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Dance improvisation through Authentic Movement: a practice of discernment
journal contributionposted on 2020-12-01, 00:00 authored by Shaun McLeod
Dance improvisation in performance is often spirited and unpredictable. But the form can also be hampered by its conditions of uncertainty so that a state of open, spontaneous creativity can actually become difficult to achieve in performance situations. In particular, the perceived ‘judgment’ of an audience can alternately enhance or inhibit the performer’s creative engagement with open improvisation. This article describes a studio process utilizing Authentic Movement which was directed towards a performance in which the dancers attempted to diminish the negative impact that external factors, or internalized perceptions of external factors, can have on improvisation. However, the article is specifically focused on the experiences of a single dancer (the author) in the studio practice which underpinned the performance. At the heart of this practice were personal explorations of how best to discern a positive personal interest while improvising. This discernment is framed as a means to define an ‘inner witness’ (drawing from Authentic Movement theory): an internal perceptual anchor at the centre of the practice which helps fosters an open, imaginative engagement with improvisation. The article also seeks to clarify a subjective situation in objective, theoretical terms and so to shed light on a phenomenon also experienced by many other performers of improvisation. Drawing on the work of Teresa Brennan and Mihali Csikszentmihalyi, the article examines how the affective impact of judgment can interrupt the spontaneous flow of embodied imagination in improvisation.