The Artist’s Way – Imagery

You use imagery everyday of your life. Mental images are like the blueprints of your hopes and dreams and fears. Have you ever wondered what might be lurking below your feet while swimming in deep water? When you stand at the edge of a high cliff do you wish you could fly like a bird? Images trigger your imagination, and imagination is a very powerful force for driving either constructive or destructive actions.

What you image is what you become. It is easy to fall into the trap of being controlled by images that undermine your talent. If you constantly entertain negative attitude thoughts (NATS) you sabotage your abilities and, gradually, develop a poor self-image. Low self-esteem, a lack of confidence and repetitive failure are all a part of the negative imaging cycle. The trick is to consciously and deliberately turn your NATS into PATS (positive attitude thoughts).

An artist is someone who has trained their ‘imaging faculty’ to refine their craft. It is an art in itself. The creative and disciplined application of imagery is what distinguishes an artist from a ‘wannabe’. Imagination is allowed to soar, but it is always channelled by an active exercise of imagery. Any image begins as a mind picture that flickers in and out of your field of awareness. You have the front seat at an ever changing picture show in which you are the producer, the director and the actor. The key to mastering the full potential of imagery is to transfer the picture into a feeling. It then becomes an integral part of you and is an automatic response. You no longer have to think the image. You are the image. Technique and creative expression go hand in hand. Technique is the structure of imagery. Creative expression is the flower of imagination.

Great ballet teachers guide their students with clear word pictures that build the foundation and life of movement. These pictures, drawn from sense and emotional memories, are miraculous tools for the aspiring artist. Young students can feel the dynamics of dance and, thereby, progress in transcending the mechanics of technique. Although I studied hard and long on technique, it was the application of imagery that gave me permission to find my own reality and create my individual style. When your movements are real and authentic it helps the audience believe and embrace your performance.

I will continue to provide you with specific imagery for improving technique and artistic expression. In this overview of the subject, however, I am including a sample of general ‘thought prints’ to help stimulate your imagination. If you resonate with any of the following images, I recommend you put them on and wear them for awhile until they are embedded in your consciousness and can be expressed through your physicality. I have personally found this collection to be wonderful helper images:

  • Think of yourself as a river with the shape of a human body.
  • Imagine yourself standing amongst silky, soft curtains. Feel the curtains brush against your body.
  • The ground is alive.
  • Keep the movement flow going, like a thread going through a needle
  • Have a ghost leg, imagine you are still standing equally on your two legs.
  • Allow facial muscles to respond and become alive as a reaction to the music.
  • Imagine yourself in newness. Imagine you have never seen objects or people around you.
  • Visualisation is a way to power – If your arms are short, imagine them long. If your feet don’t point, imagine perfect feet. Think of yourself as having the power contained in Aladdin’s lamp!
  • Take a walk down the beach, imagine you can see 360 degrees behind you and dance as though you have eyes in the back of your head.
  • Sing with your feet.
  • Imagine the floor as a bed of hot coals.
  • Attack a pique before it attacks you.
  • Imagine a crown on your head,describe what it looks like, what colour gems. Think of wearing a beautiful Elizabeth Taylor style diamond necklace. How would you stand? Display your pride and honour.
  • Feel a helium balloon lifting you from the top of your head.
  • Get those blow dryers under each elbow when your arms are placed in seconde position.
  • Arms should come out of the back like wings.
  • Think up to go down and down to go up.
  • Push yourself tall.
  • Fill your body with a rainbow of colours. See them with your mind’s eye. Feel their vibrancy and allow the glow of colours to flow outward from your centre. With every movement feel them radiating outward.
  • Music flows through your body like electric currents.
  • Shape the space, sculpt it, form it.
  • Take your space and own it.
  • Build all rhythm into your muscles. Work the muscles in unity with the music.
  • In port de bras prepare from diaphragm and the back. Think of a bird’s wings.
  • The end of one step is motivation for the next.