Improv Like Nobody’s Watching

Except they totally were. Not only the advanced class girls, lined up agains the far wall and staring incedulously, but also my own classmates. And of course Frodo, the teensy substitute teacher whose moves filled up the room.

I have never done improv in class before. We would probably kill ourselves if we tried it in ballet, I haven’t been to modern long enough and Y. never asks us to improv in jazz, possibly to avoid having nightmares for weeks afterwards.

Frodo, on the other hand, loves improv. Whenever she substitutes Y., she always starts class with a free «walk around and do whatever» warm-up exercise. This time, to add insult to injury, she decided to conclude the lesson with some full-fledged improv. People went various shades of pale at the suggestion, but, as the Germans say, «close your eyes and get through it».

It started off innocently enough. The advanced class girls weren’t there yet, we were all dancing at the same time and Frodo all but forbade us to look in the mirror. She gave us four simple themes – soft, hard, slow and fast. For each theme, we would flail around dance for a couple of minutes and then she would ask us to pick a move that represented the theme and remember it.

It was very instructive.

First, when left to my own devices and denied the use of a mirror, I quickly turn into an air dancer. And no, I’m not referring to aerial acrobatics. I’m talking about these guys:


Which is to say I really like waving my arms around, although I also do a lot of pirouettes and will go for a random grand jeté occasionally.

The second thing I noticed was that absolutely everyone did some form of stop-motion robot dance when the theme was «hard». I have no idea what to make of this, so I’m filing it away unter «mildly interesting things only dorks care about».

The third insight was that it is much harder to dance in time with the music when you have never heard the piece before. (Duh.) I have a sneaking suspicion that Frodo was picking difficult tracks with constantly changing mood and speed on purpose.

The most educational part, however, came last. After we were done with the themes, Frodo told us to split into two groups and to incorporate all our four of our chosen moves repeatedly into further improv while the other group got to watch. The advanced class girls had begun to wander in, so they got to watch as well. At this point, one person just plain quit and left. I stayed and learned the most important lesson of that day:

I was enjoying myself.

I have absolutely no idea what I looked like. The only other more advanced girl in class was in the other group and she looked great to me. I don’t know how I compared, but I was still enjoying the dance. And if the people who were watching weren’t enjoying me dancing, well, there was nothing they could do about it.

One thought on “Improv Like Nobody’s Watching

  1. My flamenco teacher loves to give us improvisation exercises at the beginning of class. At first, everyone was somewhat scared, but now we got used to it and it does not seem to be such a big thing any more. However, even if flamenco may look like chaos to a ballet dancer, the “structure” of the music is very clear (once you have learned most of the rules, which might take years), so you will more or less know what is going to happen, even if you don’t know the music.

    Liked by 2 people

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