As we float back down to earth following a successful works-in-progress showing on May 6th, we are taking the proverbial step back to reflect upon the development of Second Story’s innovative “creating while caregiving” model.
Sherri interviewed each one of Second Story’s dancers, Jonathan Riedel, Mandy Kirschner Salva, and Lorena Egan-Alvarado, for a series of 3 artist “close ups.” Through in-depth conversations, the dancers described the ways they have experienced the growth of Second Story – and assessed the impact of their children’s presence in the studio on their creative process.
We begin today with Jonathan Riedel, former principal dancer with the Limón Dance Company and Artistic Director of Riedel Dance Theater. His take on Second Story is a candid, insightful examination of a broad range of feelings, from hope and excitement to fear and uncertainty.
Ambivalent. There it is in a single word. On one hand, Jonathan feels excited for and proud of his colleagues. In turn, Lorena and Mandy inspire Jonathan to keep going and generate ideas for the next steps in Second Story’s development. During the many moments he is particularly tired, Jonathan reminds himself to connect with his colleagues, drawing upon their energy and trusting that “something will happen.”
He is also excited to see where Second Story is heading. Jonathan believes our collective is still “on track” with his original artistic vision. While he is trying to allow the process to unfold organically, he is pleased to acknowledge that “we’ve actually stayed on the path” towards realizing his vision. Accessing his long-term dream of bringing RDT “back into full swing,” he is almost ready to think about what that might look like specifically. Yes, rebuilding RDT is a few years down the road, but when both of his kids are in school, he might want to begin talking it through. It will be interesting to see where Second Story fits in to that picture.
At the same time, Jonathan wrestles with a number of dynamics that tend to trigger considerable anxiety. He experiences self-doubt when contemplating some of the realities of the Second Story endeavor. He worries, “are we doing enough? Are we ambitious enough?” Even though he understands that having the kids in the studio necessitates moving at a much slower pace, he periodically fears that he will have to work this way forever.
Jonathan recognizes that in order to accept this current context, he has to temporarily relinquish his “elevated ambition” -- operating with a sense of urgency and producing artistic works on a grand scale. Throughout most of his career, he has experienced a burning desire to immediately develop the creative ideas he generates. Although any number of logistical and financial obstacles have impeded his ability to realize some of his dreams along the way, his current status as primary caregiver forces him to operate within tight constraints. For the time being, he can only flesh out his ideas in a modest, limited way. Fortunately, other artistic pursuits such as teaching and writing have made the adjustment to this new reality a little easier.
Jonathan is consciously trying to approach his 1-rehearsal-a-week schedule with a feeling of appreciation, savoring the joys of choreographing and dancing with his colleagues. Initially, he felt it was imperative to make the most out of every moment of limited rehearsal time. Now, he trusts that the time he has in the studio is “just enough.” He is adopting a different philosophy that is grounded in his current context; he is focused on “this project at this point in time during this particular 3 hours of rehearsal.” This change in perspective results in a greater degree of satisfaction with whatever is accomplished during any given day. Yes, it may take an entire year to make a piece; so what?
Hmmm…great attitude in theory, not so easy in practice. Periodically, anger and resentment surface when Jonathan’s need to act on his ideas cannot be met. However, he tries to expand his preconceived notions about creative expression when he feels thwarted. For example, when he wants to think about the pieces he is developing, he can study videos of the rehearsals, allow his imagination to take flight, and write down all of his ideas. In this way, Jonathan can utilize other tools at his disposal when he can’t be in rehearsal. Gradually, he is coming to regard the use of these tools as “legitimate creative time, just as valid as being in the studio.”
Similarly, Jonathan is developing a deeper, more nuanced understanding of the role of an artistic director. He now views time spent on marketing and administrative functions as “time well spent on my art” as opposed to regarding these responsibilities as separate from his art. Everything is “all of a piece;” an artistic director needs to understand both the big picture and its component parts. Engagement in all creative and business aspects of the process ensures that each element is in sync with your vision. Jonathan likens this concept to curating a painting – choosing the right frame, making sure it is displayed on the right wall, selecting proper lighting. In the end, it is all about enabling the audience to have a “full experience” of your work.
Jonathan then contemplates how his work has been shaped by Second Story’s “creating while caregiving” model.
Although he recognizes that his artistic dreams are largely “on hold” while his children are young, Jonathan inevitably circles back to the question, “how will I get to where I want to be?” He’s doing his best to take it one day at a time.
Through our discussion of Second Story’s growth and unique “creating while caregiving” model, we are reminded of the nature of “process”: the day-to-day intersection of external challenges and internal struggles, evoking the full spectrum of emotions. Rich and ambivalent, indeed.
Stay tuned for Lorena and Mandy’s stories in our next 2 Second Story artist close-ups!
Sherri Muroff Kalt, founder of Process Portraits, LLC and author of Portrait of an Artistic Journey: The Creative Process in Real Life Context, is a Phi Beta Kappa, magna cum laude graduate of Duke University with a B.A. in psychology. She began her career in marketing and sales in New York City with L’Oréal, Monet Jewelers, and Givenchy. READ MORE