop your craft or technical skills, and develop a repertoire of both life and creative experiences. The more proficient you become at your craft, the more readily you can incorporate new ideas. The more you live your life, the more ideas and experiences you’ll have to draw forth creatively.
There is power in practicing healthy choices. But the creative life can also lead to imbalance or unhealthy habits because it can be all-consuming. When an idea strikes, other aspects of your life may easily be neglected (eating, exercise, relationships, sleep).
However, when you place top priority on consistent self-care, other aspects of your life will generally flow better. If you feel good physically, you can usually do better work.
Surround Yourself With People Who Are Better Than You
Connect with people whose skills and character you admire and who bring out your best by challenging you to grow and improve yourself. Ask people who will be brutally honest to assess your creative work.
Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable
Seek out new challenges. Push yourself beyond your comfort zone and learn to live with ambiguity versus certainty. The discomfort of ambiguity leads to generating solutions and creative inspiration because it forces you to change your thinking.
Putting yourself in a situation where you must endure a problem state forces you to grow beyond your norm which leads you to new levels of inspiration.
Mistakes and failures are part of the creative life and are good if used to reflect on and adjust how you’re thinking about the problem or creative project.
Use failure as a learning tool to improve your creative process. Failures provide incredible growth opportunity when used to assess your approach and try new angles of thought.
The creative journey joins all aspects of your whole being, from the physical, emotional, mental to the spiritual. All your experiences are interconnected and have the potential to influence inspiration.
Join the conversation on nurturing creativity in the comments below!
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LISTEN TO MY Podcast Featuring
Educator Ryan Hargrove!
The podcast posts in two parts:
CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO PART 1!
Part 2 delves into our dialogue on successful ways to fuel creative flow, and the benefits of committing to the creative way of life.
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Photos provided by Lexington Ballet
A REVIEW OF LEXINGTON BALLET'S
2018 PERFORMANCE OF THE NUTCRACKER
by Jenny Leigh Hodgins
The stars in the heavens are dancing through space, the earth never ceases to spin. All life is dancing: the trees with the wind, the waves on the sea, the birds, the fish, all are performing their own dance of life.*
This quote encompasses the joyful, hope-filled atmosphere expressed through Lexington Ballet’s 2018 performance of The Nutcracker. I attended Lexington Ballet’s remarkable Sunday matinee performance at the lovely and intimate Lexington Opera House.
Whether you’ve seen this famous ballet or not, I encourage you to get your tickets to see Lexington Ballet’s unique performance. Shows are scheduled annually to run through December. The cast’s energetic and passionate dancing, the colorful array of gorgeous costumes, and the romantic settings and props will put even Scrooge or The Grinch in a festive mood.
E.T.A. Hoffman’s story, The Nutcracker originated in Russia. Composer Peter Tchaikovsky wrote the music. Tchaikovsky’s music is now famous and recognized by even the youngest of listeners, thanks to technology, cartoons, and commercials. But experiencing Lexington Ballet’s live performance is one of the best ways to re-introduce or expose audiences to the real deal.
The Nutcracker was originally choreographed by Marius Petipa. It was commissioned by Moscow’s Imperial Theatres director, Ivan Vsevolozhsky, in 1891. In sync with the story’s historical premier the week before Christmas 1892, the Lexington Ballet’s version opens with a family Christmas party. The story is about young Clara’s Christmas Eve, and her dreamy perspective of the world and romance.
I’ve seen the ballet several times, performed by visiting international dance troupes, as well as the televised 1977 American Ballet Theatre production featuring Mikhael Baryshnikov and Gelsey Kirkland.
But, Lexington Ballet’s show stands out as special for several reasons, including the pure innocence bursting forth in a way that only young people are able to express. The nearly tangible love and joy penetrated my adult heart and moved me to tearful emotion throughout the entire show. I was touched by the unlimited hope and passion for life symbolized by these talented young dancers, as they clearly poured their entire beings into each dance.
It’s the youngest cast I’ve seen perform The Nutcracker. Elementary age children portray mischievous party guests at the opening Christmas scene. They also dance in well-coordinated groups of ‘mice’ and ‘toy soldiers.’ Their focused, harmonized movements impressed this former music educator, who knows well the challenge of training youth for performances.
Contrasting to how audiences recoiled from seeing children on stage at The Nutracker’s Russian premier, Lexington Ballet’s masterful inclusion of their well-rehearsed presence added to the magic of the uplifting stage drama, creating the illusion of real characters.
