Choreography, the art of creating and arranging dances. The word derives from the Greek for “dance” and for “write.” In the 17th and 18th centuries, it did indeed mean the written record of dances. In the 19th and 20th centuries, however, the meaning shifted, inaccurately but universally, while the written record came to be known as dance notation. Anika Marcelle is a Choreographer and Dancer. We spent some time with her as she describes her walk in this light.
1. How do you define creativity and what does it mean to you?
Creativity for me is more than just the process of developing shape, form and substance. It's more than moving something from inspiration, to idea, to the end result and eventual impact of your finished work. It's random, it's intuitive, full of whimsy and risk-taking and it invariably becomes an expression of your essence and your ethos. In this way its intentional but never linear and predictable. When I am not creating I am slowly dying. I see creativity as life itself. As a matter of fact any time I am away from a creative space for a significant period of time I feel it in my body, in my mind and at my very core. I actually experience less joy.
2. How much of your creative ability do you think is innate? Or is your creativity a skill that you have developed?
Dancers benefit from and require technical training. That platform provides the necessary skills needed to excel and to express yourself aesthetically, irrespective of the genre (modern, contemporary, ballet, jazz, hip hop etc.) You cannot get away from that. And I have benefited from the input of technical training. But one cannot be taught heart, soul and passion. You as a dancer or as a choreographer must know your creative voice and who you are as an artist. That unique stamp is innate. That cannot be fabricated. That cannot be taught.
3. When did you realise that you wanted to express your creativity? Was it encouraged by others (e.g., parents)?
I never had a big "aha!" moment. I have always danced. I never stopped moving and dance always pursued me. She never let me go because she's part of my purpose. You cannot let go of something that you are. I recently had an experience in a supermarket. I was pushing my grocery cart in the aisle and a woman says to me, "I know this face". I was totally clueless. Turns out it was my Standard Five primary school teacher (I was having a senior moment) and she says to me that I was always dancing in class and she could not get me to settle down and that I was always in my own world. We had a good laugh. It was a nice memory that I did not recall. It reminded me of who I am, not who I was. At age eleven I was a bona fide free spirit that loved to move. Both my mom and dad have always been supportive. Money was spent, time was allotted, encouragement and advice was freely given. My parents are proud of me and are always pushing me to be the best me. Not anyone else.
4. What is your standard for evaluating your own creative work and the works of other people? Do you think that monetary rewards can be compatible with creativity in general? Are monetary rewards relevant to your own work?
Sigh. You cannot get away from appreciating good technique. You receive and appreciate work better when it is being done properly. I love the element of surprise and I love work that is committed and authentic. Technically sound, dynamic and real work grabs me. And by real I mean not contrived. Dance has the ability to transform people. The last thing they need to see is something forced and artificial. Monetary rewards depend on the 'what' and the 'why' of your actions. If you are paying bills and want to invest in your development of course it is relevant. But if you want to do community work with some local youth that need to redirect their energies that is a personal decision for you to make.
5. Do you think your own perception and evaluation of your creative endeavours are influenced by the views of other people? What role do you think the culture that you live in plays in your creative efforts?
Not really you know. I think my evaluation is mainly influenced by my views of myself, my ability and what I think I have to offer. Skewed self-perception can cripple you or immobilise you. I consistently have to be working on what I am feeding my mind and what I believe about myself. The 'what people think' factor is maybe ten percent of the whole picture - really minuscule. Culture plays no role. I do whatever I want. My world view or belief system has more influence over my creative choices than the culture I live in.
6. What do you do when you experience a creative block?
I do not panic. I can either go one of two routes. I get very still because I know sometimes the busyness of life causes me to feel uninspired, dry and unfocused. Secondly, I get around creative people and creative things and shake myself out of the funk through complete immersion.
7. How do you make the leap from a "Spark" in your head to the action you produce?
My choreographic process is informed by a number of things. My feelings, my intention, the music, words, images, colour, the life season I am going through etc. I throw all of that in a bag and put them in sequential order, mix and match, whatever I choose. Once I decide on a piece of music or a concept I drop a framework and then wing it in between. But I always have a driving mood or feeling that I want to explore helping me along in each choice I make.
