What: Music and dance improvisation workshop led by Mathilde improvisation collective introducing improvisation methods through simple games and tasks
Where: York St John University When: 13 March 2013 2-5 pm
Who: Workshop leaders Seth Bennett and Marie Andersen +
10 participants from dance, music and theatre courses at York St John's University
Combining dance and music is so obvious that one might be tempted to assume that bringing them together when improvising will be straightforward. This is not the case. Over the past four years we have in the Mathilde collective slowly developed tasks and structures through trial and error and many discussions to aid the fusion of the two disciplines. The uniqueness of the collective is that the musicians are equally integrated in to the performance space and that the dancers are part of the soundscape.
The purpose of this workshop was to introduce dance and music improvisation in a single form rather than in two separate ones to give the students an idea of how to work in an interdisciplinary way. Seth and myself, who were leading the workshop, had planned a workshop of scores (structured exercises), developed between the five Mathilde members, to take the students through different steps that lead to finding a common language.
This is a list of the scores and tasks we presented for the students:
'Voices'. All participants stand in a circle inhale together and in unison exhale with sound. Whatever note the body/voice finds. End of exhale repeat with the same note. Keep repeating this. For the second score we start making choices about which note to sing/exhale. Finally we start moving around the room with the same score, making choices in terms of proximity to surroundings and other participants.
Purpose: Warming up voice and warming up 'group dynamic' and learning to listen and respond where appropriate. Overcoming fear of sounding/looking silly.
Body warm-up. Walk around in the space weaving in and out between other participants. While constantly moving we fill out the whole space. Then we start using levels: we can sit, lie, walk and run, and introduce pausing and different speeds. Then we experiment with various ways of getting 'in and out of the floor' while still in motion. At this point the musicians pick up their instruments. Their task is to choose a mover who then dictates how they play their instrument in terms of levels, dynamics (speed, intonation etc) and volume (or silence).
Purpose: Warming up body and connections between participants and becoming aware of space and relations to others.
'Scribbling'. Again a voice score where participants sit in trios on the floor with eyes closed making 'scribbling' noises with the voice/mouth/throat. First stage is to try and just listen to the other two in the trio while scribbling; second stage is to listen to trio as a whole, responding without listening to yourself. When one person stops the trio stops. Finally the score is adapted to each participants' individual skill as a musician or mover/voice performer: each of the trio now use their instrument/body/voice to respond to the trio as a whole just as they did when they were scribbling with their eyes closed.
Purpose: A score that exercises the ability to respond without awareness of your own contribution and therefore avoiding censoring your own expression.
'Texture'. Musical score adapted to movement and sound. The group is divided in two with a mix of musicians and movers in each group. The groups are then allocated two very different 'textures'. The textures are a type of quality used to investigate movement/sound. The textures allocated could be 'jerky vs smooth' or 'flow vs constant' or 'fast vs slow' and so on. These textures or qualities are then explored through movement and sound for a short while. After swapping textures, the two groups then travel across the space from either side of the room starting with one texture and finishing in the other.
Purpose: To encouraging participants to work beyond their comfort zone generating sound or movement in a wider range than normal and finding extremes in terms of quality.
'Pair conduction': Same score but now in pairs, where participants can choose to use voice, movement or (for the musicians) instruments. Again one person is conducting the other.
'Trio conduction'. With a musician in the middle and two movers on either side, the mover on the right conducts the musician while mover on the left -with eyes closed- responds to sound. For this final score we did one trio at a time so participants had an opportunity to watch each other. See video above.
Purpose: This score allows participants to explore taking on the roles of both initiator and responder. The initiator role requires decision making and the daring to play and to be in charge. The responder role requires allowing someone else to lead and enables reaction without decision making. These three scores are very playful as it's easy to identify the game being played. The roles are clear which in addition makes it gratifying to watch.
The next post will be about life coaching for the dance students at NSCD.