the word

I’m having a little difficulty with this word; “improvisation”.  Its a term that connotes an uninhabitable territory, uninhabitable because the specificity of its meaning doesn’t touch the sides of the territory it alludes to.

Too large and too small. Also too ‘universal’ as its a word that could be applicable to any creative action in any context. When I realized that butoh is at once improvised, scored, intricately choreographed, or any combination of those things I realized I was looking at a cultural artefact. It grew out of a set of circumstances and as a response to those circumstance. That response caught on, was elaborated on and evolved etc. But it wasn’t called improvisation,  it was called butoh.

Same could be said of jazz (sorry, a hackneyed comparison but useful). The languages we speak are usually improvisationally administered situation specific events. When I lead a dance and movement improvisation workshop recently the questions that I focussed it through were:

1. What is the language we are improvising (creating, in the moment, emergent, contingent) ?

2. What is the language in which we are improvising? (that which is already known, learnt, familiar in our bodies) ?

In my own work I take into account the hodge podge of modernist, post – modernist, cultural, intercultural, etc movement codifications as what largely makes up the movement vocabularies I’m improvising in. What is the name of all that? Calling it improvisation distracts me from the material itself. It also raises up the idea of improvisation – what people think improvisation in dance is. They are usually both right and wrong at the same time, and the idea that they have is not what improvisation actually is.

I’m happy to sub categorize my work and link it to post modernism. That’s a term that is problematic in similar ways however, there’s a lot of argument about what post modernism is. But at least when I think about post modern dance I can locate it, I can come up with names, dates, aesthetics, agendas, and places.

In New Zealand I’ve largely been going about this business of training the discipline of improvised dance / composition by myself. Shall I name what I do with my own surname, creating a name branded technique of my very own? Anyway these questions are a summation or an expression of where I’m at both personally and artistically. I can publicly pull apart my work and name its constituent parts to anyone who cares to ask, but I’m still at a loss to give it a cultural identifier, to find a place for it in general scheme of things.



Simon interviews Kristian


Once I got over my initial shock to see the aforementioned duck riding on a skateboard, I wondered what it was that I saw that made me think, ‘that’s just bad skateboarding’.

Another brevitivity

Currently am writing an exegesis so I feel a bit guilty about posting. But this is short and its something I talked about in my solo performance lecture. its simply this;

Duck on a skateboard.

Its been said in a book about improvisation in theatre that performance improv’s are often like a duck on a skateboard. So you’re walking down the street and you see a duck cruising around on a skateboard. And the thing of it is that its so novel that you fail to see that its being done badly.

a little deer

There’s this idea that I use that is the idea that the improvisational moment is like the totem animal of a primitive tribe, its a little deer. If you direct too much attention to the deer, it’s never going to come anywhere near you. You actually have to get on with something else and the deer might get curious and come close. But the minute you go ‘hello deer!’ it runs away again. So it feels like that too, you have to distract yourself with certainties so the possibility of maybe something which is not totally known or controlled can emerge.

From Andrew Morrish talking to David Williams at compromiseisourbusiness

September 11th

I am very close now to performing a solo for my masters degree. I’ve set the duration at 45 minutes. Why that long? Firstly I’ve never performed a solo that long and I’m seeing it a bit of a rite of passage. The more experienced improvisers like Julyen and Katie D have performed solo’s of that length +. Also it will be taking the format of a performance lecture, and I will be distributing the material in a particular way. Simon might call that a ‘framing’, others might think of it as a ‘score’. Within that duration certain conditions and events will have been implicitly pre-fabricated, certain decisions already made. So its not an open format improvised performance by any means.

The intention is perform a danced solo whilst weaving spoken commentary and critique into the fabric of the thing. My intention for the speaking part is to draw on the style and positionality of the stand up comedian (‘positionality’ referring to standing up I guess, sorry thats ‘Dad’ style humour.)

The work is being performed on September the 11th and 12th.

Triangulation, Originality, Recognition

Been thinking about the triangulation that occurs between the improvising performer and the audience. The way I’m thinking about is in the context of a solo. So I’m the one dancing and hypothetical you is the one watching (btw thanks for coming to watch hypothetical-you).  I don’t know what the audience is experiencing and they don’t know what I’m experiencing. But that’s not a fragmentation or a binary to me, that’s part of the whole event. Even if I’m actively performing and the audience is actively watching albeit in situ the event is still something that WE do together.

