Saturday, February 16, 2013

on collaboration and jazz

total rambling here, don't hold me to much, but there was an itch to talk about how relatively disparate ideas connect up in my head.  i don't know anyone playing with the same mishmash of public administration/policy classes and lindy hop background, so blog it is.

i'm not dancing much these days.  i have class on the local dance night, and by the time that gets out it's cold, i'm too tired and hungry to want to bike across town in the dark, and the local group's shifted just enough that it's not really mine right now.  doctoral program = just not up to the minimal level of involvement to make it more fun than chore.  (i'd call myself a shy extrovert, if that helps make sense of the energy balance equation... energy from being around people, but only once i've woven myself into the social fabric a bit.)  might be a while, but i imagine i'll get back to it eventually.

but i've been thinking about dancing.

and more about how dancers get an awful lot done, despite relying a lot on volunteers and flat organizational structures if any and so on.  i do understand that knoxville as it was when i was first learning lindy hop is sort of special -- so many people working with no monetary compensation, wide ownership of the community, a few key players but never the sort of centralized organizing you see most places -- and that i was a teensy bit too late to directly witness how they built that culture.  but it was up and working and amazing (and yes, i still miss it!).

and about how the improvisational elements of jazz bands and lindy hop work.  this jumped off from a comment in one of my textbooks talking about how organizations need to be able to operate to solve 21st century problems, "It could not succeed unless each of those programs supported the overall mission, much as different pieces of an orchestra combine to produce fine music--except that in the case [of complex programs], the orchestra plays without a conductor." (that's Don Kettl, by the way.)  hello, jazz.  well, yes, there are band leaders... but it still seems to me that the level of interdependence and individual player autonomy and the listening skills (even in dance we call it listening more often than watching, i think? because it's part of that back-and-forth lead-and-follow language when there's less full-out imperative, more mutual adjustment)... the skills it takes to make social dancing and improv playing work are really really connected to the stuff we talk about in completely different terms in my classes on org theory and collaboration.  even if it's a metaphorical connection and i haven't figured out AT ALL how to translate the necessary skill set back across.  just a bit of hope... humans can do amazing feats of spontaneous complex coordination and cooperation in music and dance, so why not as governments learning to face big problems?

(off-topic, but i've also been thinking about dancing because i'm playing in the school wind ensemble, BASSOON!  back in that classical setting with right answers and trying to learn to focus on coming in exactly on time... some of this is just lack of confidence from not playing for years, but i have to laugh at how strongly my follower brain really wants to work on the make-the-part-fit-with-the-others part of the puzzle instead of staying with the conductor.  i DO need both here, but there's some retraining work for appropriate relative emphasis and attention.  fun times.)