With little to no structure, performers allow themselves to be seen through the choices they make, the places they choose to go to, where their focus lies all in real time --- a risky and exhilarating challenge all in front of an audience. After witnessing and performing improvisation over the course of three weeks as part of the NEVER BEFORE NEVER AGAIN Festival in January at Triskelion Arts, I have even more respect and admiration for performers who are willing to step on stage with an entirely blank canvas. There is so much possibility- so many ways it could unfold. As an audience member during the festival, I realize how much I watch performance improvisation and choreography with different eyes. To watch decisions being made in the moment and then at times catch predetermined choreographed moments felt like an abrupt change in focus, like some intruder from the outside just took hold of this inner world I was watching unfold and it was interesting to notice my own aversion to any structure in this context. But when decisions were being crafted in the moment, the focus was different. Both mine as an audience member and of the person on stage. But it was in the negotiation of moments where things were either awkward or petering out- when the artists chose to commit to either take it somewhere else or go a little bit further that really grabbed my attention. The choice to let it go or dive back in and bring it back around, that's usually where the shift would occur and magic happened-- the process and risk of leaning in. How we negotiate those awkward, 'stuck' moments when we feel lost or not sure what to do? Lean in? Keep going? Change it up? Repeat? Talk about a revealing process, all with an audience!
As curators, how do we communicate what can be set in performance improvisation? If it's not free for all but work composed in real time, how do you communicate how much structure is allowed? Is that the conversation or is there a different one that needs to be had when it comes to curating an improvisation festival? These are all questions we have been asking ourselves as we look to create new language around a form that is just beginning to gain more respect as a means in and of itself not just a means to an end.
This is more of a journal entry of thoughts and opinions rather than a post. But when you are fortunate enough to experience three weeks full of incredible performances giving you so much food for thought, how can you possibly sum it all up in a few paragraphs? Thank you to the amazing artists, the audiences who came to witness, and Triskelion Arts for creating the space for the magic to happen. We will be taking this in for some time.