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This blog is a repost from former BU graduate student, Olivia, who worked at FitRec. It describes her journey into dance improvisation.

Someone who saw the dance improvisation class at FitRec, without knowing what it was, described it to me as – people rolling on the floors, climbing on furniture, and doing weird stuff all over the building.

That’s not a terrible description.

Dance improvisation is the first dance class I took at BU and one of the best classes (dance or otherwise) I’ve ever taken. Rather than focusing on choreography or a specific technique, improv is about exploring different types of movement, developing compositions, interacting with other dancers, and doing whatever movement fits the way you feel in exactly that moment. So if you come to class feeling tense and jittery, you can dance that way. Or you can dance calmly and peacefully to counteract the jitters.

Improv, like the little I know of meditation, is very much about being present. You don’t pre-plan what you will do and once you have done something you just move on. There’s no space to think about what happened a few moments ago, let alone dwell on any of the other thoughts that bombard your mind throughout most of every day.

I’d leave class feeling calm from an hour and a half of meditative dance and energized by all the interesting things we had done. I’d get home in the evenings and walk to a baseball field across from my apartment where I could try climbing along the ground like a bug or rolling and stretching as we had done in class. The people letting their dogs out to play on the field looked at me like I was crazy. While often compelled to do something from improv class in public (hey, it’s improvisation!), it seemed to surprise people when they saw me sliding and rolling along a brick wall or dancing around on the baseball field. But I think that was one of the best things about improv – the compulsion to spontaneously play with the world around me and be inspired by the people, places, sounds, objects, feelings, etc. that we so often ignore. Instead of zoning out on the train I’d be paying attention to the motion of the jolting green line and the bouncing of all the people on the train. I’d think, what if I could just start dancing with this train and all these people on it? Crazier things have certainly happened on the green line, after all.

What if instead of standing stiffly on the train or walking in a straight, direct line through the world, we could dance over the train seats and stop on the sidewalk to have a duet with the street lamp?

The idea of improv makes some people nervous. It feels like a lot of pressure to make up the dance as you go. And the movements are all you, which can leave people feeling very exposed. But that’s another great thing about improv – getting to put yourself on the edge, be more vulnerable, and explore in a way that we often avoid out of shyness or fear. Improv is also the most natural thing. After all, most of us started off dancing around alone in our rooms or going out to dance with friends. That’s all improvisation. Choreography and technique are things that get thrown at us later and, while I certainly appreciate those things too, I think it’s valuable for anyone, whether a long-time dancer or someone who’s never danced before, to be spend some time improvising. I grew up taking dance classes, but during my time as an undergrad, I didn’t do much in the way of formal dancing. The dance improvisation class got me back into taking dance classes and very excited about movement. There were students with all varieties of dance backgrounds and people from the community who also came to take the class. Everyone brought their own movement styles and personalities, making it a particularly interesting, fun class.

For anyone interested in a class on dance improvisation (yes, there’s a lot you can learn about it!) check out Dance Improvisation on Tuesdays and Thursdays 12:30-2pm (credit or non-credit). Registration is now open for Fall 2018. Write to budance@bu.edu with any questions.

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