Problem Making

I’ve written about how much I love the Gallim dance company in the past, so you know I was excited to attend a special sneak preview of their new work Fold Here at the permanent rehearsal space in Brooklyn.


It was a pretty intimate and informal affair. About 25-30 supporters sat in metal folding chairs that had been placed around the perimeter of the dance floor, which doubles as the main space for the Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew. Before the official program began, visitors were invited to watch the last few minutes of the company’s rehearsal.

I love this kind of “peek behind the curtain.” But, it’s funny… I have to say that watching the dancers rehearse didn’t feel all that different from watching a ticketed performance. Gallim is a gritty, raw, unfussy group of artists that are just as impactful dancing in torn sweatpants in a 150 year old church as they are in full makeup and costume at City Center.

Both the Executive Director and Dramaturge spoke a bit about the genesis of Fold Here and how it’s inspired by Cathedral, a short story by Raymond Carver. In the story, a man attempts to describe a cathedral to a blind man. The idea of this challenge was Creative Director Andrea Miller’s jumping off point for Fold Here.

This is Miller’s M.O. She describes herself as a “problem maker” and her dancers “problem solvers.” In solving the “problem,” dancers first create a vocabulary of dance and then work it all out with their choreography.  And, we, the audience, get to sit back and enjoy the solution.

I’ve been thinking about “problem making” quite a bit since that night, as it relates to both writing and life in general. It feels a lot like number 6 in Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Tips on How To Write a Good Short Story:

Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

Makes sense. No one cares about characters who have simple, easy lives. Stability doesn’t make a particularly interesting piece of fiction…or real life experience, for that matter.

Kind of a freeing way to think about our problems, right? Ok, so it is not universally applicable – some problems are LEGIT BAD. But, maybe some of our frustrations, restlessness, angst can push us towards new and beautiful solutions that we wouldn’t have discovered if things had been easier and happier.

Our problems can squeeze us and our creative output into new and interesting shapes…kind of like one of those Martha Stewart cookie guns.

cookie press

Question: Can you think of a perceived problem that eventually lead to something beautiful, interesting or tasty?

3 thoughts on “Problem Making

  1. I’m a big believer in what you’re saying here, Jenessa. Self-created problems (or self-imposed challenges) can lead to an understanding or a growth that is really rewarding at times! They can also lead to failure… but what’s wrong with that? Love reading your posts! They always make me think.

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