Letting The Genie Out Of The Bottle


Finding Your Creative Genius

As artists, we all suffer creative blocks and burn out from time to time, this can be very frustrating. There are times we may feel we’re on fire with inspiration and ideas, then all of a sudden…zilch, nothing. Many artists won’t admit to this, but it happens to everyone.

Through the years a lot of dancers have consulted with me on this subject and I have always given the best advice I can based on my own experiences. The truth of the matter is, being creative is hard work. Like any job, some days are really good, some days are not so good.

I find that a lot of inspiration comes from knowledge. The more you study your art form and keep growing, the more inspired you become to create new material, no matter how many years you’ve been at it. We live in an age where there is so much information at our fingertips, it’s a wonder anyone could every get bored, feel stagnant or uninspired…but it happens.

Maybe we can be over stimulated and bombarded with too many DVD’s, youtube performances of the latest competition winners or the newest Egyptian star, etc, etc. It just becomes all too confusing and overwhelming. Too many people become addicted to watching the latest “hot dancers”, trying to emulate every move, wondering, If only I could be that fabulous!

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s very important to study with as many teachers as possible and watch a lot of performances, believe me, I’ve been doing it for 40 years, but it’s more important to be inspired by other dancers and not imitate other dancer. I feel in this age of video bombardment, people are starting to look alike. Who are YOU when you dance? What makes YOU fabulous? Where is YOUR creativity? Of course, new students start out by emulating their teachers, that’s different, it’s part of the learning process, but there’s a time to move past that and a time for teachers to encourage students to move past that.

A pet peeve of mine are the dancers that study the latest Egyptian (or whoever) stars, working hard to imitate everything down to their facial expressions and gestures, thinking they’ve finally captured the true essence of Egyptian dance! Uhhh…that’s called impersonating someone. I think some people have trouble differentiating between imitating the personality quirks and postural idiosyncrasies of an Egyptian star, rather than studying the dance movements, musicality, culture and essence of that regional style of dance…AND still remain oneself when dancing!

All that being said, how do we break free from feeling we have to fit a certain mold? How do we as teachers and performers keep fresh and continue to create new material? How do we uncork the bottle and let the genie fly out in a glittery rage, raining down creative genius on us? Good question. What is a genius, anyway? In ancient Roman religion, the genius was a separate divine being of nature that was present in every individual person, place, or thing. For instance, an artist wasn’t a genius himself, but rather he/she possessed a genius that played a big role in creating their work. Even inanimate objects had this magical genii attached to them. If something went wrong or wasn’t working, that object or that person’s genii was really “out to lunch” that day. It wasn’t until the renaissance period that the ego of the artist took over and the artist began to be thought of as a genius, rather than possessing a genius.

Maybe that’s where we go wrong sometimes. We put too much pressure on ourselves to be the sole vessel of our creativity. Believing that creative inspiration comes from the inside out is really too much pressure. It would be easier to just imitate someone else’s work, or just not do it at all and let the feelings of inadequacy and burn-out overwhelm us. Maybe if we imagine nature’s creative forces assigning us our own genius that whispers inspiration to us, allowing creativity to flow through us from the outside in, rather than the inside out, it would be a lot less pressure and add a new dimension and creative flair to our usual work.

Kids are naturally creative. It isn’t unusual for a small child to have an imaginary friend that they create exciting new adventures with. It really is genius if you think about it. The freedom to be so imaginative and create any magical, beautiful thing in our mind is brilliant. Of course, as adults if we went around talking to imaginary friends, they’d send us to the looney bin. Maybe we don’t have to go that far, just letting go of the ego and looking outward in a wide eyed view of nature and the creative world around us, can open up the mind and stimulate the spirit.

I love to hike in the hills near my house, sometimes alone, mostly with my husband, Michael and my dog, Indigo (Go-Go). It’s very serene and quiet. When I’m with Michael, we almost never talk on these hikes, we both pretty much have a mutual ‘zone out” time, enjoying our funny dog and nature. It’s an important creative process for both of us. Getting out of my own head is great therapy, I can let everything go and allow my mind to open up to wonderful new ideas that are floating around out there.

There’s lots of ways to “let go”. Exercise you mind, do something new! Step out of your comfort zone from time to time. Go to an art exhibit, drag a friend with you to a dance class in a dance form you’ve never studied before, take a rock climbing class, or an art class, learn to knit, write poetry, laugh at yourself and be silly, get out of your own head and stop believing your own publicity. Be bold and let the genii out of the bottle! Your genius will start talking to you, you just have to listen.

7 responses »

  1. “A pet peeve of mine are the dancers that study the latest Egyptian (or whoever) stars, working hard to imitate everything down to their facial expressions and gestures, thinking they’ve finally captured the true essence of Egyptian dance! Uhhh…that’s called impersonating someone.”


    I’ve been thinking a lot about the meaning of authenticity over the last few years.

    It seems to me that the imitators are focusing so hard on authenticity of form, that they’re sacrificing authenticity of purpose.

    The star uses those expressions and gestures to share what she is hearing and feeling. They’re the *result* of her emotional connection to the music and the audience.

    The imitator may be doing *what* she’s doing, but that connection is missing. And that’s why it’s not so captivating.

  2. Thank you for writing this wonderful article. I’ve kept that in mind for quite some time ever since you told me that a while ago. Additionally, I’ve found it very inspiring to check out other dance forms not just belly dance because this a world with many cultural influences. There is inspiration in mostly everything we see, do and hear if you think about it. I’m glad you are doing this! Keep writing my friend!!!

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