Guided Improv Performance
Updated: Jun 10
Back in May Dance Wire hosted a performance featuring our dance Ambassadors who are 10 of the most innovative and influential dancers in Portland, a cohort that rotates each year. This year Barbara Lima - the director of Ela Fala - is one of the Ambassadors.
Since I know her well and know she is up for a risk, I asked her and another Ela Fala dancer to perform a guided improv live at the show. We did do a practice run of various structures to see which would be best for this particular event. (Barbara is the dark haired one diving to the floor in the video thumbnail ;)
Structure Option 1 - *we didn't use this one
Since I know both these ladies are excellent at improv, my initial instinct was to go with a structure I have used in the past that helps get dancers out of their ruts. It involves giving prompts that are interesting though quite abstract to hopefully spark new ideas. Here are some examples of ones I tried on them:
Question the heroic approach
You can only make one dot at a time
Listen to the quiet voice
In our practice run some of these were brilliant, and some not interesting at all. But in the end we decided that the connection between the prompt and the action may not be visible enough for a general audience.
Structure Option 2 - *we didn't use this one either
Impulse, Develop, Transform, Shift. In this one, I asked them to start with a gesture and then turn it into a story. Here's how it might look. Say you start with a simple wave as your impulse gesture. Then you would need to develop that which could mean getting more excited as you wave or less excited or making it a "do I know you?" wave. Then it needs to transform. Maybe instead of waving with your hand, you transform the story so that now your hands are tied behind your back and you need to wave with your head or your foot. Finally a shift into a new impulse.
Structure Option 3 - this is the one we used!
In the end, we took what worked best of each of them. The dancers started with an opening gesture then I gave prompts which could range from direct to abstract. If I thought it was getting too slow, I would ask them to speed up their pace, if I wanted them to interact more with each other I would instruct them in a way that would achieve that. Be sure to watch with sound on so you hear the prompts they are responding to.
The good news is, the audience totally loved it! They were on the edge of their seats wondering what I would say next and what it would inspire the dancers to do.