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Dance improvisation

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Title: Dance improvisation  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Contact improvisation, Improvisation, 20th-century concert dance, Dance technique, Dance
Collection: Choreographic Techniques, Choreography, Dance Technique, Free and Improvised Dance, Improvisation
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Dance improvisation

Dance improvisation is the process of spontaneously creating movement. Development of improvised movement material is facilitated through a variety of creative explorations including body mapping through levels, shape and dynamics schema.

Improvisation is a free, seemingly unstructured, less technically strict and impulsive form that draws inspiration from everyday dance practices and influences. It is a movement technique that is capable of evoking dramatic and thought-provoking content just as well as more codified western dance techniques such as ballet and non-western movement forms.

Dance improvisation is not only about creating new movement but is also defined as freeing the body from habitual movement patterns (see Postmodern dance and Judson Dance Theater). Dancer and singer Michael Jackson combined improvisation in both of those definitions, insisting that he had interest in performing a dance to Billie Jean only if he could do it a new way each time.

A lot of improvisation is focused on finding a deeper way of comprehending otherwise concealed thoughts or feelings of an individual. Through the emphasis of instinctual, unpredictable, free movement that improvisation is centered upon the mover is able to explore authentic feelings and inspirations.


  • Developed dance forms with improvisational life 1
    • Argentine Tango 1.1
    • Belly Dance 1.2
    • Blues 1.3
    • Break Dance 1.4
    • Lindy Hop 1.5
    • Post-Modern Dance and Contact Improvisation 1.6
  • See also 2
  • Further reading 3
  • References 4

Developed dance forms with improvisational life

Argentine Tango

Argentine Tango, is a dance form that despite the apparent choreography relies on improvisation. Improvisation techniques are taught and improvisation is encouraged as necessary to reach high levels of competency in dance and performance environments. Closely knit crowds, varying rhythmic patterns in music, switching partners for each dance, and a large vocabulary of movements encourage improvisational dance in Argentine Tango.

Belly Dance

Belly dance is one of the most commonly improvised dance forms, since the often live music does not support the structured nature of choreography. Professional belly dancers may dance publicly 6 nights a week, up to three times a night, and simply do not have the time to choreograph for the 15–60 minutes a night that such performing requires. Even dancers with substantial choreography repertoires often choose to improvise when performing to live music because they value the exchange of energy between the dancer, the musicians, and the audience, which is heightened by working "in the moment". American Tribal Style belly dance is built entirely upon group improvisation, although the group will typically plan and rehearse individual combinations and their cues in advance.


Blues dance is generally done to blues music, and is highly improvisational. Like lindy hop, emphasis is on the lead and follow connection, but the emphasis is even greater. Blues dance is a partnered and structured form of interpretive dance, and relies mostly on the leader interpreting the music how he or she will; at the same time, the follower usually has some freedom to interpret the music and add in his or her own style as well.

Break Dance

B-boying features a heavily improvisational style based on cyclic movement patterns. Many styles of b-boying exist, and dance crews will often choreograph performances for specific songs. Individual performances are more commonly improvised due to the nature of the dance.

Lindy Hop

Lindy Hop is generally an eight-count swing dance, developed in large part by Frankie Manning, and includes a large amount of improvisation. Once a dancer has learned a variety of swing dance moves, ranging from West Coast Swing to Charleston to Balboa, the dancer will often combine any and all the moves he or she knows of these styles of dance, as well as add his or her own dance style, or make up new dance moves or aerials. Because of its improvisational nature, lindy hop heavily relies on lead and follow connection, rather than each partner knowing the steps and doing them together.

Post-Modern Dance and Contact Improvisation

In the 1970s, Judson Church dancer and choreographer Steve Paxton, in collaboration with other post-modern dancers, developed Contact Improvisation. "Contact improv" is an un-codified, somatic technique which serves as a framework for collective improvisation. It involves multiple dancers, usually two, who explore movement together by supporting each other's weight, maintaining contact with each other, and bringing their attention to the point or points of contact between them. Unlike the pas de deux of classical ballet, in which the male partner lifts and supports the female, contact improv does not assign differential roles to each dancer. There are no officially codified or standardized movements, but partners commonly lift, carry, fall onto or off of, caress, and lean on each other. [1][2]

Contact improv is sometimes used by post-modern choreographers to generate or develop choreography.

See also

Further reading

  • Minton, S, C. (1997) Choreography: A Basic Approach Using Improvisation. Human Kinetics . ISBN 0-88011-529-7
  • Tufnell, M. and Vaughan, D. (1999) Body Space Image : Notes Toward Improvisation and Performance. Princeton Book Co. ISBN 1-85273-041-2
  • Barrios Solano, M. (2004) Posthuman Performance: Dancing within Cognitive Systems. [1]

Reeve, Justine (2011) "Dance Improvisations". Human Kinetics. ISBN 9781450402149


  1. ^ Novack, Cynthia Jean (1990). Sharing the Dance: Contact Improvisation and American Culture. University of Wisconsin Press. p. 8-10, 62-67.  
  2. ^ Contact Improvisation 
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