MESS Magazine is pleased to present you this interview with American and British film choreographer, Artistic Director, Writer and limitlessly creative person, Litza Bixler!
Litza, we know that you started your dance career at the age of twelve, and at sixteen you’d already created a professional piece of choreography. What was your child dream and what brought you to the serious choreography at your teenage years?
As a child, I didn’t think much about the future, but I always enjoyed making things. I taught myself how to draw young, and loved making minature food out of clay. I also remember putting together dance pieces with my friend, Carole. I devoured books (not literally…) and I loved creating imaginary worlds. I was a physical kid and my dance teacher obviously saw something in me, since she encouraged me to create a piece of choreography for the local junior college. I lived in a small town. There wasn’t a lot of culture. So I think it was easy to get an audience! I had an unusual, idiosyncratic style of movement. But I was often injured and felt limited by my own body. Now I prefer to direct pieces on other performers or to work with other artistic forms. Today, I see myself as an artist, but also a story teller.
Can we speak a little bit about your university years? How was it? It is a case for creative and talented people to feel themselves out of the way during these years. Did you feel like university was trying to put you in some invisible borders or was it completely opposite?
I think University, both undergrad and postgrad, allowed me to discover myself as an artist; because I could explore lots of different media, and create work in a low-stakes environment where experimentation was encouraged. I’m not sure whether this imposed invisible borders on my work. As an artist, you are always creating within borders, whether they be cultural, personal, monetary, stylistic etc. For me, I’ve always moved between learning rules and breaking them, between imposing boundaries and shattering those boundaries. Still, I did feel the external pressure of what was selling in the art world at the time. High concept art was really popular, yet my artwork was quite illustrative. As a result, I gradually shifted my focus from visual art to costume design, then theatre, and eventually to choreography.
It seems like there is always a story behind your works, whether it’s a dance, or a piece of art or writing. Where all these stories come from? Imagination, inspiration, emotions?
I’m inspired by so much: memories, smells, experiences, emotions, and things I’ve read or seen. I like to keep myself open to lots of different stimuli. I’m also hyper aware of the world around me, light and shade, the minutiae of a scene, faces and the way bodies move. On rare occasions, a character or a concept for a story will just pop into my head, especially when I’m in a relaxed ‘soft focus’ state. I also get ideas from dreams.
For example, years ago, when I was really sick and suffering from a high fever, I had an incredibly lucid dream. I floated out of my body, through my bedroom window and up above the street. From that vantage point, I saw a line of black monsters chained to every single house. The painting I’m currently working on is based on that dream, but the tone is much lighter, and not nearly as scary. I suppose I’m preserving the memory, but also altering it by stripping away the fear. It’s called ‘The monsters always follow, but they’re really not that scary‘.
In general, I find that creative meditation is a very potent tool for discovering new ideas. This is when all of the things I’ve seen and experienced wiggle their way into my consciousness and become ideas. This is also the most effective space for problem solving. Whenever I’m facing a story problem in a screenplay or my novel, the solution will usually bubble up to the surface in the alpha state between sleep and awake. Usually at 5am!
If you could describe your life only by dance, painting or piece of writing, what would you choose?
It depends on the particular aspect of my life I want to describe. Is it a feeling, a moment, or a story I need to tell? Painting connects me to me to the essence of who I am. Whereas writing is a way to step out of my life and view it with some objectivity. And when I dance, I’m coming from a very raw and emotional place.
Could you please describe yourself in 4 words; one for dance, one for book, one for film, and one for the style of visual artwork?
Playful, visceral, transformative, magical.
Speaking about music and advertisement, we all know about your famous collaborations with Muse and Sophie Ellis Bextor, plus your choreography for Virgin Atlantic and the YSL Show. But do you have your favourite one? Or maybe the most memorable?
I think the YSL film came out really well, and I’m very fond of the Britic advert with the dancing puppet. It was such a fun and interesting experience and the final result always makes me smile. I still love the Muse video and I have a real soft spot for the Bluetones video I did with director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim, Hot Fuzz, The World’s End). It’s a tightly choreographed single steadicam shot with dancing kids, and an homage to Bugsy Malone.
What is the biggest passion in you life?
Playfulness and curiosity.
What helps you to overcome difficulties on a daily basis?
Staying present focused, meditating, knowing that everything changes, and talking problems through with other people.
What do you consider as your biggest achievement so far?
That I’ve been able to make a living from being creative.
What are the most important things on the way to find yourself? Could you please give some advice to our young readers?
Make sure you enjoy the process of creating something, not just the final product. Practice should be joyful, not a chore. Don’t be afraid to try something new and be disappointed with the end result. Every creative journey has its highs and lows. Keep curious. Keep learning. Keep experimenting. Find your tribe, even if it is only a tribe of one or two. And finally, nurture your relationships as well as yourself.
What we can expect from you in the future?:)
I recently completed a feature length musical screenplay and I’m developing a couple of other screenplay ideas. I’m also writing a novel. I continue to paint for my own pleasure, although some of these pieces (as prints) may eventually become available for purchase.