What is Co-creative Dance?
“What is Co-creative Dance?” Is the main question that I get when people see the name, which is completely understandable, since it is a new concept that I started exploring only a couple of months ago to describe the exploration I am conducting in social dance. So I thought that I would write a post about my vision for Co-creative Social Dance to help bring more understanding about this new idea and concept.
Co-creative Dance or Co-creative Social Dance is a new term, that for me was required to express the ideas I wanted to explore, which I felt had no existing vocabulary that could fully describe what I was aiming to do. For me Co-creative Social Dance is dancing any social freestyle social dance (salsa, kizomba, swing, blues, tango…) with no designated lead or follow. To accomplish this we use what I call neutral frames (frames that are identical for both partners which enable the dance to start from a neutral place without a designated lead/follow, I will be writing a blog post about this soon, so I won’t expand on this here… but check-out the upcoming posts!)
Neutral frames and the absence of roles does not mean total chaos, but means that both partners are open to both leading or following at all times during the dance. This requires dancers wanting to dance this style to have some understanding and skills in both leading and following to be able to really explore this beyond basics. We are looking for openings or “windows” where there is opportunity in the existing dance style for role reversal. Naturally most social dances have “neutral” moments, which are usually the easiest places to switch and often only require a change in pressure and intention. But also by being open to switching roles all the time, there are moments where either the lead can create an opening by putting themselves in a follow position, giving the other partner a big opportunity to take the lead, or the follow can change her steps to create a moment where she can take the lead. This type of dancing also creates neutral moments or (co-creative moments) where there might be no true lead/follow but where both partners agree to be in a certain step together, which is also an interesting place to be and to explore. These types of moments, opportunities which are either natural or created, bring the both partners to be constantly alert, in the moment and open to changing their game plan at any time. Which is fun, challenging and keeps things interesting even when only dancing basics.
The goal for me is to create a way to dance, basically like two people having a conversation, giving equal opportunity for both partners to be creative, while still respecting the original dance. Meaning that I am not creating a new dance, I am dancing salsa, or kizomba, or swing… including respecting the timing and existing moves, flow and basic rules, but adding the co-creative element. Here are a few examples of initial explorations, where you can see successful switches (and less successful ones) in basic Salsa, Merengue and Bachata.
Until now I have found it surprisingly fun and easy to do, at least with people who are open to the ideas and have some background in both leading and following. Just like any conversation, if someone is talking your ear off and not giving you any opportunities to talk, then it is hard for you to have an equal say in the conversation, or if someone is shy and not talking very much, you may feel that you have to hold the conversation. Co-creative social dance works the same way, we are aiming to switch from leading to following often and are aiming to give equal opportunity to both partners to be creative, but that also requires the partners to have the confidence to be creative and the openness to let the other person be creative. The importance is not for things to be completely equal all the time, but to be open to new ideas and open to both leading and following as well as putting less importance on gender and roles.
To me this allows me to feel more like myself when I am dancing. I allows me to bring both my leading and following skills together and to be the strong, confident and creative woman, who is also caring, sensitive, creative and open to change that I am.