The inability to access one’s internal creativity is known as creative blocks or inspiration hurdles. Writers, musicians, performers, and artists who work in creative fields are more likely to have creative blocks, which can linger for days, weeks, months, or even years. Having creative hurdles and being uninspired is fairly typical, especially in this pandemic.
A dancer’s creative block isn’t simply annoying; it may also be career-ending. You can’t afford to be short on ideas when you rely in your art to establish your brand and pay your bills.
We recently had a conversation with 3 of our Chuzi Pioneers on how they’re staying creative during the pandemic. Read about how they’re coping, as well as tips on how they’re able to keep their creative juices flowing.
1. Kindly introduce yourself briefly with your dance background.
Reflex: “My name’s Jesse Gotangco, a.k.a. Reflex. Most people know me for my breaking because I’ve done a lot of international breaking competitions more than any other style of dance. However, people also know me and just the general dance aspect, you know, choreography and other styles as well. I am. I also do house, popping, choreography, like what I mentioned, I do also do locking and other street dance styles.
I also explore different dance styles genres outside of street. What currently exploring right now. Right now, I am just furthering my house freestyle movement concepts. So “styleless”, you know, just movement concepts and principles and exploring more teaching and mentoring others.”
Jobert: “My name is Josef Lachica and I am the creative director of Kinection, founder and director of Musketeers PH, and a member of Protein Shake. I can’t literally explain what genre or style I use when I dance or choreograph but I can say that my style came from a lot of inspirational stuff around me. Whether it’d be dance or another dancer, other stuff like movies, how a snake moves, what song can change my mood to express or influence my movements, etc. That’s what made me, ME.”
Justin: “Hi, I am Justin Marc M. Nillosan, in the year 2016 I started dancing in high school with DanSSA, we trained on various styles of street dance like hip-hop, locking, dancehall, etc. Now that I am a member, choreographer from UPSDC, and The Crew trainee, we still refine the said styles to perfection, but I am more interested now in making & exploring my own style on open choreographies and freestyle dancing.”
2. In a week, how many times would you say you take time away from your schedule to practice and hone your craft?
Reflex: “Well, a big chunk of my job is actually teaching dance. So, you know, it’s already there. But I would say if I train just for myself. I would say like sessions, labbing, probably three times a week. A couple of hours a day. Yeah. Although that doesn’t include my artistic projects, creative projects, and videos that I do. So that’s just to train for me.”
Jobert: “I would say that I train every day for at least 2-3 hours a day especially when the pandemic happened. 2-3 hours of training whatever I want to enhance that day. Skill, musicality, workout, or even just listening to music. I treat that as training also.”
Justin: “2-3 hours a day! I make sure that I dance every day even if it is just simple vibin’ and groovin’ or a TikTok challenge!”
3. Take us through what happens on a normal day you decide to dedicate to practicing, creating, or simply dancing it out?
Reflex: “So during a normal day, I would say this is just me breaking and freestyling and whatnot and working out I usually end at like 8 or 9 PM for work. So 8 or 9 PM. onwards until about 11 or 12 midnight, I train. I warm up. I make sure all the joints and muscles are good and ready because, you know, at a certain age, you got to be more careful.
I go through technique training or set training. By “sets”, I mean like, my combos and stuff, or lab, or tech training, same as power training. And then after I just kind of just freestyle and just like vibe it out and then cool down, so like it’s a normal regular training session in a way, but in different days, I do different things.
There are some days where I focus on technique, some days where I focus on just labbing and exploring. That’s why it’s called “Lab” right because you just explore and you create stuff. And there are certain days where I focus on just running. Running moves, running sets, running rounds, and all of that. Then there are some days that I dedicate to making something and then I’m going to shoot it another day and rehearse.
So it’s a mix of training, labbing, release sessions, which are basically sessions where I just freestyle I don’t care about how it looks, and rehearsals and actual shoots that I want to do for myself.
And that’s basically how it is. So I don’t have a normal day. The normal formula for the day depends on what I want to focus on, what I want to do.”
Jobert: “I depend a lot on the mood I’m in before I create something. Somedays I just want to listen to music and just write concepts for the future and that is also a training regimen I recommend. Sometimes I want to be super active and use my 2-3 hours to dance or explore movements that I haven’t explored as much. I always try to create something genuine when I dance, not just for the sake of telling myself that I created something today, but for the importance of how I look at things from my perspective. It’s always a good feeling to tell a story that you want to share especially if it’s a story about yourself. No one can tell your story but you.”
Justin: “I start with strengthening and conditioning my body, just a light workout to wake up the muscles, then I proceed to the training. Sometimes I practice my freestyle, I start with reviewing some basic moves and vocabs then I advance to more difficult moves and concepts to explore. When it comes to choreography, I just shuffle my playlist, then when something catches my ear, I’ll try to figure out its flow, its intention then I proceed on experimenting on how will I tell the story using my dance.”
