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Questions: Performing Collaborative Movement Improv

by Ken Manheimer last modified Jan 14, 2017 03:22 PM
I do movement improv because I love doing it, not because I want others to watch me. That said, fantastic things that are worth seeing sometimes do happen. So, how can we arrange collaborative movement improv to foster those things, and not just for interesting moments but also as sustained performance, worth the audience's time and attention? Here are some questions I want to investigate, for this purpose.

I do movement improv because I love doing it, not because I want others to watch me doing it. That said, fantastic things sometimes happen, worth seeing. That presents some interesting questions:

  • How do you cultivate the interesting moments, so they happen when you're showing stuff?
  • How to you arrange the cultivation so you have a performance, not just a bunch of interesting moments?

Here are some specific questions I'd like to investigate towards these ends.

Improvising: Cooperate Via Mutual Agreement and Attunement Rather Than Constrictive Rules

  • Surprising coordination can happen when partners agree on and attune to ways of connecting.
    • What basic material is useful for the agreements, and what does it take to cultivate attunement?
  • Receptivity is essential. But it needs balance:
    • Being receptive to self to the exclusion of others yields disconnection and alienation.
    • Being receptive to others to the exclusion of receptivity to self yields a vacuous partner, and one not taking care of themselves.
    • How do we sustain receptivity to both self and others, without one precluding the other?

Can We Keep It Personal, but Not Just Personal?

  • In order to cooperate clearly, partners need to show up personally, be clear with themselves and each other.
    • Can we be personal without that taking over the performance, have ourselves be part of rather than the premise of the performance?
    • The performers are there to dance in ways that engages them, and the audience. It's still about dance, just not about pretending, so the pretending doesn't get in the way of connecting.

Build Arcs

  • How can we organize conditions so an arc happens?
    • Rather than forcing it.
  • Like the arc of a story, with gradual development, including peak(s) and conclusion.
    • Pronounced, engaging progression.
    • But not literal narrative. Organic response to conditions.

Dramatic, Not Theatrical

  • As with an arc, can we arrange conditions to provoke drama of dynamic contrast and connection?
    • Arising from mutual discovery, rather than prearranged actions?
  • By virtue of actually challenging the performers,
    • ... rather than pretending to be experiencing challenge / reverie / love / whatever.
    • Can we arrive at conditions that are demanding enough so that performers are fully engaged, intrigued, but not overwhelmed?
    • Like "Figure / Ground":
      • Only one pair dances fast at any moment, and the ones doing so need to relinquish that role, while the ones currently not doing so need to notice and take it up.
  • Can we arrange for situations that are punctuated with actual surprise/discovery?
    • Contrasting moments that stand out to varying degrees
    • For example, some fast, the rest slow ("Figure / Ground" above)
    • Order out of disorder (and vice versa):
      • How to arrange conditions for sudden synchrony from out of diversity?
      • E.g., conditions by which performers can mutually arrive at moments of sudden stillness, from out of a lot of motion
      • Conditions arranged so performers coalesce into flocking, from out of everyone having their own direction, and vice versa, back into everyone going their own direction.
      • Suddenly changing levels simultaneously and doing some shared activity
        • Like dropping and rolling to the front of the stage, to watch the empty stage
        • Cues, clues, triggers for agreements without any individual leading.
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