Choreographer and dance educator Leslie Scates learned two important lessons about how to be creative from her mom: "I can always acquire new skills," Scates tells us. "[And] creativity and action are sometimes more important than a clean kitchen and folded laundry."
Scates says everyone in her family had their own means of expressing creativity; it was something her parents encouraged and modeled. "My family of origin also is a basic part of what I am and do. My mother is a pioneer. She became a small plane pilot in her forties. She painted, she learned woodworking, she gardens, and she fly fishes. I have five siblings that all are creatives, movers, thinkers of some kind. We were supported in sports, music and creative activities, assisted in mastering risky physical things - motorcycles, water skiing, skateboards, motocross bikes, jumping off of platforms on swings. And we were allowed to be weird. We were told to think for ourselves, follow instincts, and fight back if necessary."
It's no wonder Scates specializes "contact in improvisational" dance. "Contact Improvisation is a form of post modern dance that I study, practice and teach," she says. "It is an improvised dance, made by two or more people, by following points of physical contact between bodies inside the laws of physics. My description [it's] a blend of modern dance, wrestling and martial arts."
What she does: " I move. I make dances. I teach collaboration through improvised movement practices. My specialties are improvisational dance and performance, contact improvisation, Ensemble Thinking and Re/Wire/Dancing States. I teach dancers to think about what they are creating while they are dancing, and I teach ensembles to create spontaneous, cohesive choreography as a collective creative force.
"I teach individuals to notice habituated movement and choice making patterns. Then, through limiting movement options and compositional choices, fresh decisions are forced, new neural pathways are created, and a thinking dancer is now in the room.
"I teach ensembles of all kinds how to improvise collectively, without hierarchy, through a performance language called Ensemble Thinking. Training in Ensemble Thinking primes ensembles for spontaneous, dynamic and cohesive work using movement and visual processing. This work is essential to dancers and choreographers, but can be strategic training for all creative collectives: software developers, management groups, combat units, medical professionals, graphic and marketing designers, athletic teams...any ensemble that is collaborates and improvises in creating work or products can benefit from training in this active, cognitive and creative practice. It's a brain changer. And it's giant fun."
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Why she like it: "I like improvising with people, in performance, and teaching others to do the same because it is highly instinctual, physical, and interpersonal work. I like it because I am at my best dancing self working in immediate moments, building movement conversations based on instincts, supported by technique, discipline, and deep awareness. I like a little chaos and disorientation.
"I'm delighted by the unexpected. I also love order, unison and simplicity. This work is a container for all of those things. And when I am in an ensemble that is working in the zone...there is little else that feels so fucking perfect. It is being absolutely aware and present and awake.
"I have become skilled at being ultra focused and disciplined in the midst of chaos and ambiguity. All of these qualities I experience in improvising transfer directly to the rest of my life."
What inspires her: 'I am a little hyperactive. That helps. I enjoy non-verbal communication. It's as authentic as conversations get. It's brainy and emotional. I am inspired by people and the things we do to and with each other. I am inspired by physical exertion, precision and motion. I am inspired by patterns and repetition. I see all motion as choreographic possibilities. Unconscious movements inspire me.
"My son Ian is a constant inspiration source. He turns 20 this year. He is, by far, the person in my life that shows me the most intriguing music, film, books, art, artists, and comedians. He has an unusual aesthetic, and I am glad to be a person with which he shares his interests.
"I continue to research, teach and study improvisational dance and performance with Lower Left Dance Collective. They are the group of artists / dance makers / creative researchers that introduced me to Ensemble Thinking and Improvisational Performance work."
If not this, then what: "I love what I do. I am deeply satisfied with the life I have right now. The way I work and live allows me to say yes to projects and collaborations I am interested in, and to learn new skills when opportunities arise.
"[When I was young], I wanted to be a singer when I grew up. And I do sing. Sometimes, I sing really loudly in rehearsal. Recently, my favorite lyric to sing out loud in rehearsal was "I CAME IN LIKE A ... " and wait to see if anyone in the room would finish it.
"If I had to choose something else, I would live very near close to salt water and waves, surf a lot, write a lot in cursive, bake a lot of pastry, and work as an art/play therapist with kids that need a good grown up who knows how to help them let it out."
If not here, then where: "I like H-town. I am a native Houstonian, and I like being close to the Gulf of Mexico. If I had to choose another place...it would not be for work. [It would be] Hawaii. Tahiti. Fiji."
What's next: Scates has a full schedule for the next year or so. In July she'll be in Germany for two big events. There's the Live Legacy Project in Dusseldorf, Germany. That's an International Dance Symposium and Movement Intensives with master teachers Lisa Nelson and Deiter Heitkampm. And there's the Tanzfabrik Festival in Berlin. That's an international dance improvisation and contact festival where Scates will be a guest artist both teaching and performing with the Lower Left Performance Collective.
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In August she's off to Nicaragua for a surf vacation. When she comes back, she'll be getting ready for the 2014 Houston Fringe Festival with a collaborative choreography project with Erin Reck called NUT BOMB QUEER BAIT.
In the spring of 2014, Scates will be participating in a collaboration/exhibition between artist Janet Biggs, Blaffer Gallery Houston, and Scates' students from an improvisation class at the University of Houston.
More Creatives for 2014 (In order of most recently published; click here for the full page).
Denise O'Neal, producer, director, playwright Jason Poland, cartoonist Courtney Sandifer, filmmaker, actor, writer Lloyd Gite, gallery owner Henry Yau, The Children's Museum of Houston's publicity and promotions guru Angeli Pidcock, fantasy writer and mentor Jennifer Mathieu, author Scott Chitwood, writer Anat Ronen, urban artist Amber Galloway Gallego, rockstar and sign language interpreter Michael Weems, playwright Lane Montoya, artist Jordan Simpson, SLAM poet Joey & Jaime, designers Suzi Taylor, photographer Ashton Miyako, dressmaker T. Smith, artistLindsay Finnen, photographer Kaitlyn Stanley, tattoo artist Eleazar Galindo Navarro, video game maker Kate de Para, textile and clothing designer Shawn Swanner, video game painter Andy Gonzales, painter Chris Foreman, comic book sketcher Theresa DiMenno, photographer Jessica E. Jones, opera singer Atseko Factor, actor John Pluecker, writer, poet and language justice worker Ricky Ortiz, painter, tattoo artist Rabēa Ballin, artist David Wald, actor Lisa E. Harris, performing and visual artist Stephanie Todd Wong, executive director of Dance Source Houston Pamela Fagan Hutchins, novelist Heather Gordy, artist Mark Nasso, comic artist Shelbi-Nicole, artist Marian Szczepanski, novelist Jonathan Blake, fashion designer Doni Langlois, interior designer Kat Denson, dancer Blame the Comic, comedian Margaret Menchaca Alvarez, artist Jacquelyne Jay Boe, dancer Rene Fernandez, painter Teresa Chapman, choreographer and dancer