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What do I do when I improvise ?

Some thoughts about improvisation, and about the process // Quelques pensées à propos de l'improvisation et de la création : ------------------- What do I do when I improvise ?

My first answer would be that, for me, improvising is a different state of being. If I really go into an improvisation task, I can feel that a certain part of my brain disconnects, while an other part takes over. I know that reaching this state in which one truly improvizes takes time, at least for me. By experience, improvising starts with doing what one always does, and when this cannot go further, then « real » improvisation starts. Thinking about it, I realized that it’s pretty hard to define what I do when I improvise, since it depends a lot on the context or the task I have been given ; but I’ll try. For me it makes sense to divide impro into 2 parts : improvisation alone, and impro with others.


When I improvise alone, I try to play with the different layers that are, for me, always part of impro : space, time, and « body images ». Playing with time and space is pretty obvious, it means for me looking for possibilities within these two dimensions (what if I do the previous move much slower, what if I look for a place in the space where I didn’t dance today, etc. etc.). Everything else I play with falls into the category « body images » because I have no other word for it now. That’s a huge category : the flow of energy in my body, isolating body parts, clear pictures that come to me while I move, feelings that knowingly influence my dancing as well as those that influence it unknowingly, finding as much freedom as possible within my joints, associations that come while noticing bodily sensations during the dance, ... : all these are things I used to do when I improvise. Actually, this body images’ list is an almost endless list of tools.

Of course, all this happens in my head, but somehow I feel they are connected to the body, to the use of my body : that’s why I called them « body images » now. The point is to play with all those elements as much as possible, to mix them into a sequence that is the result of me being here and now (I stretched this « here and now » because for me improvisation has to do with an eternal present, a place where there is almost no past and future). If each elements of the body images’ list would be a single instrument in an orchestra, I, as the improviser, would be the conductor who is making music out of all those instruments.

With others

Improvising with others is somehow different for me : since I’m not alone, I feel I need to aknowledge the presence of the other performancers/dancers with me. Improvising with others is often more difficult, but also more interesting or rewarding than alone : just like in life. Basically, improvising with others I try to connect with them, in whatever possible way. It doesn’t mean that I forget all I do when I improvise alone, but making contact often becomes for me the main task. I look for contact to let new possibilities emerge : it doesn’t always happens, but I think it’s always worth trying. For instance when I enter the memory of Dima, I try to enter his world, I try to speak his language. Then I try to be myself in this world, speaking my thoughts with his movement language. I always try, while improvising with others, to see if we can set up a couple of rules that can lead or guide the impro ; and then, when they’re set, the point for me becomes playing with those rules and seeing how I/we can break them, overcome them, to let something new emerge. From that point of view, it’s really like a game : you try to build up rules on different scales (in the movement, the space, ...) in order to break these rules/ movements/ paths to see where this can take you.

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