Tuesday, June 16, 2015

How a Rising Tide Can Raise Your Creativity

“What is that?” asked the passerby.

“It’s tango – Argentine tango,” I replied. A couple of other gals were doing their mock version of the typical Fernando pose complete with invisible rose in their teeth that people associate with the dance.

“Really?” she marveled.

“On Wednesday night we have a dance near the Mission,” I explained, handing her a postcard flyer. “There’s a free dance lesson at 8 am and dancing ‘til midnight. Come on by.”

“Cool – I’ll check it out!” she said.

“Sorry about that,” I said turning back to my partner.

“That’s okay,” Deanna said. “Part of the job right?”

She was right, of course, but I’m not sure how it happened.

A Rising Tide Raises All Ships v3 – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires
(photo courtesy of Norm Davey)

Somehow what started off as a joke – a merry band of misfits calling ourselves “The Secret Tango Society” – became a movement.

Occasionally, we held these “hit and run” guerrilla milongas (long before flash mobs became popular) that were coordinated via email like some covert ops cells.

These were the start. Next came weekly tango events at a funky studio performance space ironically called Cellspace. That’s when things really took off. I quickly realized the need to organize and filed for 501(c)(3) non-profit status as an arts organization.

What started out as a hobby became my mission to promote this art form.

But how did this happen?


On long drives to job sites as a project manager for a IT consulting firm, I would rehearse moves from tango class in my mind.

Tango music itself was definitely an acquired taste. At first I found had a hard time relating to it. The complex antiquated music with its many layers was often too subtle for my untrained ear, – and sometimes hardly bearable due to the scratchiness of old recordings.

Occasionally, I would switch to more contemporary hits, and that’s when it hit me – what if we danced tango to modern music?

So pinging a few dancer friends, we conspired to meet on the weekend. Brainstorming on locations, we decided on spots that were public enough to attract attention but not so much that it would cause a “disturbance.”

We settled on the Palace of Fine Arts. While lovely it was wrapped in typical blustery cold San Francisco weather, and the gravel floors were less than ideal for pivoting. Strike one.

Next we decided to give Union Square a try. There were plenty of shoppers and tourist rushing to their destinations, but occasionally a few took notice. Although we experimented with a few other spots, this became the fallback spot for meeting.

Once we started having weekly dances, that’s when the “Old Guard” took notice. These folks believed that the purity of the dance was preserved by playing nothing newer than songs from the Golden Era in the 1940’s. To dance tango to covers of Metallica “Nothing Else Matters” or bluesy Norah Jones was considered sacrilege of the highest order.

But we were no longer just some upstart rag tag quirky anomaly. Slowly but surely our ranks swelled. Suddenly we were a force to be reckoned with.

‘You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.’ – Jim Rohn

Besides just having fun, our dancing improved as we became comfortable enough to both try out different sequences and share techniques. Soon we were the ones teaching beginners and helping them get started on their tango journey.

In Switch the Heath brothers talk about how cultivating a sense of identity leads to change. We were the misfits of the traditional tango world, but we were also the future of tango evolution.

Traditionally artists have influenced each other’s creativity. Movements like the Impressionists or modern artists like Dali and Picasso were born from mutual respect and admiration for each other while their contemporaries often regarded them with, well, contempt.

“Good artists copy, great artists steal.” – Pablo Picasso

The Heath brothers also talk about rallying the herd and how behavior is contagious. I knew that our little movement had come of age when one of the largest events in the country added a “alternative tango” event. (a term we coined for what we did) For more on mastering the dance of creativity..

Now in my work as a content marketer I am constantly finding ways that we influence each other. While we often think of more artistic fields as requiring creativity, but have you ever tried to come up with 1001 ways to sell bath and body products? Never mind struggling with writer’s block – it’s like finding a way to make sausage making interesting!

Recently, Mark and Philomena Timberlake shared how to repurpose content in a Google community of online educators I follow. They said that they had been inspired by Scott Scowcroft. Meanwhile, I shared this on another forum for content marketers.

Here’s a video of what I shared –

So, you see, there’s almost a neverending ripple effect of influencing each other. I definitely love connecting with positive, motivated creative entrepreneurs. Not only do I enjoy the connection but we’re constantly learning from each other.

Who’s in your inner circle of inspiration? How do they inspire your creativity?

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