Back in 2006 I went on a long trip of several months. When I got home, nothing had changed. Nothing. My little town was exactly the same as when I left. It was terrifying. I felt like I had never left, that none of things I had done really happened. I’ve since found that, for me, travel (and being home) is like this. Wherever I am is reality. Everything else is a dream.
It is strange. But it makes me a fairly adaptable person.
Our dance is adaptable, too.
Despite traveling all over the world, it is at home. Even though all these people from all these cultures overlay their own values on top of it, it is still there and still secure in itself. It is adaptable.
Through the dance, we become adaptable as well. Improvisation is all about adaptation. We make do with what we have, and we create new things out of odds and ends. I was a judge in a dance contest once. There was a section where we got to ask each dancer questions. Because all of the judges were old school dancers, we quietly gave higher marks for improvisation.
Then one gal (whose show was wonderful), when we asked about her music, explained that the music that she danced to wasn’t her music. Someone played the wrong music. She didn’t even know the song. But she thought it would be tacky to complain, so she just danced to it. (She won the contest.)
This is what an improv practice does—it allows us to dance to anything, any time.
Lately, I’m playing with taqsim. With live music, a taqsim is the ultimate in not knowing what will come next. But it is scary because of this, especially when there is little to no rhythm to help us carry along, no symmetry of verse/chorus to help us follow the structure. So here are two ideas that might help.
1. Do less
Just turning the head can have a lot of power. Just lifting the arm. Just taking one step. When simple movements are filled with intention, with energy, they become mesmerizing.
This is where we let the body lead. Let it unfold. The more we just go with what we feel, without any interference from the thinking mind, the easier the improv is.
Love the music, the guests, the process, the moment. Become a boundless well of compassion and joy. When we enjoy the music, the company, and our own movement, everything becomes glorious. The dance is not about the dancer. It is about shared joy.
Here’s a recent video.