"Duality in the Workplace" by Amara Barner

In the workplace of a movement professional there are many challenges. How to approach the next production? How to ensure the studio is a productive environment for everyone? How to facilitate supportive workplace discussion? As an artist, it is our job to solve problems creatively. It is our responsibility to better understand ourselves, so we may better relate to others. By investigating all angles of ourselves through introspection, we are able to insert a broader perspective into creative pursuits. The truth is that reality is engrained with duality. No answer is ever black or white. Like the yin/yang symbol, reality exists at once in opposition to dualism. Comprehension of opposing forces and ideas offers balance. Duality is a concept that we can consider during the creation periods of a new production, as well as during challenging moments with colleagues, and finally as a means to self-observe. Ultimately the notion of duality, if utilized, will benefit both the professional and personal pursuits of an artist.

 

It is no secret that being a director, choreographer, or dancer is a “people person’s” job! Success of a show or project depends on our ability to collaborate. Every person involved in a project has a responsibility to take accountability of their energy and how they contribute in the workplace environment. Compassion and patience go a long way in a creative setting. It is important to understand that people will not always be in a joyful or even pleasant mood. Too often, we take action based on an immediate emotional response. It is unproductive to fight fire with fire. Every workplace environment has its own downfalls and shortcomings. As humans we must learn how to accept the “good” with the “bad.” It is impossible to create an absolutely perfect workplace setting. If, as movement professionals, we acknowledge only the ‘bad’ practices of other artists or companies, we will set ourselves up for a career of doom and gloom. On the other side of this duality coin, if we only choose to only see the “good” and ignore the shortcomings, we are setting ourselves up to be taken advantage of. In the long-term perspective of an artistic career, it is beneficial to accept that we are all prone to mistakes, and because of duality, full of potential and capable of learning. When you open your eyes to the “bad,” you give yourself an opportunity to set boundaries and advocate for change. When you align your sight to accept the “good,” you make an investment within yourself as well as the project you are involved in for its full journey.

Emotional dualities are experiences of deep and conflicting feelings that exist simultaneously. When you are able to recognize the duality of your own emotions and habits you will be able to recognize them in your artistic colleagues. You will be able to conduct healthy conversations and establish a supportive work environment. Understanding duality within ourselves prepares us to deal with duality in the workplace. Take a step back to understand the energy of the room, as well as the current mental and emotional place you are in. I know that when I am exhausted, sad, or uncomfortable, my energy follows suit. I know that I cannot always have good days, so when the bad days come, I persevere with hope. With this awareness, when we are met with heavy energy from others in the workplace, we can offer a different way of being, rather than meet others with the same force. If we practice this awareness, we will no longer harbor resentment for anyone’s hard or bad days, because we’ll know that there is no light without darkness. We can facilitate balance within ourselves and for others by extending our understanding.

 

When it comes to emotional dualities, it is helpful to recognize the duality of “masculine” and “feminine” energies, also considered yin and yang in ancient Chinese philosophy. (These labels are outdated and have not been updated to reflect the spectrum of gender identity. They do not pertain to orientations of “men” and “women,” but rather refer to archetypal energy. These archetypes exist in every person, no matter where they fall on the gender spectrum. Both archetypes have strengths and weaknesses, dualities we can personally explore in order to fully experience their benefits.

Positive archetypal ‘feminine’ traits include:

intuitive, nurturing, receptive, gentle, flexible, patient, and creative.

Negative archetypal ‘feminine’ traits include:

victimizing, co-dependent, overly-sensitive, powerlessness, manipulative.

Positive archetypal ‘masculine’ traits include:

logical, driven,  adventurous, rational, decisive action, cherishing, and stability

Negative archetypal ‘masculine’ traits include:

aggressive, controlling, unsupportive, ego-driven, power-hungry, guarded, manipulative

Examine the archetypal “feminine” and “masculine” energies that exist within yourself. In the past, what archetypal energies have you utilized in the workplace setting? If it was a positive archetypal trait, contemplate why you felt safe enough to express yourself this way. If it was a negative archetypal trait, contemplate what it was that triggered the response. How else might you have worked out or responded to that situation? Consider the positive “masculine” or “feminine” energies that would benefit the different stages of the creation process, from development to performance.

During the creation of a new project, the possibilities may seem endless and overwhelming. Over time, every artist will discover their own methods to facilitate a productive creative process that works for them. It is common for directors and choreographers to request input and/or movement generation from their hired dancers. Unless they are also interested in becoming a choreographer, a young professional dancer may see this request as nearly impossible. How is someone supposed to generate movement out of thin air? Prompts in the dance workplace are conceptual ideas used to initiate and inspire movement exploration. Prompts can involve emotion, be task driven, use specified body parts, study internal dialogue, ask questions, reference literary/visual works, or (a favorite of mine) explore duality. When you explore movement creation within duality, you are conducting an experiment of opposing forces. The attempts to bring contrasting concepts together immediately creates friction. This friction of energy is a beautiful birthing ground to motion and emotion. How do two conflicting ideas coexist within your body, within the space, and with others? By working with duality, you can add layers of motive, and enjoy an endless stream of creative movement. If you need to develop an archetype or character for a project, you can add depth to this character by considering their dual natures. Perhaps they are an overly confident and happy-go-lucky person with intense underlying fear and sadness. With duality as a tool to form your character, you can create a story arc that informs your movement. Some examples of duality prompts to consider include:

Amara Barner dances with her back to the camera in a plant-filled room.

1. Confidence vs. Fear

2. Enthusiasm vs. Apathy

3. Happiness vs. Sadness

4. Elegance vs. Grunge

5. Flimsy vs. Rigid

6. Water vs. Fire

7. Good vs. Evil

8. Darkness vs. Light

9. Exhaustion vs. Zest

10. Comfort vs. Discomfort

 

In the creative process we can utilize duality to plant seeds of movement, develop characters for performance, and research their motives by revealing their dual natures. Introducing an understanding of duality into an artistic environment is sure to supplement movement research, production, human relations, and personal growth.