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The Moment Of Movement

The Moment Of Movement: Dance Improvisation

Lynne Anne Blom
L. Tarin Chaplin
Copyright Date: 1988
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    The Moment Of Movement
    Book Description:

    Dance improvisation, the intriguing phenomenon of the creative process alive in the moving body, exists powerfully, sublimely - lending insight, solving problems, allowing moments of transcendence, diversion, and delight. Flourishing especially since the postmodern movement of the 1960s, it has come into its own in the performing arts. While there are many books containing ideas for developing improvisations, few have tackled the difficult questions: "What is dance improvisation?" "How does it work?" or "What is its body of knowledge?"The Moment of Movementgoes beyond lists of improvisations and into the heart of improvising. As in their previous book,The Intimate Act of Choreography, the authors pursue both the philosophical and the practical. They begin by examining the creative process as it applies to movement and especially the kinesthetic way in which the body knows and uses movement. They answer the often unstated and pertinent questions of the novice; investigate the particular skills and traits needed by the leader; consider ways of working with specific populations; and provide challenging material for advanced movers. They discuss the use of music, and the specific situation of improvisation in performance. For leaders who want to design their own improvisations, they trace the evolution of an idea into an actual content and structure. They also address the controversial issue of the legitimacy of improvisation in an academic curriculum. A final chapter presents hundreds of improvs and improv ideas, grouped into units and cross-referenced.The Moment of Movementis not tied to any one point of view. The authors' presentation of a broad range of material is flexible enough for use by choreographers, directors, educators, and therapists. In its perceptive investigation of the experiential and conceptual aspects of dance improvisation, this book articulates the ephemeral.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7438-3
    Subjects: Performing Arts

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xii)

    Improvisation, which has always been a part of folk and theatrical dance, became more visible in the artistic community in the 1960s with postmodern dance, particularly in the work of Steve Paxton, Yvonne Rainer, Trisha Brown, and Anna Halprin. Its therapeutic value has brought it to the attention of psychotherapists, and lately it has even found a social niche, in gatherings for Contact Improvisation. This attention has resulted in a renewed interest in, and respectability for, improvisation in the academic setting.

    Little has been written about improv,¹ in part because it is so elusive. Not only is it ephemeral, but...

  2. 1 Movement, the Foundation of Dance Improvisation
    (pp. 3-15)

    The varieties of human movement are legion: reflexes, gestures, accommodating maneuvers, posturings, precise complex articulations, random actions, and practical and aesthetic patterns. Sometimes movements are displayed openly (a hug or a salute); sometimes they are hidden or so minimal as to be only internally identifiable (a jumping inside your stomach). All of them can be, and have been, analyzed in terms of space, time, and energy. Together these elements differentiate one movement from another and give each a unique identity. Depending on the nature of the movement one element may predominate, but the others always contribute by supporting and refining...

  3. 2 The Experiential Body of Knowledge
    (pp. 16-27)

    Some things that we know with great certainty cannot be communicated to anyone else—except by striking the proper piano key or offering up the ripe avocado for the tasting. Words fail, and without benefit of the experience itself, the would-be learner remains in total ignorance. The reason is as simple as it is frustrating: the senses are not verbal. We could say they are a-verbal, being neither pre- nor post-verbal. Movement improv, being an activity related to the senses, is also a-verbal, and the knowledge it carries can therefore only be learned and known through experience.

    Direct experience builds...

  4. 3 Beginners’ Questions
    (pp. 28-48)

    Why are we doing this?

    People improvise for many reasons: to enjoy movement for its own sake (for its quality, rhythm, shape, and patterns); to warm up the body, energize it, and release tensions which come from inhibitions; to make personal, emotional, and psychological self-discoveries; to gain a fuller sense and use of the body; to explore another form of communication and expression; to be a part of a group, transcending self; to develop performance skills. To improvise is to dance without the pressure (and yet with the option) of imitating someone else’s movement, style, ideas, or impulses. To improvise...

  5. 4 Creating a Conducive Environment
    (pp. 49-56)

    Improv, as an embodiment of the creative process, needs the proper environment in which to flourish, one that engenders trust, openness, readiness, drive, and passion. Creativity can’t be forced to happen, but it can be encouraged and motivated.

    Creating a climate conducive to successful improvisation is heavily dependent on the skill, wisdom, and imagination of the leader. Yet the delicate, ever-changing, and unpredictable subtleties of improv make it impossible to say, “Do this and not that.” There is a gray area where knowledge, spontaneity, personality, and process intertwine, calling for a unique response each time. Within this area the leader...

  6. 5 Leaders’ Concerns
    (pp. 57-84)

    Am I responsible for warm-ups?

