6 Tips for Dancing Improv

Improvisation can be scary when you don’t know where to start. Here are 6 quick tips to help ease your worries and get you on the dance floor!


1. Know your Music

Improvisation takes a lot more practice and knowledge than most think. Luckily, this means you can take the scariness out of it by being prepared. Knowing your classics, drum rhythms, and the general progression of a beledi piece (just a few examples) will give you an idea of what comes next so you can let go and just dance.  This is especially helpful if you are dancing to live music! Find examples on YouTube and study how bands start and finish different songs.


2. Be Confident

Easier said than done, I know, but do you remember my post about “faking it until you become it”? The same applies for improvisation.  The most enjoyable dancers to watch are the ones that are enjoying themselves, so show us how much you love to dance!


3. Less is More

I always teach this to my students and I think it applies for choreographed pieces as well.  If you feel rushed then you will dance rushed, and the audience will tense up and feel anxious on your behalf.  When you’re practicing, try and take out a move and see how you can connect with the audience instead (videotaping yourself helps). The audience remembers how you made them feel, not how many moves you threw at them.


4. Make a Connection Between Your Body & Instrument

We do this without thinking but once we do it consciously, improvisation is easier.  When we hear percussive instruments, like the tabla, we usually do sharp hip movements.  When we hear a soft and flowy wind instrument, like a violin, we usually do something with our upper body or arms.  Try and study yourself and see what you do when a certain instrument starts playing. This doesn’t mean it’s a rule of life, try and be creative once you get more comfortable! But it helps to have some guidance in the beginning.


5. Practice & Drill

Yes, improvisation takes practice. Practice your musical knowledge and drill your technique.  Practice even a few combinations of steps and how to cover the stage.  The more you prepare, the more comfortable you will feel when it’s time to improvise.  But don’t get too stuck on perfection-it not only doesn’t exist but it can hold you back from enjoying yourself and expressing your joy for the dance.  Your technique is a piece of the puzzle in expressing your creativity and your feelings; it’s not the whole puzzle.


6. Create a General Outline of Your Performance

It helps to know how you will enter and exit and how you can interpret any accents.  Give yourself a few options, test them out beforehand and see which you prefer. If you can’t decide on just one, you don’t have to!  Keep them in the back of your mind and when it comes time to improvise, see what happens.  Again, stay calm and confident and enjoy yourself!


What other tips for improvisation do you have? Share in the comments below!