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Group Improvisation Task

This is an excerpt from More Dance Improvisations by Justine Diane Reeve.

STRUGGLE

This task will help groups of four to five dancers create a short section of a dance piece from one motif idea. They must be warm so they can safely create interesting responses.

  1. Ask dancers to form groups of four to five.
  2. Ask them to briefly step or turn away from their groups in order to create something original.
  3. Prompt them to create their own solo motifs from these words:
    • ‘Struggle’: They could visualise being trapped or caught in something and trying to break free. They could imagine they’re mammals caught in plastic in the ocean, for example.
    • ‘Gasp’ or ‘breathe’: A short, sharp breath can add a high point or drama to the motif. Perhaps they’re under water and must quickly take another breath.
    • ‘Fall’: Dancers could fall with their whole bodies, one body part or several parts.
    • ‘Outside forces’: They can interpret this word in any way they think works within their motifs. They could move as if they’re being pushed down, pulled up, moved sideways or saved from whatever was making them struggle.
  4. Ask dancers to go back to their groups and share their phrases. They can help each other with timing and use dynamics to give their motifs a sense of flow. This could be called the ‘solo phrase’.
  5. Direct each dancer to choose one of their movements to teach the rest of the group so they can combine them to make a new phrase. They should make the movement happen on one count. This would be a sudden action in unison followed by three counts of stillness on a 4/4 bar. Music may help them perform the action on the first beat of the bar. To summarise, this phrase has a sharp movement, three counts of stillness, another sharp movement, more stillness and so on. This could be called the ‘unison phrase’.
  6. Ask them to set this to the music or counts and loop it so it’s never-ending. They can also decide on a formation. Standing in a line facing the audience can work well.
  7. They’ve now created a solo phrase and unison phrase. They can perform the unison phrase in a loop, in which each dancer comes out to perform their solo phrase and then rejoins the unison phrase in the correct place. They could decide to use chance or come up with an order together.
  8. Groups can share and perform for each other.

Dancers in a line perform their struggle moments from the unison phrase, whilst one performs their solo phrase in contrast.
Dancers in a line perform their struggle moments from the unison phrase, whilst one performs their solo phrase in contrast.

Teaching Tip

The sound score or music dancers choose will enhance their solo phrases, add dynamics and give clear counts to the unison phrase. You may need to give them ideas and feedback so they can create their own phrases with ease.

Further Development

Groups can develop both the unison and solo phrases so they travel round the stage space. Rather than being static and facing one direction in one formation, they can change where they are, where they’re facing and what formation they’re in.