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Comparing it to music

There’s classical music: all notes and details are written down, by someone. There’s jazz, free jazz… improvisation!

Inventing something completely new.

Playing something that might have never been played before.

But how to start improvising or how to compose new music only by using the mental part of our body (1)? It helps to get all kinds of ‘brains’ and cells into action when you want to invent something not-yet-existing.

For, the cognitive part of the brain often slows everything down. For example by questioning what other people might think about whatever unfinished things you are producing. Similar to wonderful musicians, best dancers are not always best improvisers. Of course: a technical base can be of great help.

One of my favorite teachers asked me one day: ‘What are your secrets when improvising? Thank you Mia Lawrence for asking me that question. I would be pleased if you could join my table as well. Part of an answer are new questions:

-How long should an action be repeated in the frame of an improvisation? And who decides in the moment: body or brain? Or something else?

-At what point is it better to move without the mental brain taking over?

-Can it be interesting to see a dancer move without any mental consideration?

-When improvising: How much thinking is important and how much doing is necessary? And what is the dialogue between thinking and doing?

To finish this topic, I would like to share a story by Enrique Vargas (2). He will re-appear in one of my next posts for sure, and is a very welcome guest at my table:

‘There is a place near the Amazone river, called Letitia. It’s a little town by the river, right in the Amazone. And very often, the kids at the school will play out of the playground and they would go into the jungle… . And sometimes a kid would get lost in the jungle. Usually, they come back out. Sometimes a drunk guy from town get’s so drunk he gets into the jungle and gets lost. And if he’s still drunk when he’s lost, he will come back out. But, if a tourist gets lost, he could be lost for days. When you ask: ‘How did you come out?’ I say, well: ‘No pienso. No hay que pensar’ (I don’t think. Do not think.) I just don’t… I just walk. The moment someone intellectualizes the game or the moment, he or she really gets lost. So they just have to relay on the memory of the body. The body knew how it was lost. The body knows how to come back out. It is very important to trust the body.’


(1) In order to learn something you need to experience it first. Only information is not enough, according to my proper experience and often stated by Enrique Vargas.

(2) Recording made at a masterclass in Destelheide, Belgium, June 2014

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