Sunday, 8 May 2011

Popping the Improv Cherry

Yesterday evening saw me performing my first ever improvised solo. Only problem was... it was meant to be choreographed.

I was almost the last dancer on, so I had the entire show to fret myself up good and proper whilst watching an array of unspeakably talented people strutting their stuff.

Then I got onstage and my carefully polished choreo flew out of my head, leaving me 'hedgehog in headlights' in front of a hundred people, doing endless camels and almost at the point of tears. I have never before had such paralysing stagefright, and I never want to experience it again!Then I dropped my veil, which is something I haven't done in years, and something in my head went 'ping!'

I twirled around until I was in a position to casually scoop up the misbehaving prop, and spent the rest of the song just dancing. Don't ask me what, I can't remember. The photo evidence suggests there were a lot of spins. I recall barrel turns, cones, veil changes, champagne flutes, half-flipped turns, and a few more camels. There appears to have been some floorwork, and there's a 'beautiful' photo of me being eaten by my veil, which I guess is just an occcupational hazard when you combine silk and sweat.

I have no idea whether it was any good or not. It felt good, in a sort of 'zaar trance' cathartic sort of way. I smiled occasionally, but it's a sad song, so I get a free pass for the pensive/petrified expression. I got a good audience response, but there had been a lot of beer drunk by then!

All in all, quite the learning experience. Harsher lessons include the discovery that I look really, really silly doing what my teacher refers to as a 'teabag' (see picture). On her, it looks sassy and slightly cheeky. On me, it looks like Caspar the Friendly Ghost.

I also had a costume malfunction that involved my left boob making a slow but determined break for freedom out from under my bra, which a couple of people commented on. (Let it be known, dancers, you should always, always warn each other of such things, even if it's after the show. Costumes get reused, and you can;t fix a fault if you don't know it's there). And after five hours in my bag, my carefully ironed veil looked like a dishrag.

On the plus side I'm delighted to know that I can just 'get up there and dance', and that my natural response to forgetting the moves is to default to a core vocabulary until my brain starts talking to my hips again. I'm really happy that the hours and hours of freedance practice have paid off, and I'm particularly glad that I took the oft repeated advice to KNOW YOUR MUSIC.


  1. First of all, I thought you looked cute doing the teabag ( we call it the envelope), second congrats on doing the "forced" improv! Third you looked fabulous in the pics, if it is any consolation...:)

  2. That costume looks really great on you! (from what I can see that's not hidden behind the veil!!) That is such a stunning red!!

    I did my first bit of improv this weekend, and I must admit, that "in the moment" dancing is quite addictive and amazing to see how your body just GOES with it and does what comes naturally!! :)

  3. Lovely photos!

    So in a way it was a blessing in disguise- you were able to see that anything is possible and you can do improv because the show must go on! Congrats, this is a great achievement! I have gone blank with a choreo before (luckily for only short periods of time) so I know how scary it can be! And I am still not fully comfortable with improv so I admire you for not giving up!

  4. Whoo! I'm jealous - you're a *real* dancer. I bet you the audience never even knew there was a problem. Bravo!