Mix and Match: Templates for Effortless Dance Improvisation

One of the biggest improv fears dancers have is what to do next?! We try memorizing–a stock of combinations, a few moves we can fall back on, our entire dance vocabulary—all so we can pick a move. In short, we try to think and remember while we dance. At the same time as we are trying to be fully in the moment, engage with the music, and, if performing, with the space and our guests. Yikes!

Yet the first rule of improv is DON’T THINK. 

So how do we resolve this dilemma?

One way is with templates.

Templates for coloring pictures
Blue, Lavender, and Gold are the template for this image.
What are templates?

Templates, in this context, are patterns of qualities. For example, one of the classic Oriental dance patterns is “Quick Quick Slow,” 

ANY move can be done quickly or slowly, from a walk to a hip drop to an undulation to an accent. Quick is relative to Slow. Slow is at least twice as long as quick (1, 2, 3-4). 

So far so good?

Template elements can be mixed and matched, sliced and diced….

For example, Quick Quick Slow could also be 

Slow Quick Quick. 

Or Quick quick quick quick Slllooowwwww….

or Slow, slow, quick quick quick

or Quick, slooowwwww. Quick, slooowwwww. 

And each time, Quick and Slow can be the same or different moves—whatever your body supplies in the moment. Quick could be shoulder accents and Slow could be a shoulder roll. Or a hip circle. A change in gaze direction. A traveling step. Or whatever comes out of your body. Because the only quality we’re looking at here is velocity. ANY move can fit the bill. 

It doesn’t even have to be a move! We can just express the qualities of quick and slow as we ooze around.

Within this simple structure, we have incredible freedom!

Templates are elastic and variable, just like our micro-movements, just like an Arabic orchestra will sometimes repeat a phrase or verse or passage of a song, or place them in a different order. As dancers, we have all the agency; we can do them as we please. 

We’ve been using Templates for the last month is Secret Stories. Gestural, directional, conceptual—the possibilities are amazing! What’s been really fun is establishing the template early in the class and then applying to various songs, various character elements, and all kinds of fun moving parts. 


What folks said about our free Mix and Match Class

“I just finished your recorded quick quick slow template class. It was Amazing! My body felt so good doing it! Thank you so much!”

“That exploration really opened up something new for me. That it really is powerful to just work with qualities, taking my time, owning the space, and not having to actually “dance”. I really enjoyed it. And when I watched you, Alia, I could totally see the power in it. It was compelling to watch”

“Feeling my individual dancing spirit free to shine through!💗 “

“Going more into your own pleasure and then bringing it out/sharing it with audience.”​

“I feel more confident about performing!”

“It reinforced the the value of trusting myself”

Our next FUN Class Deep Dive into Templates is happening! 

Each week, we’ll explore a different template. We’ll use it with different moves, different music, different attitudes. We’ll mix and match, and slice and dice until each template is a comfortable friend, so we can relax and enjoy improvisation. 

Mix and Match: Templates for Oriental Dance Improvisation

Tuesdays at 4pm EDT
Mix and Match runs 5 weeks, from April 26 through May 24. 
All sessions recorded (instructor view only). All recording available during the run of the series.

BOLD! Alia's Inspiring FUN Class
Our next FUN Class Deep Dive!

BOLD: Archetypes and Attitudes for Oriental Dance

Feel BOLD! style=width= In recent classes, we have explored movement templates--artistic limitations that increase creativity and simplify process. With templates, we don't have to think about moves--instead we have just a small palette of qualities to express, from quick or slow to walk or stay.

In BOLD, we go further.
Each week, we explore ways of being. Think of them as energetic somatic states, a BodySpace as opposed to a headspace ;). As we dance we will act As If we are, for example, fierce, tender, welcoming, passionate, strong, mysterious, BOLD--and so forth. We will literally EMBODY these qualities.

Science shows us that Behavior Creates Emotion. When you act As If you are cheerful, you will feel more cheerful. So we will engage these deeper, more tenderly-held aspects of ourselves. We will bring them to light, recognize them, and give them a safe space in which to blossom.

We'll use innovative movement cues, many inspired by Joe Williams' class Show and Tell, in which the dancer's attention is on showing specific areas of their body (for example, shoulder, or hand, or small of their back). This practice deliciously reinforces our BodySpace.

Now we can let go of steps! When we have an energetic state and a physical focus for our dance, we can allow our body to respond to the music with great relaxation. You will be surprised by just how freeing this feels!

What's special about this class?
BOLD is science-based. We are utilizing cutting-edge research to power our creative expression. It's new, it's different, and it's ancient, all at the same time. Acting As If we have special qualities is as old as the hills--modern science gives us the tools to leverage this ability and use it to create ourselves anew.

BOLD runs Tuesdays at 4pm EDT for five weeks, from June 14 through July 12, 2022. See this in your time zone (add to calendar button in link).

Each class is recorded (instructor view only). Each recording is available through the series.

Pay in Full $67
Pay Weekly $14/week for 5 weeks
Sliding Scale $7.50/week for 5 weeks
Pay What You Will. Open to All.
BIPOC, LGBTQ+, MENAHT and other marginalized groups are invited use this option

With love,

Recommended Posts

No comment yet, add your voice below!

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published.