I recently sat down with Elyssa Dole who has spent the last ten years as a professional dancer with a diverse mix of companies ranging from the Metropolitan Opera to more contemporary dance upstarts such as Deganit Shemy and Company. She has spent the last two years getting her MBA and working as a creative strategist with the Nike Foundation and a handful of social venture start ups.
Our conversation uncovered a unique cross-over in the creative process as it was applied to both dance and business.
When choreographing a dance Elyssa explained that after the ideas had been worked out and decided upon each dancer was responsible for integrating the movements into their body. This process of memorization involved rote repetition, sped up only by the breadth of movements that the dancer had encountered before. The more movement patterns one is familiar with, the better able one is to recognize novel ideas within them and see the total dance evolve.
You knew you had it when you could stop thinking and just dance. It is at this point of arrival, when the movements are integrated, that a transition occurs where the dancer can stop thinking about the next move and begin bringing texture, color, feeling and more subtle responses to both the audience and their fellow dancers in the performance.
It is impossible to bring this type of awareness and feeling into the performance without the discipline and hours it took to embody the dance. This embodiment enables the dancer to transform the dance in to something new taking risks on stage, searching for moments to create meaning with the audience. The dance evolves a great deal before it is ever brought to an audience.
In business today, we ignore the step of the creative process that is equivalent to the dancers 'integrating the moves into their bodies'. In the name of scaling fast we often don't sit with ideas for long enough to truly embody them.
Solutions are identified, turned into minimum viable products and then rushed to customers. The alternative is to slow the creative process rejecting our rational minds' desire to quickly determine success or failure in the marketplace. This time allows the idea to evolve in a different way than it would if it was being tested in the marketplace.
As we adopt this slower way of working an idea, we to can reach a moment where we can add texture, color and responsiveness to the products and ideas that we present to the world and just maybe create something as beautiful as that perfect performance.