Meet the Artists- Olivia Shaffer

Photo Credit: Chris Randle

Oh man, creativity, the ability to make new things or think of new ideas.

How fitting it is to contemplate this when I’m in a process of trying to do just that. I struggle with the act of creating something rather than simply letting it unfold. I’m good at the later, really good, some might even say I’m blessed with an easygoing disposition. But when it comes to summoning something, I’m often at a loss. I’d rather let it find me.

That’s why improvisation has been my refuge as of late. I do it all the time – it’s how I get through day-to-day life! And with the added ingredients of a skilled body and a present mind, voila I’ve got the precise recipe to create movement-based art. Sure we bypass the craft of composition, but that fleeting, genuine moment can be as compelling as a well rehearsed dance piece.

I find it difficult to conjure images or memories. A couple years ago I was trying to find “imagination” lessons because I felt I had forgotten how to access that part of my brain. I hadn’t always been like this. As a child I would easily fabricate entire worlds around me. I was often pretending I was some animal or another. A hazy memory comes to mind… about 3 years old, in the forest with grandma, flapping my arms, running with wild abandon: “Look Mimi, I’m a butterfly!!” then trip, splat, face plant into a pile of horse crap.

It’s possible that with maturity my adult mind has become appeased with reality and as a result I don’t often feel motivated to escape. Nevertheless, it took me many years to get comfortable with my existence. Perhaps like most children, I was an existential child. I simply could not understand why I had been given the task of controlling a human life, having the responsibility of making choices and accepting all consequences. The weight of responsibility felt too much to handle.

That said, I find that creativity allows me to reconnect with my child self. As a playful child I always wanted someone to play make-believe or to get down and wrestle. I am relieved to again be spending much of my life doing just that, tumbling around a dance studio. After years of rigorous training in Cecchetti ballet, a degree in contemporary dance and an international quest for dance forms that inspire, I am often amazed that I’m still dancing. Luckily I’m still in the game because it allows me to retain my childhood delights.

Outside of my dance practice, I think creativity has ways of creeping into my day-to-day life. I grew up in a home where thrift and saving were esteemed and consequently I took up these traits myself. Somewhere along the way I unconsciously set these attributes as parameters in how I dress myself and how I compose my home. My creativity provokes me to develop a sense of style with the limitation of only using items that I have acquired at no or little cost. This is just one example in how I experience creativity, my subconscious mind interlacing with my intimate values and my relative existence.

I’m honoured and excited to be included in the Shooting Gallery Performance Series coming up in two weeks time. I look forward to sharing my interpretation of the complex process of art making.

Meet the Artists- Olivia Shaffer

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