by Dorit Guy-Jelinek and Nimrod Levin
On the eve of Sukkot (4 October, 2015), we met to plan and finalize the second phase of our moveinteraction project. Given time and space constraints, we met where Nimrod’s 90 year old grandma, Yaffa, lives. Although she promised to let us work, Yaffa often questioned us about our project and tried to understand what could a dance therapist and a neuroscientist possibly work on together, or even more so – why do we need to work together at all. About two weeks earlier in Freiburg (22 September, 2015), we met Steffi and Lisa to discuss some initial findings from the interviews we have each been conducting. The discussion soon escalated into a heated debate on whether segments of verbal therapy should be integrated into the weekly dance classes, in which the two of us (Dorit and Nimrod) almost bashed each other in front of what seemed like the shocked facial expressions of Steffi and Lisa. It seemed at that moment like we were on the verge of divorce. On our walk back from the Bernstein Center, we made sure that lines were not crossed and that despite the tone of exchange, mutual respect and willingness to collaborate were still in place. After the time we spent together since we met for the first time in this project, we realized that the question of collaboration has been constantly hovering above our moveinteraction project. As the main purpose of our recent visit to Freiburg was to formulate and establish new collaborations and in what we believe is an appropriate contribution to the blog, we have decided to devote our post to the topic of collaboration.
The challenges inherent to collaboration (or: why we hate working together). For us, a good starting point for a definition of collaboration would be “two or more individuals who are mutually responsible for a project”. Building on this definition, collaboration means you don’t always get what you want. You sometimes need to make compromises. Even if you think you know what the most efficient way to do something is, collaboration sometimes means you need to do it differently. Another annoying aspect of collaboration is that you sometimes feel you waste your time on explaining what you mean. We feel that communication is so vital for the success of a collaboration that you sometimes put more time into talking than doing just to avoid misunderstandings that can hurt the feelings one of the collaborators. Collaboration also means that you have to agree on all core issues. If one side vetoes an option, choosing it could basically mean the termination of the collaboration. Jealousy is often evident in our collaboration: it can take the form of the feeling that we are doing more than the other, but also that maybe we are being used or not as important to the other as we would like to be. And last and certainly for some not least, collaboration means you have to share the fruits of your labor with others (and yes, some collaborations collapse).
The merits of collaboration (or: why we love working together). Collaborations are full of (pleasant) surprises. When you are in an intensive collaboration you often find yourself reaching insights you wouldn’t reach alone. Moreover, some projects (like our moveinteraction project) would be impossible to realize without a collaborator. One additional extremely positive aspect of collaboration is that you can do more: you have more resources at your disposal, and you can sometimes allow yourself to be lazy, and the project will still progress. A very romantic aspect of collaboration is that it allows us each to bring to the table our strengths while having the other compensate for our weaknesses (although we don’t have any). Another great aspect of collaboration is that you have people that are invested in something you care about, that have a very intimate understanding of the project, and with whom you can discuss and receive valuable feedback that does not require a very lengthy and tiring explanation of the circumstances beforehand. And finally, a collaborator always strengthens your commitment to the project.
From our own experience, collaborations are very hard to create and maintain, and it seems that most people prefer to work alone or in a hierarchical structure. For us, this is rather disappointing. More than the productivity entailed, collaborations often lead to forming new friendships. Defining friendship seems a lot harder for us, but to take the risk, it is about two people who experience being in a meaningful relationship with one another. In the pursuit of well-being and meaning, ridiculed as both may be, we find this aspect of any collaboration to be the most fulfilling.
While some might get the impression that we think our moveinteraction collaboration includes only the two of us, we actually feel that it includes many more. Basically, anyone that has engaged in our project – a participant, a dancer, a scientist, and others that we met on different occasions to act within the scope of the project – is in his or her own special way a collaborator of the moveinteraction project. Thank you all for your willingness to engage with us during the past few months. Indeed, we would both like to end with our sincere appreciation for all of you who took the time to meet us during our last visit to Freiburg. We were touched by the overall heart-warming hospitality of our different hosts and partners in Freiburg. We would also like to thank the Minerva Stifung for their generous support. While time is a huge constraint these days, we hope to read short (or long) reactions to our post to push forward our Störung project.