If social distancing has you feeling unusually restless right now (cabin fever is REAL), a good improvisation session could be the dance remedy you need. Improv, which is the simultaneous creation and performance of movement without any preparation, doesn't require a dance studio or stage. In fact, sometimes working in an unconventional space—like your own home—can prompt even more interesting movement. And when done right, improvising is seriously liberating.
"Improvisation can be uniquely healing if you give yourself time to listen to your body without judgement," says Troy Ogilvie, who teaches improvisation classes at renowned institutions like SpringboardX and Peridance in New York City. "It allows us to interact with our surroundings and emotions more directly."
Here are five improvisation exercises you can do at home to keep your body and mind moving.
1. Listen, Respond, Repeat
If you're feeling apprehensive about getting started, dip your toe into the waters by first finding a comfortable space in your home. With or without accompanying music, take some time to listen to your surroundings. Tap into your senses, like smell, hearing, and touch, to connect even more deeply with your environment. When inspiration strikes, allow your body to react.
"Keep repeating this cycle until the ideas of listening and responding begin to overlap," says Ogilvie, "and you're doing both at the same time." There are no wrong choices here, so don't stop yourself from taking big risks when you feel ready to!
2. Contact [Furniture] Improv
Contact improvisation usually requires a partner, but since that's unrealistic right now, why not "partner" with your furniture? This exercise is best done in your bedroom or another space in the home you know super well. Connect any body part to a piece of furniture in the room, and explore the ways you can manipulate concepts like weight transfer, level changes and range of motion without separating from that piece of furniture. Take your time moving from bed to chair to table, and take advantage of opportunities to be creative as you make those transitions.
Tracing a Blueprint
This exercise uses the layout of your home as a guide for your movement. Pick any room as your starting point. Then listen to the environment of the room and respond. (Listen, respond, repeat—remember?) Let your movement take you from room to room, making sure to notice your unique reactions to each room and giving special attention to the paths leading you throughout your home.
Photographs can be a great source of inspiration! Study a single photo in your home—something mounted on a wall, or tucked in an album, or, yes, even saved on your phone—and reflect on its composition. Take inspiration from the memories that come to mind, while staying open to other stimuli, like the colors, lines, and patterns you see.
Out of Sight
If you're a more introspective dancer, this one's for you. First, turn off all the lights in the room. Rather than relying on sight, build your movement one body part at a time: first just the fingers; then add the wrists; then the elbows, and so on. The goal is to connect with how your movement feels, rather than how it looks, in a completely judgment-free zone.
And always remember: "Leave plenty of room for fun and silliness," says Ogilvie. "Even though we may be apart, through improvisation, we can work on this moment together."