“Trusting the unknown”: Ellen Cohen on Continuum & Creativity

ElaineContinuum & Creativity Interview Series

Through the practice of Continuum, improvisational dancer Ellen Cohen learned to trust in the unknown. From the Watermark Arts Continuum & Creativity series.

“I had learned in my dance training with Erick Hawkins that moving the way our bodies naturally function is not only safer, but could be beautiful. In Continuum, however, my body was the choreographer as well as the dancer! This intrinsic artistry is what inspires me to this day.” – Ellen Cohen  Read More

Robin Becker on Continuum & Creativity

ElaineContinuum & Creativity Interview Series

Robin Becker, Artistic Director at Robin Becker Dance, speaks about the somatic practice of Continuum as, “a way of accessing one’s deepest being as a resource” for creativity. Robin’s insights are applicable to all creative process, to all of life. Produced by Elaine Colandrea for Watermark Arts, an endeavor that brings together somatic experience and artistic expression.

Robin Becker on Continuum & Creativity from Watermark Arts on Vimeo.

Continuum & Creativity interview with Robin Becker (video transcript):

Continuum has really been a transformative element in my dance, in the world of dance for me. I met the practice of Continuum 25 years ago and just instantly felt as though I met something that I deeply knew and recognized but now needed to learn about. And I have found that it has become just a synthesis of all the things I care so much about: love of movement, science, a sense of the sacred that has led me as a dancer and also explorations of the imagination, the psyche and embodying that as an artist. Continuum for me was the place where it all came together. So it has been a very important tool in my choreographic process, as part of my teaching, and it’s a whole shift of a worldview and paradigm of what the body is.

As I meet professional dancers, as I meet young students, I enjoy offering a whole new perspective that kind of rocks their world in a way but I think is also very expansive and inspiring to them. And I actually choose to only work with dancers who are familiar with Continuum and who have worked for a long time in Continuum with me. Too often dancers are resistant to Continuum because we’re so used to being in charge and making our bodies do amazing things and accomplishing things – often without feeling the interior of the forms and the movement we’re inhabiting. So I always tell dancers, you know, reassure them as I’m introducing it to them, that this is not to replace the magnificent articulation of the dance language they have studied and mastered but it’s a way to enhance that language and bring more forward. Because I think modern dance, or a style of modern dance, or ballet is like a language we choose to speak and master. And before that would be just sound. And for a language of movement what Continuum has brought to me is that it’s like a study that’s before the language of a dance, of a certain dance style, dance language. It’s really an inquiry into the primary substance of what the body is made of. So that when a dancer can really inhabit this biological movement and start to sense their interior in a really alive present way, then, with the richness of that, they go back to inhabit the form of the language. They’re choosing to speak with more volume of themselves with more presence. And so I found it incredibly valuable to dancers to just add a level of presence and physical capacity.

As a choreographer I used to feel a lot of pressure […] and since doing Continuum […] I invite everyone to just start to meet how life is already flowing.

And then in a creative method, there’s really two realms. One is as a choreographer I really invite people in, I’m a very collaborative choreographer. And, in fact, the only way I want to work is in collaboration, which is really the essence of what Continuum teaches to about cooperation and how all life is interconnected. So as a choreographer I used to feel a lot of pressure, like I had to invent movement, and I had to come up with something. I would have terror, you know, nightmares about having a room full of dancers, with their hands on their hips going, “well, what do you want me to do now?” and not having any idea. And since doing Continuum, not only myself but I invite everyone to just start to meet how life is already flowing. Movement is never ending. So I just invite, within myself and the dancers, to join with what is happening, and then the work of choreography is shaping and bringing texture to the discovery of movement that you’ve just really joined with. I don’t consider myself an inventor of movement anymore. I consider myself more a discoverer.

More and more I’m trusting, which I think has always been an innate quality in me, but I have come to really trust and develop the ability to trust intuition and moving in that realm of meeting something you don’t know. I have grown to trust some inner knowing that I cannot explain, like I really explore a lot and then all of a sudden I know what needs to be, what needs to get thrown out, what wants to come in. You know, it’s like you’re creating a living entity. And there’s a process of trusting, surrendering yourself to what’s being born.

This dear friend [of mine] was suggesting that so much of the western world goes analytical brain first. And then we try to feel and see how we feel about the structure we just devised. [After that| we go back to analysis to try to explain how we felt about it. But my path as an artist, and I think all artists is just the opposite of that. You start with an intuitive sense, like, oh, a little bud! There’s something coming out of the earth that wants to be born. And why is that? You’re in the messy, pushing up through the mud of trying to find the shape of something And then once you come up with some form of a structure, then I do go into a very objective mind. I always tell my choreography students, you have to be able to go sit in the audience, pretend you know nothing, you don’t know who you are, you don’t know what the dance is. And you have to honestly watch the movie of your dance. Be honest: is that working? Did you just get bored? Why should you care? I find when I do that, if I just got bored with my own work, I go, “aha, I’ve got a problem.” And then I go back in under the water, so to speak, back into the feeling nature to try to shape it again and fix it.

So it’s that process, that subjective process of the creative artist that I think Continuum really supports. And that is the great need in our culture and our time because ultimately, I do think we’re all artists. And that way of really accessing one’s deepest being as a resource, which is also the place of profound universality, is what is deeply called for in our culture. And it is the path of the artist that I think Continuum really supports.