I was asked by one of my intermediate students, and now that I think about it other people (not students) have also asked, whether I choreograph or improvise my performances.

Initially every performance I did was from a choreography I made for myself.  I would type it up and drill it for as much time as I possibly could and then hope to remember it when I was performing.   Occasionally that would work just fine – I’d remember the choreo in it’s entirety and the performance would go off without a hitch.  I think that’s happened once.  Maybe twice.  All the rest of the time something, or things, have come up to mess with that; a veil caught on my costume, a veil dropped (disaster in a double veil routine!), a finger cymbal caught in my hair (I’m not making this up), the music being so quiet I didn’t hear it start and then could barely make it out whilst dancing or I simply just made a ‘mistake’ that threw me off the rest of the choreo.

So what did I do when that happened?  I improvised.  I’m quite good at thinking on my feet and the years I spent teaching in a Secondary school certainly honed that ability (transferable skills! 🙂 ). After a while I figured that it might just be simpler to improv from the get go and then I wouldn’t have to stress about remembering the choreo and about what happens if something goes wrong during the performance.  All that time I spent drilling I could spend simply practising, drilling specific moves, combinations and layers (but not a whole choreo) and, best of all, learning new things .  That said there’s a whole different set of nerves and issues about improv-ing a performance (what if I just repeat the same moves over and over? what if my mind blanks? what if I do something stupid? etc.).

So I vacillate.  Sometimes I completely improv. a performance, other times it’s a mixture of choreo-d bits with improv in-between.  It really depends on my mood, how ‘scary’ the performance seems and my confidence.

What about you?

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