Choreography & Improv (Paradox Pair #44)

The "Thriller" zombie dance reminds us that tremendous results happen when we choreograph with others, setting the foundation for individuals improvisation.

Choreography & Improv (Paradox Pair #44)

To bring a product to market requires much coordination. It includes gathering requirements, designing the look and feel, building and implementing, setting the correct market price, and establishing a customer support process — and many other steps. It is not a solo task we can do in isolation or without consideration. Only through proper coordination can we avoid reduced quality, delays & cost overruns, and missed opportunities.

Fortunately, much of our work follows a script: receiving some requirements and working out the delivery details, for example. Completing our assigned tasks generates cognitive closure and a positive feeling of accomplishment. We appreciate the structure because it helps define our rules of engagement. We know, generally, what is expected of us and what we expect from others. We know when we need to deliver and when we will receive our required inputs too.

Dancers recognize this coordination as choreography. When properly sequenced and coordinated, dancers appear to be in sync with the rhythm of the music and each other. This is true in classical ballet as well as today's pop artists.

Arguably one of the best music videos of all time is Michael Jackson's "Thriller". Released in 1982, "Thriller" showcased the ground-breaking choreography of Michael Peters, who brought the iconic zombie dance to life.

Michael Jackson's "Thriller" music video

Yet Peters also knew that it is possible that dance routines can become to formulaic, too rigid and scripted, which then distracts from the intended expression.

“When you dance by the numbers you extract all emotions and sterilize the movement. You remove the dance from its inspiration, which is the music. What I love is the capability of a body to be free in the sense of street or social dancing and, at the same time, do something that is technically hard and tremendously disciplined.”

This is true for our work too. What we seek is discipline in our actions, which includes coordination and sequencing with others — while also allowing freedom to express ourselves, to solve a challenge in a novel way. To draw upon another word from music, we want to allow for improvisation, yet within the rules of the choreographed steps we are following. A jazz soloist doesn't simply play any note at any time, she solos using the established key and rhythm of the song, ensuring that her unique expression fits within the structure the rest of the band is following.

We can express our creativity as long as we have established the tenets and expectations of the whole, trusting that once these guideposts are erected, our creativity will have space for our individual talents to solo.

See the whole series by using the Paradox Pairs Index