“Learning is rebellion…Every bit of new truth discovered is revolutionary to
what was believed before.”
Margaret Lee Runbeck
“In the end, the piece, a fourteen-minute high-energy celebratory romp, now known as Westerly Round, bore absolutely no resemblance to my original notion. With the migration metaphor fallen by the wayside and the blues soundtrack abandoned, I gave up the sad story line as well. The only idea that survived and made it to the stage were the linked hands of the dancers. I used the hand-holding as a controlling image in the piece for three boys and a girl. If it felt right to the artist drawing the figures on the pottery, it felt right to me as well.”
Among the treasured books on my writing shelves is Twyla’s The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It For Life. What an inspiring guide to craft and creative discipline! As her quote suggests, many of her dances start from a visual image that catches her imagination. In this case, it was a pottery shard that is said to be the oldest recorded image of dance figures.
In The Creative Habit, Twyla traces the convoluted path that Westerly Round traveled as it was being born. She started out wanting a certain tone for the dance — a “sad story line” that she found didn’t work for her and which she quickly abandoned. She also toyed with the idea of using the dance as a metaphor for migration across America — but that idea didn’t pan out either, so she jettisoned it. And even the music that she first envisioned, a blues soundtrack, didn’t seem to capture what she wanted to say — and so she dropped it. Ultimately, only one simple image found in the original shard that inspired her piece — the linked hands of several dancers — made it into what became Westerly Round.
It’s fascinating to learn how totally different her initial concept was from her final creation; it morphed from a somber bluesy migration to a celebratory romp: What a huge leap! What’s most compelling to me is Twyla’s courage and openness. Despite having a strong first impression of what she wanted to say, as her creation evolved, it told her, showed her, what it wanted to be — and she listened and let it become exactly that. By getting out of her own way, she honored both her initial creative impulse and her piece’s inner integrity. What an inspiration for us as we write on!