As the sun beams into the beautiful John Cage & Merce Cunningham studio at the Baryshikov Arts Center, Roy Assaf and his dancers are exploding in the space preparing for their upcoming performance. The fact that Assaf grew up with no formal dance training would come as a surprise to anyone watching this rehearsal. Afterward, we sat down with Assaf to hear about his creative process and the fears he finds himself trying to overcome.
What do the initial stages of your creative process feel like?
The most important thing for me when entering the studio is overcoming the fear of creating. Because I am frightened each time I am coming to the studio. Frightened from not succeeding, not making a dance at all, or a good dance—a dance that I find good—or letting down the people who work with me. That they came into the studio with curiosity and then their curiosity went away somehow. After overcoming the fear, basically what I'm trying to do is create an environment where everybody feels secure and very much engaged.
What happens when you are creating and something isn't working?
We try something else. We try to find out why the idea doesn't work. I don't believe in good or bad ideas. I believe that there is the right timing and the right people attacking an idea from a specific angle. So, if you are not at the right timing to use this idea, or you do not have the right collaborators in the studio and you don't try from the right angle then you will not succeed. It has happened so many times that I had an idea and it didn't work. I left it aside and then half a year or a year later in a new process I used the same idea and suddenly I found it great and significant for the piece.
Roy Assaf Dance performs October 12 - 13 at the Baryshnikov Arts Center.