Lexington Ballet’s dancers range from elementary age through junior and senior high school to the ensemble and professional cast’s millennials, capping at early 30s. This wide-range of youth adds to the boisterous energy of their show. That youthful energy is one of Lexington Ballet’s signature drawing points. The unlimited power of youth is palpable in their dance performances. Witnessing the expressive, energetic drive of these young dancers pierces the heart with hope and love.
Speaking of stellar young talent, ninth grader Anna Karen Kinghorn’s portrayal of Clara was mesmerizing. Her delicate, graceful moves, along with her radiant innocence and cheer made every one of her performances a sheer joy to watch.
Rounding out the opposite spectrum of the age range was her able, gifted partner, Lexington Ballet Company cast dancer, Casey Myrick. Myrick portrayed Clara’s father in the opening scene, and the Nutcracker Prince with a dignified, dramatic, yet benevolent power, both in dance and demeanor. The partnership of Myrick and Kinghorn’s dances was natural, smooth and seemingly effortless.
Lexington Ballet’s show involves a diverse cast, spanning many ages, cultures, body types, and dance styles. Kudos to the artistic director, Luis Dominguez, for his incredible gift for choreographing each scene, style, and for pairing dance partners in a way that allows each cast member to beautifully shine.
That is no small accomplishment, as the program notes show the shuffling of two separate casts, denoted by colors (red and gold) and groups of young children. Dancers are assigned unique roles depending on which color the performance will feature.
Lexington Ballet Company dancer, Ayako Hasebe Lloyd exquisitely performed as the dainty Dew Drop Fairy in Sunday’s matinee show, but will instead dance the Arabian for Red shows. The story unfolds seamlessly as cast members alternate capably and believably from solo roles to ensemble dances.
The artistic vision of Dominguez is orchestrated beautifully as exhibited by both ensembles and solo dancers. Alexandra Orenstein’s sumptuous version of the Arabian dancer was electrifying, colorfully capturing a sense of the unusual aspect of a different culture. The Lexington Ballet Ensemble, and all the soloists in The Nutcracker, performed wonderfully, and depicted a spirited, lively spectacle of a magnificent drama.
Photos courtesy of Lexington Ballet. Rat dancers photo by Mark Mahan.
On the array of ages involved, professional dancer and Lexington Ballet instructor, Lloyd, is adamant about the Lexington Ballet’s mission to “send the message that ballet is for everyone. It’s inspiring for the younger ones to see the mature dancers.”
Lloyd says that Lexington Ballet supports “layers of everyone’s dreams—younger ones aspire to be angels, angels aspire to be one of the featured roles. Even pros have aspiring goals while also being role models for others. It’s a community of inspiration for others and to keep dance alive in the community.”
She adds, “Audiences get the chance to support the youth’s dreams, and experience holiday magic; like being part of something beautiful they can take home with them and spread to others.” She says that the holidays are a wonderful time to “entertain guests with getting out together to enjoy this live ballet experience with the beautiful score by Tchaikovsky.”
The Lexington Ballet dancers will inspire you to “Live with a dancing spirit. Every living thing is dancing, and you must keep dancing too, for the rest of your life!”*
As an audience member, taking in the artful explosion of pure passion from the Lexington Ballet dancers left my heart full. What better way to enjoy the Holiday Season than with the spirit of hope, community, and enthusiasm for life that these dancers represent?
Find upcoming events at: LexingtonBalletCompany.org
Lexington Ballet Company is a professional dance company and a ballet school with non-profit 501(c)(3) status since 1975. The Lexington Ballet’s mission is to present high caliber productions, educate youth in the art of ballet, and engage with the community through outreach.
Lexington Ballet offers classes ranging from kindergarten through adults. They support a variety of community alliances, including in-School Programs, For Educator Field Trips, Countdown to Kindergarten and Scholarships.
Bring your school, church, or group to a performance!
Special performances are scheduled during weekdays so that schools and non-profit groups may attend. Each performance will have a detail introduction and question and answer time with the Artistic Director and performers. These programs meet Kentucky Core Academic Standards (KCAS) for Dance and Theatre. Study guides are available in English or Spanish(if requested in advance).
Find more Nutcracker books, CDs, DVDs, here.
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In my CREATIVITY blogs, you’ll find tips for exploring creative flow, and inspiring content related to the inherent challenges and tremendous joy within the creative process.