Tuesday, March 10, 2009

improvisation experiments

Creative Ensemble was a bit a loose ends this week since we don't currently have a performance looming that requires us to HURRY UP AND WRITE SOMETHING ALREADY. So we did some scheduling and then sat around for a moment trying to figure out what to do with ourselves. Our next performance is part of a quirky set of concerts happening on the upper deck of an old Route Master bus in Spitalfields (neat, huh?!) so we wanted to figure out what to do there and were talking about that when Jo had a brilliant idea:

send half the group into the hallway and make up some sort of rule for improvising- then bring everyone back in and have at it and see what happens.

This was ridiculously fun.

My group went first and started out slowly with these rules: ignore the audience. Talk about fruit. The piece ends when we start talking about starfruit. Now, as leadership students, we are not typical audience members- which meant that it was actually pretty difficult to ignore the audience because they kept trying to influence us by shouting "banana!" "MANGO!" "grape! Green grape!"

Then the other group went. They made the room in to a sound installation by taking themselves out of it. Really what this meant is that it turned into a silent game of hide and seek while we tried to find them in amongst (or actually in) the giant percussion cases stored in that room.

My group went a second time and had a GENIUS idea. We set up the chairs so that they were in one row, but alternating which direction they were facing. So that the people on either side of you could make eye contact. Then we came up with a seven beat body rhythm that involved our knees, our neighbors (the other groups)'s knees, and a high five that would effectively be in the other groups' faces. We weren't sure how they were going to react or what was really going to happen, but what DID happen was this: they joined in. Everyone laughed a LOT, and it was brilliant. What was so nice about it was that because it was 7 beats long it was just difficult enough that it took a couple of tries to get right. Also, because we were so close to each other it felt very inclusive- without being freaky the way that staring straight into someone else's face would be. This would be a perfect ice breaking, group building activity for teenagers.

Then the other group had a GENIUS idea. They all chose one body part to be conducted by and then reacted whenever one of us moved. It took us longer than you might think to figure out what exactly they were being controlled by, but it was totally fun trying to work it out. Kate was singing whenever one of us moved our face, but Nick just kept yodeling so they got into a yodeling match. Eventually Emma and I started moving their chairs around at which point it became unclear who was really in charge of the improvisation. We're thinking we'll use that one on the bus- an improvisation led by the audience with quite specific rules to be worked out later...

It was so lovely to be working with the group in a relaxed and FUN manner and to be so very goofy with them. It is good to be reminded that we're a goofy group of people, that we have good ideas, and that making music with each other can be downright joyous.

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