Free improvisation is associated with a subversive or rebel ideology, non-rules land, obliteration of limits, creation from scratch. But is it so? I believe this is more than an utopia is probably a long way to reach that mind and creative state a long personal travel that will go through the abandon of ourselves and the understanding of the procrastination and obsession of our inner nature.However in walking that path the use of “models” or “referents” or “cognitive objects” acting like pillars for the improvisation process can be a powerful tool to trigger the creativity. In this session one of the dancers put herself in a blind condition. A very susceptible and fragile condition for someone fully engaged in movement and space. What happened? the awareness increase exponentially (if such estimation could be calculated) forcing other senses to work more intensively. The group also put more attention in the interaction with the new blind actor. This was then something to explore: “the power of limits”. By imposing ourselves constraints or limitations we do not have to start with an empty white page. We have a condition that impose a mode of perceiving and playing.
This time we met at the sound-light studio of Teak, a space the group used already but new for me. During the first improvisation I felt that the space was another actor, a new performer between us, full of objects, stories, materials, equipment, very inspiring and challenging, another totally different rhythm compare with an empty dance-room. Probably was the space which drove us in a very iconic and cohesive improvisation with many aspects of stage design, involving light-projectors, cables, chains and other objects.
The main points that came out from the first improvisation were thoughts about the audience: Imaginary audience, expert audience, emotionally attached audience, members of the group as audience, non-informed audience, unexpected audience) This bring us in a territory where many beliefs and unexplainable facts are very common when performers talk spontaneously about performance. Until which degree an audience modify-activate a performance? how that influence is sensed by the performer? with which sense? the awareness of the audience limit or power the actions and the vocabulary of an improviser? Intuitively I could positively answer and explain those questions but imagining a way to submit to answers trough a critical thinking seems to me a quixotic enterprise, made difficult to study by the nature itself of improvisation. The uniqueness of each improvisation a fragment of time and space non repeatable. However, if we are a research group we should start to investigate those questions by designing experiments, performative situations and by critical analyses of our observations.
For example I am concerned with the idea of presence? which senses activate (thank you Rania for the word in this context) to track, read and understand the presence of the other performers and public? To isolate this issue in a conducted improvisation I propose to the group to play a duo dance-sound where the sound maker consciously eschew the visual contact with the dancer. He should start his improvisation when he “feels” the dancer has finnish his/her own.
Two things happen the accurate aural and hearing skills of the sound maker unwrap and reveal every single sound produce by the movement of the dancer. In a second try the dancer explicitly perform a non-sounding improvisation. This time the results are less obvious the improvisations melt and overlap.
So, the question of what senses do we use other than sight and hear brought us to a kinesthetic (Thank you James for that playful idea) improvisation.
But how do we communicate what our tactile senses are doing? Is it grotesque to attend a performance of tactile improvisation? Definitely I would like to investigate this issue more on the next sessions, for now I can conclude saying that this was an hilarious moment of theater.
The main point on today’s session was about the end of a performance, or in other words: differences in the understanding of endings. We got a large spectrum of opinions about where is the end, how to read an end, how to stop the performance, what “to end” means. For some the main point was the silence: a long silence can be understood as a clear call for an ending, for others there are no endings but perpetual new beginnings. There are probably as many kinds of ends as there are many kind of performances or performers. I tend to think that the main difference is not in the specific training in a discipline (however this should play an important role in the consciousness and management of the “objective” time and of the arcs of energy over a time axe) but is a context based issue: i.e. in a show with an audience and a predefined time frameworks the performers will read, interact, understand and resolve the performative tensions of the ends and the drops of energies, something else will happen in a private session extended over several hours and something else will happen with a directed improvisation with a goal or objective on mind. But I am aware this can be argue from several perspectives.
To apply the discussion in a practical improvisation Rania suggested a play-game-experiment where each of us will choose a role: “the one who is looking for endings” or “the one who is never ending” and then perform and improvisation.
Fantastic! many things happen, here some observations: when the ones who choose to end went really active and pushing the others to end, this brought a lot of action inside the performance and the improvisation was very powerful, when they decided to sit back and be absent the performance turn in a solo. A solo who was looking for team work, an almost desperate or comic solo who could go for ever but under the social pressure of those who were just observing (“passive performers of a neverending performance”).
I believe this has almost mystical implications: will the universe driven by the entropy end up as a frozen fragmented matter? will the heat bring everything in a big crunch? probably too far from this discussion.
Hannu also challenges us with a question: who are you when you improvise? a performative self? me? someone who I knows he knows me? are we being possess when improvising? I though about my different levels of consciousness, sometimes I am appolo, some others I am Marsyas, nevertheless I don’t like to be Alejandro on stage.
Another meeting of the group, this time at teak and with two dancers more.
I believe in starting the sessions with a free (non-rule, non-theme) improvisation. Without talking, without any instruction. Just jump on the pool and see what happen.
During the discussion following the first set, I feel people concerned with the tension between the conscious of the group and the playing alone, like parallel words that live the same time without interfering. For me, this question reveals different modes of interaction inside the group, but none of them is less valuable than others. The interpretation of two or more actions having place at the same time and for which the performers do not want to interact or communicate each other, take place in the audience. The one who listens and observes make different kinds of connections, lectures, interpretations in a very subjective exercise.
We talk about ends. In music a long silence can be the call for and end (but of course not necessarily) in dance the frozen movements are do not imply an end, the same for other studio practices. Then we have feel the strong challenge of reading the end on a multidisciplinary group. We should investigate more that concept from different perspectives.
I propose we play a second set about an object: “a piano” how do we improvise with our own particular skills when we share an object as a guiding theme or main idea or leitmotif? Some started from the piano, the holly object that make sounds but can be caressed, moved, questioned, erased, ignored… some of us after a while went to other stories and forgot the piano theme, some others could not ignore the strong presence of that big object. The piano was ideologically, conceptually and physically deconstruct, construct and explored.
This experiment show us a rich potential to be investigated. We talk about skills, what are the skills in improvisation, what are the values that help us to develop a critical regard concerning this discipline? a word came almost from everyone “commitment”.