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Embrace The Improv

Trigger Warning… 

Let’s talk about IMPROV! 


Don’t let fear take the wheel! 

Keep reading! 

We all know improv can be scary stuff. 

Let me help you make this a little less terrifying. 

Whether it’s professional or personal, the concept of producing “on the spot” content can cause even the most chill humans to spiral out of control. While musicians, actors, and dancers are often challenged with improv exercises, these artistic types are not the only folks subject to such spontaneity. No matter the calling, we are all faced with situations where the ability to improv can separate the “good” from the “great”. In what appears to be the “new normal” (for at least a little while) our willingness to embrace the improv and grow from self-exploration is another key to our ultimate success. 


Before I go any further, let’s acknowledge a few reasons WHY the word “improv” triggers uncertainty, and in some cases, actual fear in people: 

There Isn’t a Set Plan. Most people like to have a plan and stick to the plan. Plain and simple. Welp, bad news for those of you who weren’t planning for a Global Pandemic: Here we are. The original plan is out the window. It is now our challenge to recover by developing a new plan. Stuck in your plan development? Keep reading. 

What If You “Fail”? You can’t because, in improv, failure doesn’t exist. Improv encourages you to make every situation work… even if YOU KNOW it isn’t the move. So while a particular choice may feel a little unsettling at the moment, worst-case scenario, you learn what won’t work in your situation. Which inadvertently means, there is no such thing as failure. 

Feeling Vulnerable. Some people believe that shifting away from their original plan can make them look weak and/or susceptible to ridicule. Often you hear the idea of being “vulnerable” equated with “nakedness”. Get over yourself. Sometimes even the very best plans just simply don’t work. Instead of focusing on what others might think, worry about what YOU think and how you will FEEL when you come to a plan that works in your favor. 

The Surrender of Control. In theatre, improv exercises have a few basic rules. The first, and arguably the most important rule of improv is: AGREE TO EVERYTHING presented. For some people, No Control=No Bueno. What is important to know is that the final rule of improv is: THERE ARE NO MISTAKES, ONLY OPPORTUNITIES. Remember, the world is your stage. Go with what’s presented and accept that amazing discovery can be found totally by accident. 


Now that we have acknowledged a few reasons why improv can cause anxiety and how to potentially shift the concept in your mind, let’s set you up for your success! Taking what we teach in choreography and applying it to general circumstances, these 4 concepts will help you open your mind to the “improv exercises” life throws your way: 

  1. 1. Tricks are Cool but the Set-Up is Key. 
  2. We’ve all seen the moments when dancers leap into the air or spin with their leg positioned next to their faces? Pretty cool right? Don’t be fooled. Those tricks are great but only when they are balanced within smooth phrasing. In any plan, the “wow” moments are certainly exciting. There is no denying we need them to ultimately hold the attention of our audience. That said, if we don’t pay attention to the transitions between our “wow” moments, our plan can become very choppy. While you are improvising, think about the big picture “quality of moment”. Take time to hone in on the details of your journey and cohesiveness of all moving parts. Your tricks are MUCH more exciting if we don’t see them coming. 


  1. 2. Unpredictable vs. Predictable. 
  2. Improv exercises in dance are typically driven by music. Because improv is about exploration, I encourage artists to dabble in the  “unpredictable” when it comes to how they move to said music,  while not losing sight of the fact that audiences may appreciate the artists coming back to something that feels familiar or even predictable. Though your improv may not be driven by “actual” music, I encourage you to use your societal pulse as your backbeat. Shake it up by playing with new, exciting concepts that push the envelope while still choosing to come back to what is relatable for your audience. Your measure of what works for YOU will be trial and error so remember, there are no mistakes, only discovery. 


  1. 3. Just Keep Moving.. or Don’t. 
  2. Whether you choose to move full speed ahead or choose to stop and pause, commit fully to the choice. If you give something 100% commitment, it is likely your audience will never even realize it if it isn’t exactly what YOU deem a “success”. Commit to your choices and later reflect on how you can continue to improve. 


  1. 4. Practice. 
  2. If you believe you will be successful at anything in your life without putting in the practice, please let me be the one to clear something up for you: You are wrong. All things in life require practice and improv is no different. The more you allow yourself to embrace the idea of improv and workshop scenarios and concepts, the easier it will be for you to have fluid thoughts in key moments. 


Above and beyond all of these points, it is most important to remember this: 

Without improvisation, you will not continue to grow and develop your style. 

No matter the industry, having a clear voice, and sharing a story that is personal to you will set you apart from the pack. Through improv, you will continue to discover who you are and what you bring to this thing called life, so CELEBRATE the challenge to be creative and spread your wings. Look your fears in the face with a loud and proud, “Yes, and…” statement and watch new opportunities unfold. 



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