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Get started providing dance improvisation experiences to your students


This is an excerpt from Dance Improvisations: Warm-Ups, Games and Choreographic Tasks by Justine Reeve.

 

Dance Improvisations includes step-by-step instructions to guide you through each dance improvisation. Although the improvisations in this book require no previous dance experience, a basic knowledge of dance is invaluable. Regular attendance at dance classes and workshops is helpful for anyone practicing dance improvisation.

A spirit of spontaneous creativity is essential to dance improvisation. Improvisation is like a quick conversation that demands immediate responses, or movement answers. To stay creative within that demand, dancers need to know that no movement answer is wrong. During the improvisation process, encourage dancers to freely explore their movement potential to create innovative dance pieces. Save aesthetic choices for a time later in the creative process, such as when you select the movements that worked well and refine the phrasing.

If you are new to teaching dance, keep in mind that you too can benefit from creative exploration. As you gain more experience you will get a feel for what types of tasks work best for each group of students. It is a good idea to record observations of your present experiences to help you make decisions about how to lead future ones. Encourage your dancers to learn from observation experience, too. Give them opportunities to perform their improvisations for each other and encourage them to observe recordings of their own individual and group performances of improvisations, structured improvisations and developed work. Seeing their work from another perspective is a great way to evaluate their skills and set personal goals.

Leading a dance improvisation requires effective communication with your dancers. During the movement exploration, speak clearly and loudly enough for the group to hear your commands. Between explorations or for complicated instructions, it is helpful to have the group stop moving and sit on the floor so that all dancers can focus and clearly understand your expectations. When talking to your dancers, remember to use positive language to foster the spirit of creative exploration.

All the improvisations in this book can work with small and large groups. Nevertheless, group size does affect the experience. For example, contact improvisation is more challenging and can become unsafe with a larger group. You may decide to use smaller groups for this type of exploration. If you slow the pace with a large group, you can safely make it part of the exploration to observe how group size affects the experience. If you have the luxury of setting your own group sizes, keep them between 10 and 20 dancers for optimal variety while still staying manageable. The size of the space is another factor in deciding group size. Be sure your dancers have enough room to move freely and safely.

The improvisations in this book do not include time limits. How long you spend on each exploration is a personal decision. Individual skill levels, relationships between dancers, ability to focus and other factors affect the duration. Sometimes groups produce interesting results when they have ample time to fully explore movements, and other times they run out of interesting ideas. Experience will teach you and your dancers what is the optimal time to spend on each exploration.

The tasks often refer to terms such as motifs, phrases or sequences. To help you remember these terms, the following list provides analogous terms in literature:

Motif Chapter title
Phrase Sentence
Sequence Paragraph
Section Chapter
Whole dance composition Whole book

 

 


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