    Yes, if an improv session has not been preceded by physical exercise for all members of the group, you must take it upon yourself to provide a warm-up. Some good ideas include: improvised non-repetitive stretching (which allows for accommodation to needs of the moment), a repetitive ritual movement sequence (which you or they specifically design), or an initial improv structure (perhaps as the introduction to your first improv). Another possibility is pedestrian movement; simple walking, swaying, and running are all ways of breaking inertia and putting the body in motion. The body’s relation to gravity...

  7. 6 Formats
    (pp. 85-88)

    Following are the four most widely used formats used by leaders in presenting improvisations; each has its own particular advantages.

    In this format, instructions are given throughout the improv. At first the leader only says enough to get people started: initial awareness, focusing, and movement guidelines. As the movement progresses, the leader sees what is happening and accommodates his next instructions accordingly. It is important to keep the movement going while new directions are being inserted. At first, people unused to this method may stop each time you speak. A gentle reminder to “keep moving as I talk and incorporate...

  8. 7 Music
    (pp. 89-95)

    Music and dance are sister arts; both are temporal, relying heavily on phrasing, rhythm, and form. Having co-existed for a long time, there has been much cross fertilization. Most dance is performed to music, and many musical compositions were written specifically for dancing—allemande, waltz, disco, ballets—or to meet the specifications of individual choreographers.

    Improvisation is done both with and without music and there are good reasons for either choice. Those leaders who automatically use music as background or stimulus for improvisation often cite its motivational aspects and rhythms. They are excited by the images which music can foster,...

  9. 8 Create Your Own Improv
    (pp. 96-105)

    How is an improv built? How do you go from your initial idea, or goal, to presenting an improv that fulfills it? How do you capture your idea in words and build a structure which will incorporate it?

    The process of developing instructions for an improv is similar, in part, to what happens when an experienced mover responds in an improv. Intuitive and physical responses serve the organizing and refining drive of our aesthetic sensibility which edits and shapes both the process and the product.

    Basically the route traveled during an improv is:

    Words(instructions) act as triggers to the...

  10. 9 Advanced Challenges
    (pp. 106-118)

    When experienced improvisers have worked together for a long time, they develop an intimacy and cohesiveness which allows a richer exploration than is possible for beginners or even for a new group of skilled improvisers. However, along with their more sophisticated ways of dealing with the material, they may have also developed a fairly regular pattern or consistency of approach. This is as it should be, but then comes a time to redefine goals and move on to more complex issues. This process of continued growth should be as challenging for the leader as it is for the participants.


  11. 10 In Performance
    (pp. 119-124)

    The use of improv in performance is an intriguing yet precarious undertaking. It is chancy; all the things you not only forgive but cherish in an improv, because you are emphasizing the process, are not necessarily the same things that satisfy a paying audience in a theatrical setting. Yet superbly done, by masters of the art, there is nothing quite like it. Improv definitely does have its place in performance.

    Why would anyone want to take part in, or watch, an improv performance? Even with experienced movers there is a risk; but the recognized gamble is itself part of the...

  12. 11 Special Situations
    (pp. 125-131)

    Ironically, improv’s many options and freedoms create a double-edged sword. The opportunities it provides for expression can also allow for the indulgence of self and the exaggeration of idiosyncracies. This can become a behavioral problem that affects the learning and creative experience. It is your responsibility as leader to deal with that behavior in order to nurture a supportive environment for all present.

    The first and most important thing to remember is to treat everyone with respect as an individual. Usually their behavioral problems have nothing to do with the class but are manifestations of chronic personality quirks or a...

  13. 12 Specific Populations
    (pp. 132-153)

    As leaders of improv we sometimes find opportunities to work with populations other than the ones we are accustomed to. Can we get a third grade class to improvise? What would we do with a group of people in wheelchairs? Should we try? Though we are specialists in dance improv, do we know enough about these people to make our knowledge beneficial to them in their particular situations? Will we be useless or, even worse, harmful? What can we do that will interest them and how can we present it in an appropriate way?

    Before we consider these questions it...

  14. 13 Academic Issues
    (pp. 154-158)

    One of the constant battles we face in higher education is making the study of dance academically respectable. The belief of modern dancers that a dancer’s education should address the mind and creative faculties as well as the body has led to courses in dance notation and dance history. These courses have done wonders for our academic image. But realistically speaking, trying to convince the dean or the chair of the geology department, sitting on an academic review panel, that dance improvisation warrants any credit is another thing.

    How does improvisation fit into an academic dance curriculum? Should it be...

  15. 14 Sources
    (pp. 159-232)

    Now that we have looked at theactof improvisation, what of the content? What can a leader use as the basic sources for developing an improv? Posing such a question is like asking for a list of the names of the stars in the universe. The problem is (1) they don’t all have names; (2) they aren’t all known; (3) more are always in the process of being created. Yet we can establish certain units and categories and then show some examples of improvs which could be developed within those categories. A list prepared by someone else would undoubtedly...