4. Would you say you’ve been more inspired to dance/create/choreograph pieces during the global pandemic?
Reflex: “I wouldn’t say more inspired. I would say that I’ve been more internally focused because before the pandemic, everything was very social out there. So I was still inspired. And I still stay inspired and motivated. And I get a lot of different creative tools from different aspects that are available in the “outside world” socially within the context of where I’m making a piece for or teaching.
So whether it’s for a class or a competition, or if I am doing it for my crew, Tha Project, it’s different when I choreograph and make pieces for them. Just like how it’s different if I choreograph for CADS or Manila Soul, or when it’s for battles. I wouldn’t say I’m more inspired now, it’s just that now it’s a different platform for me, because since we’re all locked up, I’m now in the parameters of my home and what I’m capable of doing by myself.
It’s very internal. What can I do for myself? What can I do with this stuff around me? It’s more of this having the same type of motivation, inspiration, but putting it in a different setting, different platform, different contexts.
But I really believe that if you’re a flexible artist, you can find inspiration from anywhere. Which might not be applicable to everyone. Maybe for other artists, they have certain things that inspire them. And the pandemic is kind of harder for them, which is fine. It doesn’t make them less of an artist. It just doesn’t stimulate them the same way as other artists.
Flexible artists can grab concepts, inspirations, stimuli, and others alike anywhere and transform them into something that you can do by yourself. I would say that’s like the characteristic of a flexible artist.
Have I been more inspired? Not necessarily. But now I’m actually able to do some stuff that I want to do by myself, some stuff that I just want to explore by myself, you know, stuff like that, because they were in these parameters. I keep on keeping on.”
Jobert: “NO. It’s hard to keep a straight face or a good mood when everything around you is chaos. But I believe that there’s beauty in it. I wouldn’t say that I was more inspired this time, but what I can say is I had more time for myself. I thought I knew myself before the pandemic but this global pandemic made me realize that I really don’t know myself. That helped me a lot. In every way. I can tell stories that are hard for me to tell before because I know my capabilities now. I can dance whatever I want to dance now because I understand my body already and what it can and can’t do. I had time to rethink my goals. My wants and needs. I became patient and most of all I learned to not be hard on myself whenever I make mistakes.”
Justin: “Yes, it is because we are stuck at home, more time for us to watch the digital world for more information and motivation for our dance.”
5. What are some common roadblocks you hit along the way?
Reflex: “Doing things by myself. Yeah. And I have to find a way around things, because like, one, if I want to shoot content or be creative, I have to find a way to do it by myself, because I don’t have anyone else in here who can move the camera or take shots like I would want them to. I’ve also been limited by the technical aspect, technical, meaning the gear that I have. I had to invest in getting my own camera because usually, I have a production team or some people helping me will all of that. Definitely, that’s a roadblock. But, you know, you got to find a way around it. So that’s what I’m trying to do, just be creative with whatever I can do.
Also, another roadblock is the venue and the setting. I got to find different ways to frame things here at home because it’s not totally safe to go out, even though with protocols, you never know what will happen.
In terms of creativity, roadblocks. Not really. I actually have a list of a lot of things I want to do. The problem right now is like how to get them done, like logistically. And of course, time, because in this pandemic, we’re all concerned with work and earnings. So as much as I can hustle and as much as I can also hop into certain work opportunities that would help financially. You got to be busy with that.”
Jobert: “Overthinking. As for me, I had an existential crisis. I thought to myself “Why do I want to train and improve my craft if things won’t be back to normal soon anyway?”. What’s the point of dancing? If make something today, then what? Those kinds of things. With everything happening during the pandemic, those kinds of thoughts can affect you physically and mentally. The way think determines the way you act, the way you act determines the way you feel, the way you feel determines the way you move. So it was really hard because I was always asking myself “When is this going to end?”.
Justin: “When I can’t think of the next move/combo… When I hit that bump, I stop and rest!”
6. Who are some of the choreographers you look up to right now? Why would you say you look up to them?
Reflex: “I’d say I like Lyle Beniga. I look up to Lyle because of his reputation since the early-mid 2000s when he became big. And now he’s true to what he does, but in terms of his creative work I don’t really look up to it in a way that affects my dance.
Locally, I could say I look up to Adam Alonzo. Not necessarily because of his choreography. Of course, his choreography is still pretty dope. But I like the fact that he explores a lot and he tries to evolve. So it’s more that I appreciate certain characteristics and traits that choreographers have in their creative process more than the content itself.
But not to say that I don’t appreciate and like the content that choreographers do or put out. I mean, there’s so much these days. Right? I find a lot in common with Chris Martin and Larkin Poynton, mainly because of the different street styles in our background.
