Written by Bodies in Play Founder, Andrew Pearson.
I’ve recently started developing a new project which has me doing a lot more writing than moving. At first this felt wrong, like I was somehow not allowed to be a writer. My training is in choreography and I have identified myself as a choreographer for most of my life. I can’t just wake up one day and be a writer. I recognize the irony in this statement given that this is a written reflection, but I’m specifically referring to creative theatrical writing. The kind of writing that is a primary artistic expression for some. For instance, if a writer decided out of the blue to begin making dances, I’m sure I’d at best be skeptical, and at worst be judgmental.
I worked through a similar insecurity when I incorporated Celine Dion and lip syncing into my previous works: This isn’t how you make concert dance! The conflict reminded me of a meeting I had several years ago with one of my choreography mentors. I was sharing a new project I was interested in developing and she asked me “why does this story need to be told through dance?” I was confused. “Why not an essay, or a painting, or a film?” she specified. “But - we’re dancers,” I thought. As dancers we make dances, not write essays. It wasn’t until years later I understood: as creatives, it’s not the formwe’re serving, but the impulse. The impulse to express an idea in a way no one else possibly could. Once I gave myself permission to follow my creative instinct to write, allowing words to drive my next work, I realized writing has been a part of my creative practice for just as long as choreography. Before I began dancing, I would write short stories and fill journals with fantasy novels. Of course, I was between the ages of five and ten, so these were simply amateur hobbies. They couldn’t possibly have been real works of art. Could they? Regardless, while I’m quite comfortable behind a computer screen and crafting words to impart my ideas, I have no formal training - could I possibly be a writer?
Culturally, we’re made to believe that we should follow our (one) passion. Choose a vocation and become an expert. We’re led to believe anything outside of our chosen vocation is a hobby. You can’t possibly conflate your hobby with your profession. But I think there’s also a danger in conflating your day’s work with your life’s work. Throughout my career I’ve had a number of jobs (some related to dance, some not) that have allowed me to survive, day to day, in the infrastructure of today’s world. Sometimes these jobs have allowed me to survive more than day to day, providing some savings and security for the future. But ultimately, these jobs come and go, changing as the weather does with each new sunrise. My life’s work, on the other hand - my pursuit to better understand myself and others through creative practice - that’s the work that has remained in constant evolution.
Currently, that’s manifesting as words on a page. Understanding this provides the permissions needed to indulge the impulse. While this doesn’t quell the insecurity about the new work - the start of any creative process is always daunting - it does quell the inner conflict.
I wonder how this word play will influence my body's play.