I've mentioned that improvisation is not that much different from choreographing. Aside from the added mystery and the unknown that improv holds, you take the same steps for both: choose a song, create an outline, assign movements to specific parts, practice like crazy. The only difference is that with improv, you don’t fill in all the blanks.
If you’re a fan of choreography, you may be asking yourself why is this relevant to you. Why should I practice improvisation, when I never use it?
I could list a whole bunch of reasons but the main one I’ll stick to for today is one that experienced performers understand very well: shit happens.
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had a choreographed piece of music and I’ve had to alter it on the spot because of a costume malfunction, stage mishap, lighting mistake, props having a mind of their own, etc. The list goes onnnn.
This isn’t meant to scare you one bit. The more it happens, the more you get used to the fact that you cannot control everything no matter how many hours you spend practicing. But for this very same reason you need to have other options to choose from when you’re on stage.
Planned on entering stage left and exiting stage right but there’s only one entrance and exit and it’s through the middle behind some dark curtains? No problem.
You planned on doing a Turkish drop but the stage is all sorts of messed up? You’ve got an alternative finale in mind that you can choose from.
Wanted to do a bunch of hair whips for the Khaleegy part but you slept wrong and your neck feels funny? You’ll still keep the khaleegy spirit and do some gentle chest lifts and head slides.
If anything, improvisation is meant to save your ass when shit goes down, and believe me, it will go down.
Again, this isn’t meant to scare you from ever performing on stage. Most likely the thing that you are most scared of happening probably won’t happen. And if it does, you are more than equipped to deal with it. Improvisation is just a tool to help you relax into performing at your best while on stage, even when it feels like you don’t have it all figured it out. And even if you are a fan of choreographing versus improv, then there’s nothing wrong with that either. Just know that it’s great to be well versed in both and they both complement each other beautifully, and not just for when chaos ensues.
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