Last week I went to a workshop about improvisation dance. My first dalliance with improv was in NZ, when we had 5 minutes of “play time”, where the teacher would put on music for the last 5 minutes of class to let us jam. It was so difficult. My mind would freeze, and I would default to doing almost nothing. However, despite how terrifying this is, improv is so important. You can forget choreography, the song you want to play doesn’t play, or if you’re dancing to live music, anything can happen.

The improv workshop that Sonya ran at Arabesque helped make things better. I still obviously have work to do with improv to get my game up, but it’s was quite helpful. Firstly, I must say I love these workshops, because they’re intimate groups of about 10-15 people. Sonya has us introduce ourselves and tell the group why we’re interested in the workshop. Since I see some of these people weekly, it’s nice to know their names.

After learning about our hopes with the workshops and other issues with improv, Sonya went over a lot of information. She created workshops for us to fill out in our spare time. They were about writing down moves we know, favorite moves, building combos, etc. Very useful stuff so that you’re not creating a dance out of nothing. This weekend or over the holiday, I plan on working on this. I think it’s going to help me remember and feel like I know something. For me, the hardest things about dance are remembering I know moves and combos; I usually default to a down figure eight or maya or make pretty shapes with my arms.

Sonya also went over popular rhythms in Middle Eastern music and explained how important it is to count or know the “1” in rhythms, so you know where you are in the music. Understanding and knowing the rhythms is important, because you know what it’s going to sound like. She also discussed moves that she liked to do with different instruments that are found in Middle Eastern music.

She ended the workshop with having us play with different music she selected and then discuss the issues that we found when we tried improv. That was surprisingly hard but got progressively easier. The key seemed to be some kind of familiarity. That little bit of practice helped get my mind working on improv and wanting to do it more.

I think this workshop was a great tool to help me grow as an improv dancer. Although I walked out of there having learned something, I still need to practice. One of the greatest points Sonya drives home is the idea of practice. I know I tend to see people and think they’re just born with some special talent and don’t practice. It seems like everyone believes strongly that the only way to truly develop yourself is through practice. I definitely will start including improv as part of my practice from now on.