Artists are known for their high degree of creativity. They are constantly pushing the boundaries through spontaneous experiments, playing with various procedures, methods, and materials, all while letting their instincts guide them. However, behind this seemingly freewheeling approach, there often lies a careful application of deliberate strategies. In this blog post, I will delve into two creative strategies that artists commonly use to ignite their imagination: embracing constraints and shifting perspectives.

“Art is freer when it is more limited… my freedom will be so much the greater and more meaningful the more narrowly I limit my field of action and the more I surround myself with obstacles.” I. Stravinsky, Poetics of Music.


Embracing Restrictions

In everyday life, we often resist limitations, but in the creative process, artists and scientists willingly impose restrictions by narrowing the choice of materials and elements they use in their work (such as colors, tones, body parts, etc.). This may seem paradoxical, but intentionally setting limitations and generating creative ideas within a restricted set of possibilities offers numerous benefits.

First and foremost, this approach fosters focus and clarity. Too many choices can be distracting, preventing the mind from fully concentrating during the creative process. By narrowing down the options, the creative potential of the mind can be sharply focused, leading to the extraction of a wealth of creative ideas from minimal resources.

Focus and concentration encourage disciplined thinking, which can unexpectedly generate effective rules that can then be creatively manipulated to produce variations or combinations of simple yet clear forms.

Having fewer choices compels the mind to maximize the available possibilities and to devise innovative, previously unexplored solutions. Constraints prompt us to seek unconventional methods of working, enabling us to broaden our skills or even develop entirely new ones. Working within constraints often prohibits the use of conventional methods, pushing us to adopt alternative approaches that can result in unexpected discoveries.

While creative freedom is undeniably valuable, it can sometimes be overwhelming. In contrast, constraints foster inventiveness, a quality essential for fostering innovative creativity. Embracing the challenge of constraints and producing compelling outcomes can boost confidence in one’s ability to tackle new creative challenges.

The benefits of using constraints as a strategy are evident. In the realm of art, a common constraint on creativity is limited resources. Unlike the voluntary choice to impose limitations, this external constraint does not carry the same playful motivation. Nevertheless, even constraints from external circumstances can result in the exploration of novel methods, tools, or creative practices, as evidenced throughout the history of art.


Creative habits

The term “creative habits” is contradictory in nature. Habits are typically associated with repetitive actions and outcomes, while creativity involves a process that fosters fresh solutions. Creative endeavors inherently involve the generation of ideas utilizing various strategies, tools, and methods. Through practical creative experiences, individuals enhance their proficiency in utilizing these resources. Each choreographer develops their unique approach to applying creative tools and methods, giving rise to an intriguing consideration of the relationship between experience and habits.

Aspiring choreographers who are just starting out may not have fully developed their own creative strategies yet, which can create challenges but also opportunities during the creation process. In contrast, experienced choreographers have honed their skills and established effective habits over time, often relying on these familiar strategies to enhance productivity.

While gaining confidence in one’s skills is essential, habitual routines can sometimes hinder creativity, as they tend to produce repetitive outcomes. In order to foster innovation, it is crucial to break away from these habits and explore new ways of thinking and working. Creativity thrives on the ability to challenge and transcend established patterns.

The concept of breaking away from conventional practices is particularly prominent in contemporary dance. Jonathan Burrows, an English choreographer, emphasizes the importance of redefining innovation within a broader framework when he talks about challenging traditional norms in choreography:

“For many years now the predominant rule within contemporary dance has been that each new generation and each new artist must propose an image of breaking the rules, but in reality of course this becomes impossible because in a field of rule breaking there are no rules to break.

