Creative Collaborations hosted by Henry Shonerd, featuring Suki John as a Guest Speaker

Tuesday, January 10th at 9:00am Pacific Standard Time.

4th Session in the Seminar on Imagination & Creativity in Vygotsky’s Work. Contact Francine Smolucha  at  for the ZOOM link.

Creative acts whether in science or the arts are seldom the result of individual effort. More often they are the result of the creative collaboration of two or more people as in apprenticeships and  collaborative efforts among peers. In this session, we will explore this topic through the writings and life of Vera John-Steiner. In addition to readings, a video documenting the Sh’ma Project, hosted by Suki John (project director and choreographer) depicts, in dance, her mother’s resilience as a teen-ager in a Nazi concentration camp during WWII.


Dancing Never Again by Suki John.  Presented at Jews and Jewishness in the Dance World Conference at Arizona State University (2019); in response to sub-themes of Performing Trauma and Transformation or Dance, Community and Social Justice .

Foreword by Vera John-Steiner for a book Through a Narrow Window by Linney Wix (2010), featuring the drawings of children taught by Friedl Dicker-Brandeis in the Terezin Nazi concentration camp.

Creative Collaboration by Vera John-Steiner (2000), Oxford University Press.

To be notified of comments on this post and keep updated on the discussion, click the subscribe button below.

Notify of
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Dear Suki and all,

Thank you so much for this inspiring Coffe Hour! The Sh’ma presentation was very moving. I would love to see the whole ballet video.

Some references were put in the Zoom chat — but are invisible on this site. Could you please add them in a comment?

Some important questions arise for me that I have been grappling with for a long time. Someone else asked about the main question — how do you take an event, or a story, that was so powerfully disruptive in someone’s life and then transform this personal story in such a way as to become a powerful “perezhivanie” for someone else?

This is what art is about. And, of course, we all said — you need an artist on a team. Vygotsky, of course, studied art as his first and maybe also last project. The whole life.

But what is art? And what is its moving secret? Vera talked about creative collaborations. I think that the most important aspect of art, and probably the most invisible one, even for Vygotsky, is the relational aspect of art — its “addressivity” — in Bakhtinian terms.

I think I was moved, as well as a lot of you, too, because I felt that Suki’s art is directly speaking to me! It evoked memories of Veronka, and also it evoked memories of my mother, a Holocaust survivor, whose stories of her own survival have been formative for my development, too. And then, the music, composed by someone from my own local geographic area! The music and the rhythms felt like they were coming from the bottom of my stomach…

I am looking forward to the next coffee hour.

Thank you, Suki, Francine, Henry, and all!


Ana Marjanovic-Shane

Just for clarification in my previous comment:

When Vera’s ‘quoted’ Vygotsky on p. 26 of Notebooks of the Mind, Vygotsky is actually
quoting William Stern (1871-1938). A quote within a quote hence Vygotsky writing:
” That is, up to a certain stage, we can trace the pre-intellectual growth of the child’s speech and the pre-verbal growth of his intellect. It is only later that, in Stern’s words,
the two lines of development intersect (Norris Minick’s translation from 1987 (p.117) in Volume 1 of the Collected Works). Since I translated that same passage from the 1960 Russian publication, I can say that Minick’s translation is a more precise rendering of that passage than the translation Vera was working from (p. 49 of the 1962 translation of Thought and Language/unaltered in the 1986 translation p. 91].

It is a matter of clarification. Also Vera introduces the term ‘intertwining”, whereas Vygotsky had introduced the model of two intersecting circles. Both visual metaphors that we can
explore further {intertwining suggests braiding].

I am going to connect Vera John-Steiner’s writings with the important role of metaphor and gesture in our next two Sessions (February Cognitive Linguistics and in March Moral Imagination). The connection can be found in Vygotsky’s publication of 1929 titled
“The Genetic Roots of Thinking and Speech” – republished again in the Russian publication from 1934 of Thinking and Speech [familiar to many in the English translation known as Thought and Language from 1962 and1986].

My attention to detail provides precise references for scholars and students who are
not themselves translators.

In the “Genetic Roots of Thinking and Speech”, first published in 1929, Vygotsky suggested
visualizing verbal thought as the intersection of two circles. One circle being non-verbal thinking and the other being non-intellectual thought. He goes on to say that verbal thought
never encompasses all thought or all speech There remains a domain of non-verbal thought that could include dance, gesture, practical intelligence, and visual thinking. As well as, a domain of non-intellectual speech such as babbling or the rote memorization of a text without any semantic content.

However in Notebooks of the Mind, Vera did not include Vygotsky’s depiction of verbal thought as the intersection of two circles. Instead (1985, p.26), she quoted Vygotsky (who was actually quoting Stern) regarding the “”point where thought becomes verbal and speech rational””. Vera herself introduced the term intertwining (not a term actually used by Vygotsky in the Russian text). In our discussions, we can explore the nuances between “intertwining” versus “two intersecting circles” (as we discuss metaphors).

The most important point here is that in Vera’s discussions of dance and visual thinking she is arguing for recognition of the development of non-verbal thought. I would not take thought in this regard to be abstract thinking but rather non-verbal sensory-motor activity.

For reference: I tracked down Vera’s ‘quoting’ Vygotsky on p. 26 of Notebooks of the Mind to p. 49 of the 1962 translation of Thought and Language [unaltered in 1986 translation p. 91]. Norris Minick’s translation from 1987 (p.117) in Volume 1 of the Collected Works is similar. [Vera would have been using the 1962 English translation since Notebooks of the Mind was first copyrighted in 1985.]

Minick provided the best translation of Vygotsky’s model of the two intersecting circles from “The Genetic Roots of Thinking and Speech” (pp. 115-116 of Volume 1 of the Collected Works). I can say this because I translated that same passage using the Russian publication from 1960. [Minick’s translation can be compared with those found in Thought & Language (1962, p.47-48) and (1986, p. 88-89).]

Consider this an invitation to join us in planning our next sessions.

Beth Ferholt

Wow, thank you all, this is the direction I want CP to go: 
Connecting artists and scholars, past and future, bringing us through embodied emotion to action … and I am very grateful that between the three of you, Ivana and Francine and Henry, Suki came to present to us!
I feel a kinship between Suki’s work and Vera’s … both are, to me, widely welcoming through a sort of basic sense of common humanity, that welcomes non-experts.
My students are changed by reading Vera’s books, and I am not an expert in dance at all, but was changed today, as I spoke about in the meeting.
Thank you for this collaboration.
**Remember to go to the upper left corner of your comment window, where it says “subscribe”, and click to be notified of new comments to today’s talk.
**Remember to tell us here, or write myself and Ivana, if you see a way to make this form of talking easier for you — and we’ll work on the site.
**Perhaps, Francine, you could ask all who were in the meeting, ask them via email, to come to this page to discuss?

Welcome Back!

Login to your profile below

Create New Profile!

To join us, please fill out the form below.

Retrieve your password

Please enter your username or email address to reset your password.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x