Why Creative Collaboration Is Essential (for me, at least)

As an introvert and an intellectual, I spend a lot of time in my head. I mean, A LOT. My friends gently mock me by calling me a hermit (when they can get a hold of me, that is).

As an artist, I figure that solitude is just part of the package: in order to create, you need to establish your vision by spending time working on projects, ideas, and so on.

However, as a folklorist, I’m keenly aware that artists are always in dialogue with their cultures. The artists we tend to be interested in are tethered to culture even as they innovate within it, whereas in other disciplines, like musicology or art history, you might find a greater emphasis on the lone genius.

So while a lot of the art I make requires me to be alone to refine my technique and assemble ideas into whole pieces and performances, I relish the time I get to spend with other artists. Whether it’s teaching a dance class or attending a jam session, or simply talking about artistic concepts with people who work in different media, I’m glad for every opportunity to compare notes and hang out. This is also a major reason why I do a group improvisational form of dance (American Tribal Style®) in addition to performing as a soloist.

I know that some of this impulse is selfish, since, as noted above, I spend a lot of time working alone. Connecting with other people is sometimes difficult for me. Having art to facilitate the connection makes it easier; it’s less about me talking about my feelings than dancing them, and having someone to dance with and thus share in the conversation.

Part of it, doubtless, also has to do with how American society doesn’t generally value the arts these days. So simply being around other artists is affirming. It reinforces the existence of other people like me, who believe that it’s important to interpret human experience through creative media.

I’m curious about why other people choose to collaborate, too. Feel free to share your perspectives in the comments!


  1. Zhenna’s avatar

    I collaborate with other artists for two purposes: 1) fresh ideas/perspectives and 2) synergy. If I’m working on my art (which in most cases is dance) and I get stuck, sometimes throwing out what I have already to someone else gives me the feedback I need to move forward. Also, Stephen Covey talks about synergy as a collaboration concept and I experience this first hand at my job and in dance. A small group of brains can almost always come up with something better than each individual alone.

  2. jeana’s avatar

    That all makes a lot of sense to me. I frequently like to have another set of eyes for something I’m working on when it nears its final stages, whether an academic essay or a solo choreographed dance. I guess I’m finding that some of my pursuits are best done alone, with some introduction of others’ opinions near the end of the process, whereas there are other types of art/work that I really like to collaborate on from the beginning. Either way, it’s interesting to consider how the artistic or intellectual process can be shaped by others!


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