A few years ago, I was introduced to house dance—a dance style that originated in Chicago and New York clubs during the 70s and 80s. I’d seen the movements before but it took awhile to match the dance with its name.
Ever since spectating a house jam in Brooklyn, I’ve periodically told myself to find a class and start learning. Something about house’s groove, complex footwork, and fluid movement draws me in.
Yesterday, I finally made time for the Beginner House class at EXPG dance studio in the Lower East Side. At one point, the instructor Mai Le made it clear to us that we shouldn’t think about what we were learning as choreography.
Instead, these were building blocks to practice, examine, deconstruct, and experiment with on our own.
To me, that was a perfect description for how I like to approach creative endeavors.
With cooking, I dislike recipes. I see dishes as an amalgamation of patterns, tools, and techniques to pick apart and apply elsewhere. I’m currently reading Samin Nosrat’s “Salt Fat Acid Heat.” I love her approach for reasons related to Mai’s philosophy:
“This book will change the way you think about cooking and eating, and help you find your bearings in any kitchen, with any ingredients, while cooking any meal.
You’ll start using recipes, including the ones in this book, like professional cooks do—for the inspiration, context, and general guidance they offer, rather than following them to the letter.”
With my strategy work, I imagine that I’m amassing tools in a toolbox. Every framework, method, or lesson learned is another building block—something I can pull in, test out, and mash up with something else depending on the situation.
My friend Shaun who’s a choreographer once said:
“You can think of each body part as a separate tool.”
Your legs, feet, arms, shoulders, ears—move any of them as part of a dance. Don’t feel like you need to employ every tool at once. Pick and choose and play around.
Through this process you master what feels right, tastes good, and makes sense for the challenge at hand.