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Top Tips for Dance Improvisation

In this excerpt from More Dance Improvisations, you will find valuable insights that can benefit whether you’re a dance instructor or a student. Tips you will read in this piece will help enhance your approach to improvised dance with some highlights of essential aspects to maximize the benefits of a dance improvisation session.

Different improvisation methods can be used to compose dance pieces in many different ways. Dance students can start making movements that suit their style by doing anything that inspires or excites them. Allowing students the opportunity to explore their ideas without judgement and insisting that there’s no wrong movement is very important. The more time and space they’re given to explore moving this way, the more unique and innovative they’ll be. By exploring new improvisational tasks, students can develop movement ideas freely. The process of improvisation allows dancers to immerse themselves in the creative process. 

1. Warming Up and Safe Practice

Warming up through improvisation tasks allows dancers to begin a rehearsal with ideas transposed into their bodies. It’s a great way to get in tune without imposing steps, exercises and counts. They can spend time on areas that need extra attention and make sure they work through their whole bodies. Dancers must be able to safely explore and not push themselves until they’re warm enough.

Large, clear spaces are more suitable for warm-ups, such as a school halls, gyms or dance studios. It’s vital that dancers take part in a warm-up to raise their heart rate and address all the major muscle groups to help prevent injury. Dance teachers should also remember that it is important that warm-ups prepare students for the class ahead in a fun way.

Dancers will need to cool down at the end of practical explorations and improvisation classes. Cool-downs gradually lower the heart rate, stretch major muscle groups and bring focus to the end of the class. They also provide an opportunity to reflect on creative ideas. You could use the warm-up movements to cool down, but it’s important to slow the action down and then move into appropriate stretches.

Photo by Valerie Titova

2. Finding the Right Music

You might ask yourself many questions when trying to find the right music before starting an improvised dance session or class. “What should I look for in music for my choreographic work?”, “Am I looking for inspiration or something that works with movement ideas that I already have?” or “Am I looking for something that fits within a theme?” 

Music is a helpful tool that sets the tone in the studio, workshops and performances. Choosing music is an exciting process, but finding something appropriate can be challenging sometimes. Looking for music that will inspire the design of the movement or music that will complement what you already have in mind will make your dance improvisation much more beneficial. You can look for anything that appeals to you and makes you want to create, move and dance. Listen to every track and make note of the ones that inspire you. Next, you could try motifs or phrases you’ve created with each track you’ve marked. 

Photo by Maick Maciel

3. Listen Repeatedly Then Dance

When you choreograph to a piece of music, listening is crucial. While improvising, you’ll select and execute your choices in the moment instantly and your responses will be immediate. It’s a good idea to film and watch these responses because there may be moments you’d like to revisit. Musicality comes in many forms and there’s no right or wrong way to interpret. You may choose to choreograph to a track that challenges you. Listen to that track repeatedly. The better you know a piece of music, the more you’ll be able to shift around the dynamics of movement instead of always dancing on the beat. Trying to identify the instruments, making notes, drawing pictures and visualising the music might also help you shape your dance movements.

4. Experiment and Explore Speed

Slower music can give dancers and dance students more time to explore. Therefore, dance teachers can use this method by playing a slower music to inspire movements. You could also try a faster track to push creativity. Experimenting the movements with various music in different speed will force dancers to listen and develop their musicality skills. Being aware of specific qualities of the music, such as speed, emotion or intensity can reflect to a dancer’s movements.

Photo by Danielle Cerullo

5. Keep it Simple and Breathe

Dance students who concentrate on technical aspects of the class might not be as sensitive to qualities of the music. Dance teachers could assign simple exercises to their students and provide them enough time to listen and respond to the music. This can include discussing the music, asking questions to each other and exploring how the music makes them want to move, or asking them to reflect on movement changes after their discussions.

Another key point to mention is that music can encourage you to breathe correctly. It is also highly important to ask dancers not to hold their breaths throughout a piece. Try to relate their breathing to the musical patterns.

More Dance Improvisations

Adapted from:

More Dance Improvisations

Justine Reeve

Header photo by Andrea Palacios

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