Improvisation is my superpower...
Lauren Trim, Stopgap's Access Worker, dives deeper into her love for improvisation...
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[ID: A photo of Lauren dancing outside against a red-brick building with large windows. Lauren lunges forward, her back knee touching concrete floor. She throws her head back, releasing her arms upwards and leaning back with the motion. Lauren is white, her long red tipped hair flows loose as she dances. Lauren is wearing black skinny jeans, a chartreuse yellow vest, and white trainers.]
I love improvising, the freedom and fun involved in moving how I want to move really opens out my practice, I instantly feel more confident and intrigued by the creative task when I am given ownership of how my body wants to move in that exact moment.
Ever since a series of hip surgeries, I have always enjoyed improvisation as a way of finding movement patterns that work with and not against my body. I loved putting on a piece of music and finding ways to interact spontaneously with this in both a studio and performance setting.
However, it wasn’t until more recently that I really realised my hidden superpower… improvisation!
Now I know what you're thinking, maybe I just mean that I enjoy moving in my own way… well yes… but this is something more. Of course, I find pleasure through moving in ways that my body is comfortable, but this is something else. This is about creating a world where my imagination can expand and live out different realities through movement.
This can be through using music as a stimulus, creating a score to follow, setting physical tasks to undertake during an improvisation or setting seemingly impossible questions where only through movement, can I begin to articulate an answer.
[ID: Three dancers entangled during a contact improvisation. One of the dancers is Lauren, she leans into the other two, their heads close and faces focussed whilst they tune in through their bodies.]
I can become so lost in figuring things out through improvisation that time slips away, like a meditation, I am focused on the task in hand and nothing else. Almost as if I can create a whole universe in the studio, transforming the space I exist in to constantly feed my ever-changing interests, manipulating this universe through improvisation.
I get transported away from simply moving, to figuring out the score or task, with the people around me, a constant churning of new interests absorbs my attention to each new moment. If I become bored, I simply shift my interests by changing my thinking in relation to the task, challenging my approach and remembering that the choice is always in my hands to seek out new ways of approaching a task that prioritise my own interests and curiosity. I find pleasure in doing something with so much intention, effort, and precision, even though the outcome isn’t anything that can be measured or judged.
It is important for me to create a space where I can be curious and follow my interests to never feel conflicted. If I am uncertain, I have the power to change things up and create a new scenario that holds my interest in each new moment.
[ID: Lauren wraps her hands around another dancer, hugging them close to her.]
Dr Rachel Krische uses the phrase 'paying attention' in relation to improvisation and her research explores dance as an activity of thinking in movement. Her work had a big influence in my understanding of improvisation in relation to perception and attention, a way to understand improvisation as an embodied act of thinking.
Paying attention is at the root of my improvisation; connecting intention, perception, action and decision together; this is what creates the glue that ties my improvisation together. This type of perception is about realising each decision that is being made on some level and having a cognitive awareness of that process even if I am unable to explain that verbally, in the moment of action or after a performance.
Through this newfound perspective, improvisation has become so much more than just movement, it is an expression of who I am, and I am reminded about why I dance when I am moving in this way with so much freedom. So yes, in many ways improvisation really is my superpower, I just don’t always have to wear a cape!
Some resources that have shaped my thinking around improvisation are:
- The extensive work of Deborah Hay.
- The Motion Bank choreographic research project: Find out more by clicking here
- Dr Rachel Krische’s research and thesis entitled ‘Kinetic Thinking: Corporeal Cognition in Dance Practice and Performance’
- Tim Ingold’s 2011 Crossing Boarders talk ‘Materials, Movements and Lines’: www.independentdance.co.uk/programmepage/media/audio/
Images by Daniel Johnson Grey & Ciara Clayton