This hierarchy of innovation has ended up excluding many forms and people, because it fosters misunderstandings about what the nature of innovation might be. Contemporary dance has tended, for instance, to prioritise the idea of spontaneous movement as being the most authentic in the way it might challenge physical habits and oppressive regimes of training and so forth, but that approach ignores forms that are built upon the slow transmission and accumulation of specific styles and methodologies of movement that are held in common: for instance hip hop, flamenco, Indian classical dance, many forms of dance from different African countries and so forth. Contemporaneity has been denied to these forms because of a limited view of what it might mean to innovate.(see )


Change of perspective

Shifting perspective, altering the way we approach creative tasks or challenges, is a complex endeavor. It necessitates the capacity to mentally create distance, to pause and depart from habitual paths of progression. This mental ‘gap’ may prove unsettling, as seasoned artists may feel as though they are starting from scratch despite years of experience. It is a process that demands practice and discipline.

What benefits does a change in perspective offer?

Throughout our lives, we construct unique patterns of perception and interpretation that aid us in navigating the world. Since we have crafted these mental models ourselves (influenced by various factors), we also possess the agency to alter them. It entails a deliberate choice and sustained effort to view any situation with a fresh outlook. By doing so, we uncover different details and connections, allowing us to perceive things in a new and illuminating way.

The ability to approach a problem, assignment, or challenge in the artistic process from multiple perspectives leads to the creation of a more complex picture. We view a sculpture in a gallery from multiple perspectives to gain a more holistic experience. Addressing a creative challenge by considering it from various angles reveals more choices and multiple solutions, which in turn leads to further creative decision-making.

Every creator knows the agonizing situation when they are unable to progress in the creative process. More experienced artists have discovered various methods to overcome such moments, but for beginners, this situation can be even more frustrating.

A well-known approach for experienced artists or scientists to achieve a fresh perspective in the creative process is through adopting a “beginner’s mind” mindset. This strategy is challenging because it requires setting aside one’s experience and deep knowledge in the field, which paradoxically can hinder creativity. Many brilliant artists, even in old age, have managed to retain the ability to view the world with “child’s eyes” – with openness and endless curiosity.

The utilization of tools, techniques, or procedures from other artistic fields stimulates the ability to perceive choreographic problems from a different standpoint. An exemplar of this is the French choreographer Xavier Le Roy, who, after studying biology, ventured into dance. His approach to working with the body brought a fresh perspective to the field. Link to a short sample of Self Unfinished by Xavier Le Roy here.

Likewise, the collaboration of artists from diverse artistic disciplines fuels the exploration of intersections, drawing from multiple perspectives. This enriches all parties involved and produces outcomes that can resonate with a wider audience.

The adoption of tools, techniques, and practices “borrowed” from other artistic realms often fosters the search for analogous solutions. Recognizing connections between seemingly unrelated elements frequently leads to innovative approaches.

Personally, I find that spatial changes aid me in choreography by altering the viewing angle. It is said that Kandinsky discovered abstraction by noticing the new meaning of a painting when he accidentally placed it on an easel with a different side facing forward. I appreciate this story as it reminds me of the creative potential of serendipity.

However, sometimes such coincidences require assistance in the creative process. For instance, I often reposition myself while observing a choreography, examining it from various vantage points. This grants me a fresh perspective on the material and stimulates new ideas that can be explored with the existing movement repertoire.

Fascinating results can also be achieved by transferring the movement material to a different spatial orientation (e.g., from vertical to horizontal or vice versa, such as from standing to lying down). This compositional approach fosters the creative development of the existing movement material and introduces new solutions and perspectives to the body, as it adapts to the altered conditions, resulting in interesting variations in the movement.


Why do we need change?

In our artistic practice, we develop certain habits through dance technique or compositional methods, which become ingrained in our embodied knowledge as lived experiences. However, we also feel the need to challenge and change these habits. This is not only driven by the necessity to generate new creations and ideas that cannot be achieved through established creative methods. It is also a natural adaptation of a healthy individual, driven by the desire for personal growth and a sense of well-being.

Furthermore, every artist needs to “survive” in the art world. This goes beyond mere economic survival, which involves earning a living through artistic work. It encompasses the ability to thrive in the artistic scene and gain a respected position (growth). There is a complex interplay of psychological and economic factors that are essential in the life of any artist. Some prioritize the economic aspect, while others prioritize the fulfillment of their artistic vision (which is often incompatible with economic prosperity).

