MTD Workshop

In March 2018, I give a dance improvisation to eleven first-year dance students (six male students and five female students), at the University of the Arts, Modern Theatre Dance department. Rough and Tumble Play (R & T play) forms the main starting point.

Dancers:  Alberto Quirico, Björn Bakker, Lian Frank, Lucie Rutten, Oriane Gidron, Jente Witvrouwen, Simon Lelièvre, Fons Dhossche, Catarina Paiva, Laura Costa, Oscar Valenza 

In this workshop I hand over the photo material and video footage that I collected in December 2017 (when I observed the play activities of the four boys) to the dance students.

In this workshop, the dance students have to work in groups of three to four, they pick out some photographs and use it as anchor points for their dance improvisation. They revisit and relive the play event of the four boys by moving through the selected imagery, picking up traces of energy, intentions and foremost affects.

After the instruction, the first year dance students start to work in smaller groups. They look at the photographs, pick the ones out that hold their attention and move unto the dance floor. First slightly hesitative, but gradually the dancers tune into the imagery and recollect traces of energy, intentions and affects.

I observe the following things:

  1. Just as in the physical play event of the four boys, the dancers synchronize movements spatially and temporally. See picture below. Notice the position of the arms and the shift of weight in the legs, as if they were looking in a mirror. The bodies are clearly resonating with each other. Although the movements ‘differ in detail, they adopt flow and use of space, their tempo, rhythm and weight, their kind of responses and style’ (Blom and Chaplin, 1988, p. 23). They integrate the other way of moving into their own. Notice also the attentional focus. Not only is the gaze directed towards each other, also the movement of the head is synchronized.
  2. Even more, movements are not only generated by independent agents (i.e. the dancers) but also by the in-between (relational) space. Dance improvisation can be seen as an encounter of autonomous agents that constantly seek the balance between shaping the others and the space, and letting oneself be shaped. One could speak of co-agency, since the dancers coordinate their actions, intentions and affects. The dancers mould and sculpt their bodies in order to become a multi-sensed organism. The movement continuously evolves as a result of something bigger, namely the accumulation of bodies that together merge dynamically into a form – also referred to as common intercorporality, a state in which ‘body schemas and body experiences expand and, in a certain way, incorporate the perceived body of the other’ (Fuchs and De Jaegher , 2009, p. 72).

3. Dance improvisation is a self-structuring process. Rules pop up during the dance improvisation as a response to the ongoing movements. The rules serve as a framework, as recognizable reference points that provide a repeatable structure to the dance improvisation. ‘Improvisation arises from rules and rules arise from improvisation’, says Steve Paxton (cited in Buckwalter 2010, p. 42).


Blom, Lynne and Chaplin, Tarin (1988), The Moment of Movement: Dance improvisation, London: Dance Books.

Buckwalter, Melinda (2010), Composing While Dancing: an Improviser’s Companion,Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press.

Fuchs, Thomas, and De Jaegher, Hanne (2009), ‘Enactive Intersubjectivity: Participatory Sense-making and Mutual Incorporation’, Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 8:4, 465-486.

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