Starting points for choreography, workshops and dance performance using dance improvisation exercises techniques
Contemporary dance often utilizes improvisation techniques to further develop performance, choreography, and workshop participation however, for many dancers, it is a skill that is hard to master. Leading and teaching dance improvisations can be a daunting task to even the most experienced dance practitioners however it is often the most simple idea that is the most effective. Improvisation is used for a number of purposes within the dance profession and is an important choreographic tool when creating work. Suggested below are some starting points for improvisations that may be used both in a professional context and educational community settings.
Stage Plot Setup
When you are planning for a dance improvisation you need to set up a stage plot. In order to provide a great show or concert experience, the look and feel of the stage are very important.
Technology has made everything simple for us including the stage plot setup. You can use this free stage plot tool and create your desired setup. You can easily create a perfect plot by just drag and drop. You can also share your plot with your team in different formats. A perfect stage plot will spice your dance performance up.
With a partner, fit facing each other in identical positions as if looking into a mirror and then close your eyes. Become aware of your body and its position, visualizing it from the outside. Envisage your partner opposite you in the same position. Slowly open your eyes but don’t look straight at your partner, instead look past them or down so that you are still aware of their presence, their movements but can not see them directly. Try to synchronize your breathing with your partner, don’t purposefully move but only move what needs to. Gradually start moving, making sure you move as your partner does. Those who are observing should see you and your partner move as one, doing exactly the same thing at the same time. Let the movement take over, noticing that neither person is leading the movement and letting it grow and become bigger. Find a way to bring the movement to an end. This improvisation can also be done standing up, letting the improvisation move around the space and interact with space and other pairs.
Corridor of Mirrors
Form two parallel lines facing each other. Establish a partner opposite you and begin to mirror them. Whilst moving you may pass in front or behind others in the line and move up and down the corridor. Make sure you are still mirroring your partner. You may now expand your movement in include interactions between the people standing next to you. Of course, any interaction must be mirrored by your partner’s interaction with their partner.
Blind Shapes and Contact Improvisation
Find a partner. One member of the pair must close their eyes, becoming ‘blind’ whilst the other creates a shape with their body. Using touch, the blind person must explore their partner’s shape until they feel they know enough information to create the shape themselves with their eyes closed. They then open their eyes to see how accurate they are. Repeat this several times, swapping roles. Develop this exercise by having the blind person explore using different parts of the body. This is a good exercise to develop body awareness with inexperienced, younger participants. Young people tend to be more self-conscious and shy away from physical contact. This exercise will help break down this barrier and encourage them to explore contact between their body and their partners.
Taking a Lead in Improvisation
Work in pairs and decide who is the leader. The leader uses one part of their body (for example, an elbow) to lead another part of their partner’s body (such as a hip). The follower must try to stay a couple of feet away. The leader doesn’t only determine the movement of the follower but their timing and dynamics. The leader has the option to switch body parts by giving a simple verbal cue such as ‘your ear follows my elbow’. The leader must then find a way to end the improvisation by getting the follower in a specific position and asking them to hold.
When delivering these improvisations it is important that the instructions for the above exercises are clear. This may mean that you will have to break them down even more than they are here to enable participants to understand and fully develop their exploration. If you are leading inexperienced dancers, it is also advisable to participate in the improvisation yourself. This will build confidence amongst the participants encouraging them to explore their own movement and will allow the less able people to copy you to gain initial ideas and enforce understanding.