Artistic vision is an intriguing aspect of an artist’s journey. It is closely intertwined with personal development and lifelong learning. It compels artists to acquire new skills and knowledge, necessitating stepping out of their comfort zones and embarking on relentless searches. It is work that brings inner fulfillment, even though its fruits are often invisible to the audience. In the case of choreography, it also relies on the understanding and willingness of other collaborators, upon whom the choreographer depends.

Artistic creation, much like life itself, is a dynamic process that encompasses periods of stagnation. The experience and resolution of this stagnation depend on whether the motivation behind a choreographer’s work is intrinsic or extrinsic. When the motivation is driven by economic gain, relying on the rapid production of works that cater to market interests, routine eventually takes hold. In such cases, there is little room for creative play, experimentation within limitations, or exploration of alternative perspectives – one must rely on what has previously proven successful.

However, this approach does not foster innovation and progress. It merely perpetuates what already works, what is established, and what is temporarily desired. Yet, the natural law of life is change. Society evolves, technology reshapes its structures, and the way art functions in the digital age is also undergoing transformation.


Digital technologies as a perspective?

Digital technologies offer a unique perspective and undoubtedly serve as a means to foster innovation in choreography. Personally, as someone who is not technically inclined, I may not share the same level of enthusiasm for various technological gadgets. Nonetheless, I acknowledge that the use of digital technology brings about a change in perspective that leads to significant advancements in various artistic domains, including film, music, visual arts, photography, and more. Additionally, I appreciate the vast expansion of opportunities to reach a wider audience and promote dance through digital platforms.

However, thus far, I have only witnessed a few dance performances that effectively utilize digital technology in a manner that captivates my interest. Merely transmitting dance digitally through a screen does not capture the power and impact of a live performance for most audiences. Live performance works through immediate human connection, allowing for the direct transfer of energetic vibrations between the bodies of the dancers and the audience. This connection cannot be replaced through digital means alone. The online performances during the pandemic clearly highlighted this fact.

Another important aspect is that contemporary dance often involves interaction with the audience in physical space during the presentation, creating a sensory experience that is challenging to replicate using digital technologies. I find the term “sensory depth” fitting to describe this characteristic of live art. It encompasses not only the individual process of perceiving the artistic experience but also the social interaction that fosters a cultural community and a shared cultural space.

Creating a shared cultural space is crucial for artists and audiences because experiencing a performance has a profound impact on a person. It enhances attention to detail, cultivates a sense of presence, facilitates a slowing down of time, prompts thought based on sensory inputs, and connects individuals to their internal processes – the ideas, thoughts, and emotions evoked by the immediate performance experience.

The live experience surpasses technological capabilities as human perceptions and reactions are unpredictable, unique, and imperfect. The authenticity of these experiences remains a mystery. Exploring how digital technology can help us comprehend these aspects of lived bodily experiences is a fascinating question. I recently attended a presentation of artistic research output of a young Slovak artist Jakub Cerulik, which delved into similar questions in an inspiring manner. I observed the intriguing potential of blending live and digital elements in his work.


Choreographic sketch: Limitation and perspective

In developing the choreographic sketch for this blog post, my focus was on creating a spatial illusion by adjusting the perspective of the observer (camera). Working with dancers Silvia and Chilli, I explored movement limited to the lower limbs, utilizing the wall as a support.


Similar to previous choreographic sketches, both dancers engage in a dynamic movement dialogue, interacting through their movements. In contrast to the movement dialogue achieved through the integration of movement and breath in the choreographic sketch “Dance of Breath” in a previous blog post (here), the movement in this piece is structured rather than improvised. We established a fixed choreographic framework to allow the dancers to respond to each other by shaping the choreography in terms of form, timing, and spatial elements with a higher level of precision and control.


Dear readers, if you share your thoughts and experiences with me I would greatly appreciate your comments.


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