8. Do you have any special rituals that you do in order to achieve your creative goals?
Not really. For the most part I must feel connected to the music or the running text in my head. If I do not find a way to grapple with it, to connect with it and contextualise it I just have to find another inspiration point. I need to engage with it on my terms. That's the only "ritual" really.
9. Has your creativity changed stylistically as you have matured? If it has changed, please explain how?
I've been dancing since I was around age eight or nine or something like that. I stopped for examinations to go into primary school around age 11 because that was the norm for children to do and I never started back formal training until I was age 17. A bit of a gap I know but I was still dancing on my own with friends (laugh). Then in the year 2000 I went to a dance conference in New York and the theme was "Dance the Vision and Make it Plain". That stuck with me. I'm a pretty warm person and I value things that are meaningful. So ideologically I have adopted that principle since then because I connected with it. "Whatever you do Anika, make it meaningful, make it matter, make it personal, make it relevant. Reach people". Then in 2004 I studied contemporary dance in London for a year at the London Contemporary Dance School - The Place. And since 2005 my choreographic voice and musical selections have tended to veer on the side of the contemporary, the minimalist, the post-modern, the indie.
10. What has been the greatest sacrifice that you have made for your craft?
Well like several artists in the Caribbean I have a regular 8 to 4 or 9 to 5 job with the relevant educational background to support that. But I never really aggressively pursued a traditional course of study or course of professional development. I did not run down an MBA at age 21 or something like that. I pursued dance and studied dance because I cannot imagine life or me without it. I opted out.
11. Who or what has helped you to persevere and not quit?
God. End of text. Then on another level I have some foundational friends. The ones that speak truth and love you. Those have been awesome.
12. Do you believe that it is important to be accepted by others as being creative or is just doing what you love to do enough to justify your work? Explain.
I'm not very big on this validation, people pleasing business. It will get you nowhere. I see the role and purpose of having others validate your talent or potential because that speaks to mentorship and you cannot achieve much in life without being humble, open and taught. But on another level I feel that people need to trust their instincts and believe in themselves. Step out and be you.
13. Has rejection ever affected your creative process? Explain.
I cannot pinpoint a moment when I was explicitly rejected. But I can think of a time when I felt like a fish out of water and I spent most of the time trying to play "catch up". Until I was out of that situation I felt unsettled and unable to create fully, without fear or feeling self-conscious. It was a very unsure season. I was assimilating new information and I needed a moment to find myself again.
14. Looking at what you have created in the past, would you change anything today? Why or why not?
No, because it was a reflection of me. Whether I have changed or grown over the years everything I did in a specific moment in time was still a reflection of my process and my progress up to that point.
15. Have you ever doubted your talent? If so, how did you work through your doubt?
I do not doubt that I have something to say, I just wish I had better tools to say it with. In the meantime I combat those challenges by focusing on what I have and what I have been given by the grace of God. I stay in my lane.
16. What piece of work are you most proud of? Why?
No specific piece per se I would qualify as a favourite. Every dance I have choreographed in the last seven years has a part that I absolutely love and would never change and a part I feel I could have fleshed out some more. No work in my head is ever perfection. You wish you had more time, you wish you had pushed yourself some more, that you had done things differently... you name it.
17. Have you helped or mentored anyone else? Is there someone that you see (name drop) that you would like to Mentor?:
Interesting that you would ask that. Someone recently asked me to mentor them from a dance perspective and I have to call her back and flesh it out further in terms of expectations, goals etc. But in my head I remember thinking at the time, "Me?, uhhhhh, yuh sure? lol". Mainly because we know ourselves in secret, in quiet, in private. We know our weaknesses and our strengths if we choose to acknowledge them. But people see us from the outside and have all sorts of perceptions about who we are and our intrinsic value. At the end of the day no one is perfect and everyone can speak life into someone and share knowledge, heart, wisdom and experience.
18. To a young Creative emerging in your field, what advice would you impart unto them?
Find opportunities to train and learn. Find opportunities to work with different people. Find opportunities to dance and train outside of your own country. Pay attention to details. Discover who you are as an artist. Align yourself with the right people.
19. What would you most like to be remembered for?
I want to produce work that makes people think about their life and our shared humanity. I want every artist or dancer I work with to leave with a sense of value and well-being.
20. If you were a crayon, what would be the name of your colour?
For the opportunity to see Anika making plain her vision in dance, you can check her out here or visit her on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/anika.marcelle) or you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.