Why Improvisation?


As a dancer, my first love was ballet. And my favourite part of the ballet class? Sometimes, the pianist would play a piece of music and we were allowed to skip and dance and run about. Basically, we could anything we liked. Later, as a teenager I was a member of Birmingham Youth Dance Company. Here, the teacher would lead us through guided improvisations. That was when I got hooked to dance. Of course I didn’t know it then, but that feeling of letting go, of presence, of creativity and of freedom, was going to stay with me for a long time.


There have been a number of people who have influenced me as an improviser. To name a few, during my training at LSC and later at LCDS I studied with Fuschia Peters, Fin Walker, Jovair Longo and Sue MacLennan. I have attended professional development opportunities with Katye Coe, Polly Hudson, Helen Poyner, Kerstin WellhoferLiz Agiss, Wendy Houstoun, Vangelis Legakis, Roberta Mosca and Pipaluk Supernova. I performed in REMAKE by Florence Peakeat Vivid Projects,  and was also lucky enough to perform in Pandemonium (Ludus Dance UK Tour, 2011), choreographed by Nigel Charnock.

I struggle quite a lot with self doubt (who doesn’t!) and find it can really get in the way when I’m given too much time to think. But when I am improvising I find moments where I can trust more readily. I find myself communicating and connecting in a different way. I don’t block or question my choices, and I get close to experiencing ‘flow’.

I love how improvisation is immediately a risk. Strangely, because there is obviously so much risk of failure, I stop worrying. The parameters for success are different. So, then I free myself and am less likely to ‘fail’. I am more able to listen to and follow my instincts.

I also absolutely love the non – verbal communication which occurs between dancers during improvisation. This is why I chose to dance with Dario Longombardo in this project. He works with sensitivity and awareness. He is passionate about authenticity and is a great listener, both aurally and physically. He asks questions that enable him to understand my approach, and generously offers his own dance and life experience to the process. We have spent extended periods dancing together in silence, beginning to build communication and learning how to understand each other without words. I’d say we communicate ‘energetically’ ….but that might make you stop reading….but it’s true!

The improvised element also allows us to be truly responsive to our audience each time we perform. Somehow the fact that the dance is improvised brings us closer together. The audience are invited to invest and almost participate more in the performance. We are in this together!

In this R and D project improvisation is particularly relevant because the central theme of Here We Are is ‘change’.  I’m finding it hard to keep up with the rate of change around us at the moment. Improvisation as a technique provides some useful coping strategies!

We have been using improvised dance to explore Playback Theatre during this R and D, but that needs a whole blog post of it’s own. Watch this space….

Special thanks to Polly Hudson for bringing her extensive experience of improvisation in to this process, by teaching our company class and offering creative tasks for us to explore.

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