This is Kaitlin...I led lab last week, and I just want to publicly record some notes since this was a goal we laid out at the potluck in an attempt to keep tabs on the question "what did we learn?" Also, Alex is leading this coming monday, and maybe these will be of some use to her as she continues our trajectory.
To review, we started of with a basic leading/following exercise with a twist. Blind partners led by their seeing partners around the room progressed to leaders only touching their blind partners in order to prevent collision. This then progressed to non-verbal agreements between leaders to switch partners, and then the pace was accelerated. With this exercise I hoped to find group mind out of necessity. The seer must be constantly aware of everything happening around you in order to protect your partner. The blind partner must be totally trusting of the group. It is also just fun.
Then for the rest of the lab we split into groups of four and five, and while one group watched the other performed a ~5min ensamble dance, working towards finding an ending as a group. How to make decision as a group (especially how to finalize that something is an ending without saying so) brought a few challenges. Here are a few observations from people that a jotted down during the harvest, I hope I can sum up what people were saying accurately enough:
-Louis brought up the word "satisfaction" and that these dances had a certain kind of satisfaction when the same thing happened at the same time, synchronicity happened, etc. That these short dances were like swimming on the surface, which has a different sort of satisfaction than one might find in a duet or more extended, developed dance, which is more like "diving deep."
-The concept of a "cleansing dance" came up. Which I believe is a short dance followed by another dance to sort of get the initial unfocused energy out of the way.
-Scott (I think) mentioned that when trying to perform as a group, the individual is looking around at a sea of ideas, trying to pick up on the strongest one and joining in that idea to try to find some cohesiveness. Different people end up choosing different anchors to join, and then there is pressure to abandon your idea in favor of the group dynamic. So the whole thing can be a shallow negotiation of these elements. Scott suggests that sometimes the best choice to make in a "soup" is a strong new choice instead of affirming someone else's not as strong choice. But then we have to balance this with the question of "how do we do less?" How do we as a group find cohesion through ways other than just testing out ideas in a soup?
-How do we avoid the contrasty/slapstick rutt which seem to be the two most prominent choices in group improv?
Some ways to improve the format of these exercises were suggested:
-Begin with 20 seconds of breathing and stillness
-Have a "seed" to build the improv around
-Connected to the "seed" idea, have a solo, then a octet (assuming there are 9 people total) in response, followed by a duet in response, followed by a septet in response, followed by a trio in response, and so on and so on.
-Having someone call start once the group was onto something, and composing from there, or having multiple "ends" so that things could continue to develop longer/see what happens.
-Someone dancing calls end.
Sheila also asked if there were some tips/tricks of the trade for group improvisation for those who had not done it in a while. I will just list some off the top of my head that I use, anyone please add to it!
-Staging--where is everyone in the space? How does where I put myself contextually change other people/our relationship?
-Contrast/imitation--I think this is an obvious one, but it can go in non-obvious directions. Contrast can be a contrast of energy of course, but it can also be a shift of idea. Becoming verbal, changing my role, or focus shifts can all be contrasts. Imitation doesn't necessarily just mean doing what someone else is doing. Can I do what they are doing but much bigger or much smaller? In another part of the room? Develop it into something new?
-Developing thematic relationships/identities-- maybe I have a goal that you are trying to accomplish, such as "I'm trying to get away" or "I'm trying to rearrange people" or "I want to touch everyone's forehead"or "I am going to walk in circles" etc. Also I often find a physicality/mood that I like within a dance, and then I let that define how I interpret new information/decisions.
-Repetition--if a theme/movement returns from earlier it helps with cohesion, if that is what I want. Sometimes it helps me to store things that I like, and then when I get stuck I can come back to them.
-Rhythm--sometimes if I am stuck I think about the rhythm of what is going on or how to add rhythm. Or as the arc of the piece as a whole as rhythm. Maybe this is sort of like contrast.
-I follow my desires! I think mostly for me it's just about being aware of what's around me and then my gut will tell me what it needs.
Ok, hope this is helpful. Will see you all at the potluck!