I am an Artist and… an Interview with John Michael Shert, dancer



This article originally appeared in Huffington Post

John Michael Shert began his career as a dancer with American Ballet Theatre and Alonzo King LINES Ballet and is now the Visiting Artist and Social Entrepreneur with the University of Chicago Booth School of business pursuing ideas around the creative process, as practiced by artists, and how it can be integrated into other sectors of our society.

Who are you? How do you self identify?

I am a dancer, artist for life, producer, business school professor, public speaker, and booking agent.

Working with Trey McIntyre, I built other skills which all became part of my identity. I realized my aptitude and added skills as an entrepreneur, booking agent, managing staff and board to my identity and to my title.

As I move through the world as an artist, I am clear about the skills that define what I am up to. I talk about what resonates, I have different versions of myself.

I have the ability to make something from something, to be a dancer and to become a business school professor and public speaker.

It is a creative process to make a life.

Tell me, what skills do you need to be both an artist and an administrator?

I had a series of mentors.

Alonzo King, a great American choreographer, taught me the creative process of being an artist, how to process the unknown constantly, listen, perceive and acknowledge the world around you.

To do this requires equal parts listening, telling and doing. To know is to accrue. We overvalue the product, the outcome. The means is more important than the end.

What are you working on now?

I am a business school professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

I am the executive producer of the Treefort Festival in Boise, Idaho.

I am a public speaker and a consultant on how to better understand the creative process, leadership, nonverbal body language.

Where can people follow your work?

In terms of reaching me, here is my email and Twitter handle:

Below are a number of links to past presentations I have given, my page at Chicago Booth, stories on the work I have done and a published piece in Dance/USA.

Lincoln Center Global Exchange
Chicago Booth
Financial Times
Talks at Google
Dance/USA — The national service organization for professional dance.
John Michael Schert becomes a Visiting Artist and Social Entrepreneur in Chicago – UNCSA


What advice do you have for people who make art and/or make art happen?


Pursue mastery. Perfect your craft, technique. Go deep.

Pursuing one life, one career is an old idea.

In the pursuit of mastery you find greater awareness of your process. When you are at the top of your game, think about how to transfer all of your creative process skills, systems, awareness to what’s next, the next adjacent possibility.

It may be risky and uncomfortable. It is a bell curve. When you reach the apex, let go and open yourself up to a new version of your life, your 2nd or 3rd career.

Pay attention. One version will end, one will begin.

Transfer all of your generalist, specialty skills, worldview and values.

I guarantee you have the wherewithal.

There are many careers you can take your creative process into.

For example, my interest in nonverbal, body language has value in other sectors. I teach body language and awareness building classes in the corporate and service industry, to law students.
I translate universal awarenesses. I coach entrepreneurial teams how to use body language to tell stories. In the corporate world I teach how unconscious signals are being perceived, how these skills can be of greater value.

935 of communication is verbal
7% use words
55% is body language

The dominant form of communication is through the body. This is not addressed in education.
By stating the vitality of the creative process we become more valuable. It is an emerging trend I see that when I go out to speak about this. It helps others understand, it triggers their awareness.

Sadly, artists are often saddled with expectations, they feel disenfranchised and like outsiders. Many millennials look at art as social change.

In the information economy, we can be our own agent and connect directly with our audiences. This affects what it means to be an artist.

Everyone has a creative process. We tend to focus on analytics, not the creative. It is better having an awareness of your creative process.

Artists are technicians and work in a way using a certain part of the brain. A better use of this part of the brain is to be in service to the community.

I feel fortunate to be a recognized professional dancer with the ABT. When I was there I wondered, “Is this it?” I realized there’s more.

Many dancers and artists look at the wrong metrics.

The creative process is a balance between process and outcome. The creative process encourages a greater tolerance for risk. A new identity allows you to iterate rapidly.
We are better off measuring the process, not the product.

As you work on your project, your project works upon you.

As you work on your worldview, your worldview works on you.
My world view is process over product.

There was a child drawing a picture.
“What are you drawing?” asked the teacher.
“I am drawing God,” said the child.
“No one knows what God looks like,” said the teacher.
“They are about to,” said the child.

Children are not encumbered about getting it right. You still need rigor, training, logic. You have to balance your perspectives, to make sure your intrinsic self is in touch and in balance with your extrinsic self.

The distance between these 2 selves, and between people is a story.

The creative process is like storytelling. The point is not to replicate a sequence of events but to trigger a sense of possibility and then figure out the shape of it, what could be, to trigger in another person an awareness.

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Hoong Yee


About the Author: Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer helps artists & creative people grow their careers with great grant writing strategies & mindsets she has developed over 15 years as an veteran grant panelist, grant maker & grant writer. Get her FREE Master Grant Strategy Worksheet and a weekly dose of insights from a grant reviewer’s point of view.

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