Roy Assaf and Hadar Younger in Six Years Later, Photo by Orna Kalgard

In The Studio: Roy Assaf On His Greatest Fears As a Choreographer

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.

Shlomi Bitton, Igal Furman and Roy Assaf in The Hill, Photo by Gadi Dagon

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.

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TaraMarie Perri in tree pose at Storm King Art Center. Photo by Sophie Kuller, Courtesy Perri

5 Self-Soothing Exercises You Can Do to Calm Your Anxiety

Physical stillness can be one of the hardest things to master in dance. But stillness in the bigger sense—like when your career and life are on hold—goes against every dancers' natural instincts.

"Dancers are less comfortable with stillness and change than most," says TaraMarie Perri, founder and director of Perri Institute for Mind and Body and Mind Body Dancer. "Through daily discipline, we are trained to move through space and are attracted to forward momentum. Simply put, dancers are far more comfortable when they have a sense of control over the movements and when life is 'in action.' "

To regain that sense of control, and soothe some of the anxiety most of us are feeling right now, it helps to do what we know best: Get back into our bodies. Certain movements and shapes can help ground us, calm our nervous system and bring us into the present.

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