Cinderella and Creativity

Creativity—where does it come from—where does it go?

When I saw the announcement of what was billed as “a new take on Cinderella” I couldn’t imagine what that might be. We all know the story—a motherless girl is confined to the kitchen where she cleans up and waits on her step mother and “ugly step-sisters”. A fairy godmother appears, dresses her in a beautiful gown and off she goes to the ball in a coach made out of a pumpkin with horses that transform from kitchen mice! She meets the prince, drops her glass slipper and after he searches the land for the women whose foot fits the slipper, they’re reunited and all live happily ever after (well, maybe not the stepmother and sisters but…)

So, imagine my delight when attending the San Francisco Ballet Company of Cinderella at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, I noticed that Christopher Wheeldon was co-producing this ballet. I’d seen a show about him and his amazing talents on CBS Sunday Morning a few months ago when he brought An American in Paris to Broadway . He’s a trained ballet dancer who now produces and choreographs shows.

This version of Cinderella was beyond magical! Rather than starting with Cinderella in the kitchen, sweeping the floor and looking sad, it began with her and her parents before her mother died. We saw her in a totally different light while watched her mother be buried and the sad little girl cling to her father in the cemetery under a small tree. And that tree becomes part of the story…

I remember seeing an interview with Stephen Spielberg’s mother where she was asked about what he was like growing up. She told a story about one time young Stephen put a can of cherry pie filling in the microwave to see what would happen AND she let him! When I heard this, I thought that most mothers would have grabbed that can out of his can before he could close the microwave door but she let it happen. If she did that, she probably let his imagination flow at other times too and we are all the better for it.

Most children have great imaginations. Watch them as they make up stories for their stuffed animals or while they create great battles with their toy soldiers. How wonderful it is to just let the ideas come into your head without having to stop and think if it’s right or even makes sense!

Do you remember being told to “color inside the lines”? This happens to most kids when they get to school—suddenly all the magic goes away. No longer can we have imaginary playmates or make up plays and force our families to watch over and over again. No, we have to put all that away and focus on real things! I ask you…why???

Back to Cinderella…in this version of the story there was no fairy godmother, no pumpkin coach, and no clock striking midnight to end the ball. There’s a tree that grows out of her mother’s grave which the producer says is “the deliverer of all things magic which I think is more poetic than a fairy godmother and quite beautiful.” Christopher Wheeldon’s imagination coupled with his amazing ballet talent has allowed him to create something so beautiful and memorable that I can’t stop thinking about it.

What ideas, processes, policies, or practices could you approach from a different perspective like Wheeldon did with Cinderella? What could happen if you allowed something different to happen? How do you encourage creativity in your workplace? Maybe a better question is DO YOU encourage creativity? Creativity has to not only be permitted, it has to be nurtured and I hope you allow your teams to bring new ideas and new ways of solving problems to your workplace! How do you reward creativity? Who knows what they may come up with if you just let them try!

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