It’s a dark October evening sky over the Bristol docks. There’s the low buzz of a gathering crowd, ten thousand people moving towards the water, puzzled, laughing, wondrous. They look upwards at the huge, dark, sculptural shapes of three industrial cranes with curiosity and awe.
Behind the scenes, up in the control boxes, the lighting rigs, a team are waiting, poised, exhilarated and nervous. Months of work, of technological development, of artistic vision, are about to go live.
And then, suddenly, a gasp, as the cranes spring to life. Music. Light. A thousand, more, LED colours.
The cranes dance across the night sky, illuminating the old warehouses, the water and the faces of the crowd below, holding their breath, dazzled.
Mass Crane Dance is live. A project bringing to life a landscape in a new way, challenging us to see our surroundings differently. As well as the ten thousand below, four million people watch it online, mesmerised.
For creator and choreographer Laura Kriefman, it’s the culmination of journey of persuading other people to understand her vision, to see how things could be, to work with her to make it happen.
But it’s also a new beginning, on a journey that is taking Mass Crane Dance around the world, on projects involving literally dozens of cranes, and her to global stages to talk about her work.
And yet, it so nearly didn’t happen. That’s what I talk to Laura Kriefman about on The Creative Life Show this week.
Not too long before, Laura had given up on her work as a dancer, choreographer, creator of ideas. She stopped, completely. Despite a solid reputation as a dancer and choreographer, her ideas and vision had gone beyond what other people could understand – or, crucially, give funding to. She fell silent.
Why you’ll always be ahead of the people around you
If you’re a creator, there are always times when our ideas run ahead of everyone else around us.
What we want to do seems so clear to us, so necessary. And yet we need to have support, in some way. That might be as simple as having support from your partner or your boss. It might be finding a client, or a publisher, or a gallery prepared to believe in your energy and take a risk.
When we’re creative, we’re breaking new ground in some way. We’re – literally – creating connections that weren’t there before, in our brain and in the world around us. The problem is that no one else can see those connections until we make them real in some way. We’re caught in the challenge of having to communicate the significance of what we’re doing, often before we’ve actually created it. And even if we’ve created it, we have to find the right person with the right vision to understand what it is we’re trying to say.
It’s easy to turn inwards – to keep things to ourselves, to put our ideas away, to even give up.
- Without customers, you don’t have a business
- Without cheerleaders, you have only your own voice to speak for you
- Without collaborators, you can’t go any further than your own skills, time and energy
Laura’s turning point came when she was awarded an inaugural Creative Fellowship from Wired and The Space, a major commissioning organisation. She says, ‘I realised ‘‘I haven’t done anything differently, but the understanding of what we’re trying to do, or the appetite for it, has suddenly totally changed.”‘
If you don’t have the support of people who understand what you want to achieve and actively support you to do it, then it’s tough. But don’t resign yourself to it.
When no one believes in you, change your language
Sometimes it’s a matter of time and opportunity. But frequently there are other things you can do about it.
You can’t share your brain. But you can communicate it differently.
Laura’s advice is very simple. She says, very simply, ’try changing your language’.
Take some paper, right now, and start putting down ideas:
- How can I express what I want to achieve in a different way?
- What other vocabulary can I use to bring it to life?
- How can I explain it for the other person in a way that makes sense for their view of the world?
And then this:
- Who will understand this, who I haven’t talked to yet?
I loved this conversation with Laura. She’s fiercely intelligent, driven and articulate, and also very lighthearted. There’s so much more wisdom and inspiration than I can possibly share here, so come over and take a listen.
And to whet your appetite of what is possible, even if it doesn’t always seem so, here’s the magic that is Mass Crane Dance, showing that even a city can dance.