So I’m dancing away there and making up the stuff that I make up, its full of emergent ideas and a pretty unusual movement vocabulary. And hypothetical-you is sitting there trying to relate to it. There may be some mirror neuron stuff going in hypothetical-you’s nervous system but actually chances are if the movement that I’m doing is

1. unrecognizable / highly unusual..and

2. the dynamic is relatively low energy / internal as it can sometimes be

the result tends to be that hypothetical-you can have an experience that’s less than satisfying, maybe even baffling. If however I up the stakes a little by picking up the movement dynamic, going ballistic, doing riskier stuff the mirror neuron effect can kick in a little more strongly. Even if what I’m doing has a low recognition factor . I reckon that’s partly why people like the dynamic stuff in dancey dance land.

But with the improv thing often being performed by some very intelligent people (like Simon for example) who can create material that is pretty high end creative (maybe even ‘original’ or ‘innovative’) and tends to skew most of the perceived cliche’s, there’s a pretty good chance that your average hypothetical-you isn’t going to be able to traverse its diameters.

I’m not driving at any particular point here that I’ve haven’t driven around before. But this was sparked up again by a piece of writing about originality in theatre and how contentious that can be when there is little precedent for its existence. That combined with the culture playing a part in writing it into existence (there’s me triangulation again)  but simultaneously not recognizing it.


Apologies for the very long quote. It’s from page 92 of Bruce Baugh’s chapter Experimentation in The Deleuze Dictionary (edited by Adrian Parr):

Life-experimentation, through a set of practices effecting new combinations and relations and forming powers, is biological and political, and often involves experientially discovering how to dissolve the boundaries of the ego or self in order to open flows of intensity, ‘continuums and conjunctions of affect’ (D&G 1987: 162). Active experimentation involves trying new procedures, combinations and their unpredictable effects to produce a ‘Body without Organs’ (BwO) or a ‘field of immanence’ or ‘plane of consistency’, in which desires, intensities, movements and flows pass unimpeded by the repressive mechanisms of judgement and interpretation. Experimental constructions proceed bit by bit and flow by flow, using different techniques and materials in different circumstances and under different conditions, without any pre-established or set rules or procedures, as similar effects (for example, intoxication) can be produced by different means (ingesting peyote, or ‘getting soused on water’). ‘One never knows in advance (D 1987: 47), and if one did, it would not be an experiment. Experimentation by its nature breaks free of the past and dismantles old assemblages (social formations, the Self), and constructs lines of flight or movements of deterritoralisation by effecting new and previously untried combinations of persons, forces and things, ‘the new, remarkable, and interesting’ (D&G 1994: 111). In literature, politics, and in life, experiments are practices that discover and dismantle assemblages, and which look for the lines of flight of individuals or groups, the dangers on these lines, and new combinations that will thwart predictions and allow the new to emerge.

The included references are:

D&G 94: Deleuze, Gilles and Felix Guattari (1994), What is Philosophy?, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Graham Burchell, New York: Columbia University Press
D&G 87: Deleuze, Gilles and Felix Guattari (1987), A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press
D 1987: Deleuze, Gilles(1987), Dialogues with Calre Parnet, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam, London: Athlone Press.

How is this me?

I’m in the studio with Colin Poole at the moment.

We’ve never worked together, and as we’ve been finding out about each other, watching each other dance, dancing together, talking, figuring out what we are doing (open research? making a work?), I’ve been struck (again) by how and what it is that I recognise in an other—and in myself—dancing. I am thinking here of more than simply ‘habits’ (which tend to be considered pejoratively), but a more focused awareness and understanding of the make-up of our dancing. How is it that I know Colin’s dancing from just two weeks in the studio?

Posture, timing, gaze, repetition, the tendency towards particular areas of initiation, flourishes in the head and neck? (this list is incomplete!).

Many years ago I used to think about escaping my old dancing me in order to replace it with a newer (more sophisticated) dancing me. The urge to touch newness at the expense of the habitual was very strong. To step outside of myself, and see how it is that others might see me dancing.

The desire for alternatives is invaluable I think as a tool for listening or engagement whilst improvising, but I feel quieter in this quest. I get glimpses of the new touching the known, and in this quietness perhaps there is room (occasionally) for the ecstatic.

Apologies for the solipsism.