Thursday, 17 June 2010


After reading a post on this very good blog I got inspired to write about improvising.

Improvising is a very important thing to teach and a very hard one too. It's one of those things that you have to enjoy doing yourself before you can share it. You also have to be ready, as a teacher, to try and fail a few times before getting it right.
It is important for three main reasons:
-Because it is the best creative tool and it is the best way to create new material. When you find yourself doing the same choreographies year after year maybe it is time to improvise.
-Because it is accessible to everyone.
-Because it can be used for a wide variety of things.

First timers are usually the hardest ones to teach as there is so much for them to discover. You have to convince and reassure them as they will feel very vulnerable. There are two very important rules in improvising:
-no self censoring
-no judging (yourself or others)

Setting an improvisation task requires to have an aim. Concentrating on this aim you can then create any tasks. The most simple one being something like:
lets cross the room (giving a beginning and an end) but we have to stay on the floor (imagine the ceiling is 30cm high).
The aim here is to discover levels (the level of the ceiling can change as we cross the room). We can do the same thing with quality of movement or rhythm, etc.

The aim can be as simple as wanting people to dance. The great thing about improvising is that anyone (I really mean anyone) can do it, if they're willing to. You just have to find ways to make people move.
You can react to something (picture, theme, poem, colour, etc)
You can tell a story
You can place body parts in the space
The possibilities are endless. The only thing you require is an open mind and a bit of imagination.

Every time I lead a creative class with first timers I improvise with them. It helps them feel less self conscious . It is often very rewarding to see people discover how much they like it.

For pros, I concentrate more on how to challenge them. They are used to improvising and they need new tasks and ideas to explore. Most of the time the aims are the same only the process of discovery changes.

As a professional dancer myself, I have rarely worked with a choreographer that hasn't created through improvising. Most choreographers use improvising as a creative tool.
Some will teach you a phrase or combination and then ask you to personalise it. The exploration the dancer goes through, to change the phrase, is an improvisation.
Some will set a task with which you can play.
Some will film you improvising on music and then pick up the movements from the video.

Improvisation is a subject that could be discussed forever. So many books have been written by so many experts. It is worth having a look at them if you're a novice. I would love to chat and exchange ideas on improvisation (tasks, games, etc) so feel free to comment.

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