E|MERGE: Lessons in Collaboration and Staying True to Oneself


E|MERGE participant Mara Mayer began her E|MERGE journey this year in a collaborative pool to finish in the new experimental group - the solos. She tells her story of how the experience has taught her mulitple lessons regarding collaboration and herself...




Lessons in Collaboration and Staying True to Oneself



For my second stint at the two week E|merge residency here at Earthdance I tried to

prepare myself not to have any expectations. Attending a program full of creative people

and different styles of working two years in a row is bound to lead to drastically different

experiences. But last year I had a blast, and wanted to come back again for a second go!

As you may have guessed this year did not flow as easily as last year. In 2014 I worked

under a director and choreographer, Kensaku Shinohara, and produced a twenty minute

piece along with four other collaborators. In 2015 I decided to explore E|merge’s more

experimental group structure: the collaborative pool. In the collaborative pool there is no

director, or hierarchy of any kind for that matter. My group consisted of myself and three

collaborators, all with very diverse backgrounds, stories, and disciplines.


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Beautiful trees and sky and snow!



To make a long story short I will say that my group did not work. After week one we

decided to disband and go our separate ways. I am now part of an even more experimental

structure that is brand new at E|MERGE this year: the solo pool. More on that later.

Without going into too much detail, I’d like to write about what I learned from sharing this

process with my three collaborative pool colleagues in the first week:

1. In collaboration, the frame of mind and state of being one brings to the table is far

more important than more obvious factors such as artistic discipline, age, or even

prior friendship.

2. Some people like to work from the inside out (finding a theme or core of meaning

and then later adding structure and content). Others work from the outside in

(deciding on structure and content first, without worrying about a deeper meaning).

In collaboration it’s important to make these disctinctions early on and be able to

compromise in order to devise a group process. (Or find a creative way to delegate


3. Being friends with someone does not mean you should necessarily engage in artistic

collaboration with them.

4. Conversely, deciding you do not want to collaborate with someone does not mean

you can’t be friends!

5. Stay flexible. You never know when inspiration will strike or what form it might

take; follow your creative impulses through whenever possible. If you find a new

path, you need to walk down it to see where it leads.

6. Stay true to yourself: to what inspires you (or doesn’t), to what you share with

collaborators (or don’t), and to how long you pursue any project before changing


So, midway through the residency here I’m starting over in the solo pool, where I suddenly

have this awesome opportunity to work on my own project, (I’m a musician), with the

option to include creative contributions from members of other groups, or to offer my help to any of the other projects taking place at the residency.


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E|MERGE stokes my creative fire!


I’m so happy I came back to E|MERGE and had this [albiet strange but] super instructive

experience, and have gotten the opportunity to collaborate with amazing artists. It’s been

great to be part of this community that has been supportive in every way, especially going

through a transition from coming here to work in one context, and changing to a different

one. I highly recommend this residency for anyone interested in learning about creative

collaboration or interdisciplinary work.


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Let your spirit [animal] guide you

About the Artist:

Mara Mayer

Mara Mayer went to the Eastman School of Music where she earned her degree in clarinet performance. She now resides in Brooklyn, NY, where she is happy to learn more about different forms of music every day. Mara’s musical life is rich in bass clarinet, Balinese Gamelan, and performance art. She teaches private clarinet and bass clarinet lessons and curates a series of new and experimental music called Home Audio. She also studied Cognitive Science and teaches yoga in New York City.