That’s why when I was able to collaborate with them, battle, and session with them back in 2007 in Singapore, I just felt a lot of things in common like they used to Bboy, they do different styles, They like to explore. They like threads, which is what I do in breaking as well, which I learned from Dizzy.
If ever I look up to anyone, I would say as a dancer, I would say Cloud because of his creativity. But he’s not a choreographer, per se. Not in the same definition as you would take the others. I would say I look up to BBoy Dizzy mainly for his concepts and how he flips a lot of stuff especially when he was active.
Choreographer-wise, I like Frankie J. In terms of house dance, mainly because of his approach in house, not necessarily his dance itself, although he is pretty dope. But I like his approach in house.
I don’t usually fanboy over people apart from Cloud that one time that I met him. I don’t usually fanboy over them. It’s more like I analyze them like what they do, maybe it’s part of my competitive nature than healthy competitive nature to like get as many tools and see different things from analyzing flaws and strengths of all the dancers, choreographers, and whatnot, seeing things I like and I don’t like, because even with my favorite choreographers and dancers when I watch them. I also see some things like, OK, I like this dope, but I don’t like this, you know?
I guess I grew up in a different time compared to a lot of the generation these days.”
Jobert: “I would say Keone Madrid and other leaders outside of dance like Anthony Bourdain, Joaquin Phoenix, Tony Hawk, Michael Jordan, etc who acts as a bridge to their communities. Other than dancing they created another platform to showcase dance or whatever their expertise is and show it to other people. For example, dance into the theater, dance into movies, dance into cooking (yes I know someone who cooks while dancing and he’s a very good chef). I look up to these people because they always create a bridge.”
Justin: “Waydi, I really like his character when battling and the concepts that he throws during his rounds are crazy.”
7. Aside from dance, how do you keep yourself creative and basically cope with everything happening around us?
Reflex: “So aside from dance, I actually am very very outgoing in terms of other artistic and creative platforms. I like doing visual art. I like music. So in this time, to keep me creative and just to keep my creative juices flowing, I got into learning different stuff about video editing. I got back into my art. I started doing I started building stuff like cosplay just to keep myself creative. I started making vlogs. I started composing music, playing music again.
I also graduated in Fine Arts. Anything in terms of the creative venture, the artistic venture, creative platforms. I’m a go for it as well as anything in terms of movement. Lately, I’ve been thinking I’ve been trying to think of different ways I can get out and just play ball even by myself or find a way to maybe get like a boxing bag or sandbag and just box or, you know, do Muay Thai, just anything in those platforms. I just dive into them
Because I believe that the best way to feed your dance creatively is to also experience other creative platforms. I always say tell this to my students, you can always take a rest from dance. Right. But if you take a rest from dance and you come back to dance with the same taste in your mouth, it’s still not going to motivate you to dance. It’s still not going to feel right.
But if you take a break from dance, you go do other creative stuff, whether it’s like visual arts, music, even gaming. There’s still something creative about gaming, understanding what happens, online strategy games, things like that, and dive into other art forms. And then you come back to dance, you can come back with a different light, with different perspectives and whatnot.
It’s always good to just have that kind of flow and the stimuli with different creative fields.”
Jobert: “I watch a lot of movies, I cook, I write, etc basically everything that can inspire me, I do. Because you don’t have to technically dance every day. It doesn’t mean that if you don’t dance for a month, you don’t know how to dance anymore. You can’t unlearn something. So I do a lot of things that I think can translate into dance so the fire is still there. You also have to make ways to spice up your relationship with dance.”
Justin: “I like to watch. Films, short videos, or animes. Anything can be an inspiration and motivation if we put our mind into it.”
8. What’s the best advice you could give to other dancers in the community with regards to staying creative during this pandemic?
Reflex: “Stay creative and find other platforms that you could express your creativity or that can stimulate you to be more creative in whatever angle and however angle.
Because if you can come back to dance or look at dance in a certain or in a different perspective or a different angle or a different light because you’re exposed to other creative platforms, then that’s going to help. It’s all about assessing and analyzing your dance, your movement, and asking the right questions.
It’s also good to doubt but doubt towards the intention of being progressive and learning. It’s like being a scientist, but artistically. that’s the best advice that I could give people. Explore. This is the best time to explore without going outside.
We have so much material online and content online that people can just like learn and educate themselves more creatively and try other disciplines and other aspects in the creative field so you can stay creative and dance as well. It could help stimulate creative juices for dance and movement.”
Jobert: “ALWAYS EVOLVE. JUST DO YOU WITHOUT HURTING ANYONE.”
Justin: “Just do you, take your time to know yourself and be patient. Everything will fall right into place”
Everyone has their own way of making their creative juices flow as well as pursuing and moving forward with their own crafts, but the best advice we could leave you guys with is: Be kind to yourself. We are, without a doubt, living in extraordinary times. Allow yourself the space and care that you require while we all figure out how to function in our new normal.