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  • Writer's pictureHannah Box

Faulty Cerebral Wiring & Rainbow Connections

I am just finishing up my tentative storyboard for my Artistic Project: a short dance film featuring some of my students and their choreography to the prompt “Ballet makes me feel ______, like _____.” This storyboard is tentative because until I know which kids are opting into the project, and how long it will take to film each element, I cannot prepare anything without the possibility of having to embrace a major change of plans. This part of any project often makes me feel like I am losing my mind - I mean, why should I even try to plan anything when it could all just fall apart!? The one element of the planning stage that reminds me that everything will (probably) be okay is the music. As soon as I have a solid choreographic or cinematic idea (and go through my checklist of body insecurity… but that was a previous blog post), the next choice I make is the music. It helps me to feel slightly grounded in the amorphous chaos that is a creative process that involves others - who, in this case, are preteen ballet dancers / budding choreographers.

Of course, music often evokes a strong emotion in its listener. As a choreographer, the emotion that a piece brings out is the first thing I consider when picking out music. For this film, I wanted an instrumental work that felt hopeful and joyful, without drawing focus away from the main event - my students’ choreography. These confines helped define my search - allowing me to sift through playlists for studying and picnics. From there, however, I used a very different sensation to make my final choice. I have synesthesia - meaning my senses are just a little bit cross-wired. When I hear a sound, I see a color. When I hear a collection of sounds - such as someone speaking in sentences or a piece of music - those colors begin to move.

As a child, I would get “sensory overload” very easily. I learned that when I felt overwhelmed, I could play some Mozart, flop on my loft bed, and watch the light show that would appear on my white ceiling to calm down. When I took ballet class, it felt like all of my senses connected - like I could almost push the colors around my vision as I moved to the piano music. As I’ve gotten older, my synesthesia has faded quite a bit. In young adulthood, I either have to close my eyes and focus on what I am hearing, or be affected in some way to see the sounds - for example, colors creep into my peripheral vision whenever I am feeling extreme emotions, am sleep-deprived, or have had a glass or two of wine. In a lot of ways, I am very happy with my constantly-reducing sensory feedback - it is a lot easier to drive, type on the computer, and have conversations in busy rooms when you are not getting visual information from the sounds around you. However, I hope I never lose my synesthesia completely as it is a wonderful artistic tool.

As I listened to potential scores for this film, I knew I wanted something that had a mostly yellow tone and that the colors stayed soft like sunbeams - not lightning bolts. When I found a ukulele instrumental cover of “The Rainbow Connection,” my vision behind my closed eyelids revealed small pools of yellow light creeping in from my peripheral vision, with each pluck of the ukulele tossing a small droplet of teal light into the center of my visual landscape. These droplets circulated around and through each other as I listened to the song, and I just knew that it would be perfect for the film. Not only did the colors look pleasing and evoke my desired emotion, but their movement gave me a rough idea for the spatial patterns of the film. I believe the students will act as the droplets and my camera will act as the pools of light - so everyone is moving and interacting with one another in the center of the room. I do not plan on exactly following my mind's spatial patterning, but I will use it as constant inspiration. I guess I won’t be sticking my tripod in the front of the room and calling it a day!

It is worth noting that the message of the lyrics in the original “The Rainbow Connection” adds to the loveliness of this song choice. I could write a whole other blog post about how a song that (in my opinion) is about opening yourself up to the magic around you and pursuing your dreams by connecting with other lovers and dreamers is a representation of what happens in a collaborative creative environment… but ultimately, I chose the song because I liked the colors it showed me. Synesthesia may seem outrageous to some, but it certainly makes some creative choices simple for me.

Maybe my synesthesia could be considered cheating, or a barrier from making more intellectual artistic choices. Instead, I choose to think of my synesthesia as an extra little connection - a rainbow connection if you will - that helps me feel a bit more magic as I create and experience art.

I am grateful for my faulty wiring.

This one just made me laugh. Source:

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