What a special episode I have for you today. In it, I have a conversation with one of the most renowned choreographers in the world, Debra Brown, who was with Cirque du Soleil for three decades. Not only is she a creative force but she has become a good friend over the years as well. I jumped at the opportunity to bring her on the show and talk about the creative process and, in particular, to ask her about risk-taking and how to keep the flame going in our lives. 

One of the central challenges in life involves taking risks: leaving jobs, moving countries, starting new educational opportunities, or, in Debra’s case, working with the world’s top circus artists and dancers and helping create spectacles that dazzle the human heart and mind. The notion of dying in the creative process–leaving our old selves behind and relinquishing control–has always been close to my heart. It doesn’t simply occur in creativity, though. It is an essential metaphor and reality in our lives. We must practice dying over and over again to prepare ourselves for the real thing. 

What a treat then for Debra to open up about how this has functioned in her own creative process. To know Debra is to be in the presence of someone who floats. As you’ll hear in today’s interview, she has a grace about her when it comes to human development, friendship, and risk-taking that is soft, direct, and useful. Many of us need someone in our lives to say yes and to champion us when we are on the edge of something that makes us vulnerable where we cannot see where it will lead us. And as you’ll hear today, Debra has been that guiding angel for thousands of artists around the world, never mind the friends and colleagues that have crossed her path. You’ll also hear that Debra has rescued hundreds of animals from around the globe and brought them to safety on her beautiful farm in Ontario, Canada so her love knows no bounds.  

I don’t know that I’ve ever met anyone like Debra, someone that has an ease with which she shares a kind of joy and experience where people feel safe to be in their bodies and in the moment with her. This comes through in our conversation today so tune in to enjoy it.

Show Highlights:

  • How Debra got involved with Cirque du Soleil.
  • Whether she knew it would become the biggest circus company in the world.
  • How art and performing are tied in with emotions.
  • Debra’s relationship to the body and language.
  • Why she has never been afraid to risk being on the edge.
  • Why we need allies to take risks.
  • How our childhood trains and chisels us.
  • How Debra takes artists to places they’ve never been.
  • The particular challenge COVID-19 presented for artists.
  • How to reinvest in your creative life during this pandemic.
  • What Debra loves about working with people and their bodies.
  • When and why she started rescuing animals.

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Supporting Resources:

The Paper Canoe: A Guide to Theatre Anthropology: https://www.amazon.com/Paper-Canoe-Guide-Theatre-Anthropology/dp/0415116740


Mitchell Smolkin is a sought-after clinician, speaker, and author. For media and interview requests please contact his publicist Randy Phipps at randy@rpcommunications.net. For all other inquiries, please send mail to info@mitchellsmolkin.com.

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