Repossessing Virtue: Chery Cutler on the Art and Practice of Improvisation
» download (mp3, 16:11)
Nancy Rosenbaum, Associate Producer
I love to dance. After spending my work week plugged into screens, headphones, and all things Microsoft Outlook, I seek spirit and solace in movement. Most Saturdays you’ll find me sweating it out at an African dance class in downtown Minneapolis.
In April I traveled to the Pacific Northwest to participate in a weekend-long improvisational dance workshop on Vashon Island, near Seattle. To call it a dance workshop is actually something of a misnomer. I and my fellow improvisers weren’t there to perfect our dance technique. Our charge was to learn to listen without fear — or put differently, to practice the art of “creative listening” which is to pay attention to whatever is happening in the present moment of an unscripted dance. I think that Jon Kabat-Zinn would give it a thumb’s up.
I was so jazzed by the experience of the workshop that a few days after I got back I decided to interview one of the facilitators, dance veteran Chery Cutler. In a book she co-authored, Creative Listening: Overcoming Fear in Life & Work, Chery describes creative listening as “learning to quiet fear and listen three-dimensionally — to one’s own inner voice, to others, and to the environment…”
Slight in stature but super-sized in spirit, Chery is now retired from Wesleyan University where she founded the dance department and worked as a professor for over three decades. She recently told me that past SOF guest Majora Carter took her class back in the day.
So much of what Chery says about improvisation and creative listening echoes the conversations we’ve been having as part of our Repossessing Virtue project. She calls this moment of economic collapse “an extremely exciting time” that has the potential to unleash creativity if we can just stop, listen, and resist the urge to willfully dance to the beat of our pesky fear-driven agendas.
We recently wrapped production on Living Differently, Beyond Economic Crisis — the latest installment in our Repossessing Virtue series. This program features the reflections of eight SOF listeners and scores of others online. Soon we’ll be posting more audio interviews to fatten the growing RV archive. I think this conversation with Chery makes for a nice addition to this growing chorus of voices. Let me know what you think.
[I’ve included a picture of my fellow creative listening improvisers here. As the lone Minnesota representative, I’m the only one wearing a coat — not quite fully trusting that it’s safe to venture outside without a down-filled garment. Chery is the one crouched in front, smiling broadly and wearing a black hoodie.]
YERT, Sustainability, and the Value of Beauty
Andy Dayton, Associate Web Producer
We recently had the folks from YERT visit to ask Krista a few questions about environmentalism and sustainability. YERT (an acronym for “Your Environmental Road Trip”) is an “eco-expedition to explore and personalize environmental sustainability.” Prompted by Trent and Colleen’s suggestion, I grabbed a video camera and headed up to get some footage of their interview with Krista, and asked them a few questions about their project.
You’ll see YERT’s Mark, Ben, and Erica talk about their mission, and a bit of Krista discussing what she learned from Majora Carter. You can also hear Krista’s conversation with Majora in our program "Discovering Where We Live: Reimagining Environmentalism."I definitely took something from YERT’s visit as well: Mark seemed to be pretty excited about vermicompost (he mentioned composting with worms a few times), so I did a little research and found some plans to make my own little worm farm. I took some time over Memorial Day weekend to set up the compost bin, now I’m just missing one (rather important) ingredient — anybody know where I can find some good worms?