Girls dancing in the studio

Dean Walsh on Improvisation

04 October 2017

In this interview, Dean Walsh shares his insight on the growing importance of improvisation for dancers, especially those seeking a professional career.

Dean Walsh has over 25 years of experience as an award-winning dancer, teacher and choreographer. He has worked and studied throughout Australia and Europe. Dean will be teaching Contemporary Youth Classes this term from 14 October – 3 December.

What can students expect from your classes?

I lead students through a warm-up in contemporary dance technique before guiding them through structured improvisation exercises. These are designed to expand and sharpen a dancer’s capacity to engage in sophisticated choreographic processes.

Why is improvisation so important?

For many contemporary dance choreographers, improvisation is a key component of professional choreographic and teaching practices. Choreographers are now looking for dancers who are broadly skilled improvisers, as this assists in discovering more layered and interesting choreography with surprising aesthetic choices. A skilled and bold improviser is a choreographer’s dream.

Improvisation also helps promote a democratic creative process. As a choreographer, I see myself as a tourist guide and curator of people’s creativity.

What are some examples of different forms of improvisation?

Improvisation can be used in a rehearsal as a means to an end – to set choreographic sequences. This can encourage the dancer to engage with the conceptual elements of a new work. It can also empower the relationship between choreographer and dancer by promoting artistic agency.

Auditions now often have an improvisation component. In some instances, this tells a choreographer the most about whether a dancer is right for their work or company. Choreographers are often less interested in a dancer’s foot point than in how they express a viewpoint through movement. Gone are the days of just waiting for the choreographer to come up with all the goods.

But improvisation can also be performed as a sequence itself. The dancer might have an assigned task and work with a score on stage with lights, sound or video. In this instance, the dancer makes spontaneous decisions while actually performing. These may be in response to previous directions or surprise elements.

Term 3 Contemporary Youth Classes run from 14 Oct – 3 Dec.


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