It’s now past the middle of the semester, and we’ve covered a lot in Bebe Miller’s improvisation course. We’ve explored states and tone, ensemble work, contact improvisation, and even danced outside a couple times.
Yesterday’s class, though, was especially poignant to me. Bebe had asked us to come in with 5 “elements” we wanted to explore. Those might be states, scores, activities, whatever. My ideas were that I wanted to explore 1. effort and weight. 2. the ability to trust myself to take weight from other people 3. successful trio form (ie. not just a duet and a solo and then switch) 4. a compositional eye vs. an individual eye.
As luck would have it, we worked in trios! My group exchanged ideas and then were given some time to improvise and discuss what was happening along the way. My group discovered that each idea had a roughly 30 second life span, followed by a 15 second transition, and then a new 30 second idea. To counter this pattern, we played with purposefully trying to stick with one idea for a long time. Sometimes interesting things happened, and sometimes things got boring or weird.
What I love about improvisation is that all the elements of “real life” somehow work their way into the studio. Improvisation leads to some truly beautiful, breath-taking, and often risky moments, but it also leads to boredom, discomfort, and uncertainty.
My group experienced all of these things in our exploration, but our final iteration of it was largely successful. We enlivened the space, related to each other, lifted and supported our bodies, used detail and nuance, and also allowed new ideas to form without forgetting what had come before. In those exhilarating moments of improvisation, I have a sense of the hugeness of time, but can also be lost in one moment. It’s what makes me want to stick with this whole dance business.
My takeaways from yesterday’s class were mostly about the importance of trust, both within yourself and with your dancing partners, and it’s important to remember that trust takes time to develop. At times in the past two months I have felt frustrated by the lack of intimacy I feel in the class, but then I remember that I just moved here and just met everyone. It takes time to develop those types of relationships with others and that kind of awareness in ourselves. I don’t think the type of improvisation state I experienced yesterday would have been possible even a week earlier. Sometimes it’s frustrating to ride those experiences out, but we can actually relax and trust the form itself to get us there in the end, and in the right time.