I’ve had many interesting reactions when I’ve announced to my class that we will be doing improvisation in an aerial lesson, which has included everything from sudden onset gastro-intestinal distress to tears. And sure, improv can be intimidating the first time you try it. However learning how to make stuff up on the spot have many benefits for your aerial work.
Finding out whether you are the kind of person who likes fast, dynamic movements or slow, graceful ones or anything in between can be discovered through improvisation. Often it takes a while for students to “loosen up” from rigid and set movements that they may be used to doing in class and to start to find their own movement qualities.
-it gets you thinking creatively
I recently had the pleasure of participating in a master class in improvisation with trapeze artist Rosalie Ducharme (highly recommend taking one of her master classes if you get the opportunity). She emphasised that if you want to make your act unique, you need to have unique tricks in it, rather than composing it from all the tricks that everyone already knows. To do this, you need to spend time improvising on your apparatus. This also helps with familiarity of your apparatus, making any movements that you do on it look effortless.
-it helps you think on your feet
In her workshop, Rosalie also reiterated that being able to improvise is a skill unto itself, and like any skill, takes time and practice to master. It’s hard to think outside the box, but the more time you spend doing so the more comfortable it will feel. Being able to think quickly and adapt to a situation whilst in the air is an invaluable skill for performers, in the event that (heaven forbid) something goes wrong in your act. You may find yourself behind in your music and not having enough time in to do that awesome drop you’d planned, or maybe adrenaline kicked in and you were faster than you were in rehearsal and have an extra bar or music to fill. Maybe those silks just won’t split or your tail gets knotted together after a drop. I’ve had all of those scenarios happen to me in shows and I’m sure other performers will be able to tell you more. Being able to make it appear to the audience as though nothing untoward has happened comes from being able to improvise.
Stay tuned next week for some ideas of improv exercises you can use in your classes!
Feel free to comment with the most embarrassing time your performance has gone wrong (mine involved a hideous costume malfunction and nipples).