The unfathomable paradox of teaching improvisation online
Updated: May 4, 2020
Breath rushing through words
As body moves
Instant shape and instant space
Details like a moving car- everything else rushes by
I am here and moving, talking to who?
Are you there?
Yes you are moving too
Yes I can feel you
Can I feel it?
Our moving togetherness
or is it blind faith?
My optimistic senses - 6 or more
and the electronic not-quite-silence
of your presence, here
and there at the same time
And the crippling expectation of my "expertise"
I am not quite sure it is landing
The feedback-less loop of it all
Except there is my own sensation
If I feel that I am really dancing
Does that help you to really dance too?
All I can do is trust.
I had a conversation with a friend who'd decided not to teach online. I supported her decision wholeheartedly. Yet I am teaching online 5 days a week. The circumstances are different financially and stylistically but the knotted problems are entwined together, as we all are in this strange new state of things. I have found myself both utterly grateful for my improvisation practice and somatic background (in that I feel both are tools for survival at this moment and also lend themselves to working in alternative spaces) and simultaneously returning to forms and practices I thought I'd given up as a bad job. I have begun running despite asserting that it didn't suit me; I have twice in the past fortnight put on piano music and done ballet barre despite my assertions in recent writings of it's inherent patriarchal nature; and I taught codified technique this week for the first time in months. This desire to return to form is fascinating me. It feels empowering to take from it the aspects which are useful and to disregard what is not, but also there is a comfort in the repetition and known-ness of it- as well as a simple need to get sweaty, which is so much harder in my living room by other routes. Then there is this thing.... this need to communicate my practice and to be teaching. It is a financial imperative and also it is needed on several levels by my students. The improvisation and somatic work I am delivering would normally be so utterly rooted in, and stimulated by, togetherness in space- hence my support of my friend's decision not to teach. And.... It is doable, it is useful AND it is missing something. It is hard. And I want to acknowledge all of these things. The video call / camera / eye / electric-ness is soooooooo disembodying. What I am asking participants to do is so much harder when they are doing it in front of a camera. I look forward to being back in the studio so much, and I am also so utterly grateful to be teaching and moving through this surreal time.
For more thoughts on improv in these times check out Contact Quarterly