2021 Spring Spectacular Workshop 3 Spotlight:

“Improve Your Improv” by Margo Abdo O’Dell

As we prepare for SPRING!!, we are excited to learn more about the Guild’s SPECTACULAR workshops spotlights on our four instructors. Margo’s workshop is “Improve Your Improv.” It is scheduled for May 22 at 3 pm CT. 

Spring Spectacular Workshops are now open for registration! Guild members enjoy discounted pricing!

Workshop Description:

The essence of Middle Eastern dance is improvisation: spontaneous movement channeling the spirit of the music through the dancer. How do you get there instead of thinking so much about what you’ll do next? This workshop offers a variety of experiences to assist your journey toward self-expression, connectivity and dancing from the heart. (Recommended for an Intermediate Level dancer for best experience.)

Please have a mat, blanket or towel available to lay on and a notebook nearby.

To prepare you for this workshop, Margo offers her review of a book that has inspired her improvisation, “FREE PLAY:  The Power of IMPROVisATIOn in Life and the Arts” by Stephen Nachmanovitch. The author is a violinist, composer, poet, teacher and computer artist and wrote this book in 1990. 

Margo shares her comments and inspirations about this book:

Kensho, lila, galumphing, temenos, bricolage, do-loop, and gaia are not typical words in my vocabulary. Yet, they became a part of my vocabulary and I have used them in my life’s journey of creativity and improvisation. 

This is not a book that provides a step-by-step method on how to unlock your creativity because Nachmanovitch does not believe this can be done. Instead, he presents challenging insights about learning to speak with your own voice, dance your own dance and not rely on the creativity or judgments of others. It has wide applicability to vocational and avocational pursuits.

Nachmanovitch presents processes, suggestions and examples of how to bring forth the muse in all of us.  That is, how we can recapture the innocent playfulness of our youth that was naturally, spontaneously, and uninhibitedly creative. For those of you with children, who are teachers of children or have observed children at play, you know what he is describing. Children lose themselves and all track of time when intensely focused on the moment and creating play.

Bricolage is a French word that means using whatever material you have on hand.  In his creation of an unflyable kite, her then six-year old son adorned stiff pineapple leaves with glitter paint and creatively affixed them along with leftover Christmas ribbon, discarded rubber bands, an empty paper towel holder and other miscellaneous elements onto a paper sack. This play session stretched into two hours. As Nachmanovitch says, “....Improvisation is intuition in action, a way to discover the muse and learn to respond to her call.” We use what we know and what we have to further develop our skills. And as we discover those creative moments, we become obsessed with our art and don’t know when to stop.  

Nachmanovitch’s words and themes explore the creative process and how to jolt it when blocked. The themes include playfulness, love, practice, skill, the power of limits, the power of mistakes, risk, surrender, patience, courage and trust.   

In ancient Greek thought, the temenos was a magical and sacred circle where extraordinary things could happen. To dancers, it is our practice space. The author explains the importance of preparing our space each and every time we go to work.  He describes how  the cleaning of the space, the ornamentation of the space and all of the related rituals including putting on dance clothes can aid the creative process.  

Nachmanovitch cannot say too much on the subject of practice and skill. For example, “....Practice is an ever-fresh, challenging flow of work and play in which we continually test and demolish our delusions;  therefore it is sometimes painful.”  And, “....To do anything artistically you have to acquire technique, but you create through  your technique and not with  it.” He has no tolerance for lack of practice in the world of performing arts, yet is sympathetic to the frustration and pain that can accompany the creative process. He believes it important for artists to understand  the ups and downs  are a normal and needed part of the creative process and explains why.

A second book for your inspiration

While reading his book, I also read Brenda Ueland’s book entitled “If You Want to Write.” Ueland confirms many of Nachmanovitch’s opinions. One striking commonality between the two authors was their discussion about dispensing with the notion of success if you truly want to do good work or good art. They agree that looking for money, prestige, power, acceptance or elevation of oneself as an end result can be counterproductive. By the same token, worrying about failure, not thinking you are good enough, allowing the judgments of others, including your own teachers can be stifling. Nachmanovitch talks about ridding yourself of your demons, while Ueland discusses moving away from critics and poor teachers in order to find your own voice.    

Margo’s  invitation:

In closing, I offer this quote from the introduction of the book, which provides a fitting message for those of you interested in beginning or continuing your personal journey. 

“The creative process is a spiritual path. This adventure is about us, about the deep self, the composer in all of us, about originality, meaning not that which is all new, but that which is fully and originally ourselves.”

Save the date and plan to register

You’re invited to join Margo on May 22 from 3 to 5 pm CT to explore improvisation in your dance. 

Spring Spectacular Workshops are now open for registration! Guild members enjoy discounted pricing!

TIP: Check out Margo’s additional contributions to our blog:

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