by Somya Kautia
What do you love most about improvisation? What led you to explore it in depth?
Improvisation is a space where I can make choices, where I can be instinctive and present. It gives back to me, tells me secrets about myself that I didn’t know. It also allows me to honour the moment I am in.
I chose to explore it deeper because it felt right. I never enjoyed choreography even though I am quick to learn. The essence and emotion of the movement, if choreographed, is hard to relive and perform repeatedly with the same freshness. I asked myself why I move. Is it so that someone can tell me how to move? I realised that as a performing artist, if I don’t have the freedom to move how I want to, it can be very limiting.
One of my teachers taught me that I have to truly feel while moving/dancing and that sensation or feeling takes precedence over form. I have been chasing this ever since. Only in improvisation do I find that honesty. Improvisation in the true sense is like living. The body becomes so smart, instinctive and prepared for anything. You learn to accept what’s happening and henceforth you observe more, and it makes you more compassionate.
I like choreography, just not one that limits you to the music. I like choreography that allows interaction with the space and the people.
How can one use improvisation to create a choreography/performance?
It has to be spontaneous; having a starting point is mostly the only familiar thing while the rest are directions to facilitate movement. There can be certain elements that are fixed – like music, lights, pathways, relationships between dancers, character, and body language. Others, such as the interactions themselves, can be spontaneous. The idea behind the piece can either be arrived at or developed through rehearsals. In the first case, the process starts much before we reach the intention.
Personally, whenever I perform or move, I have certain choices with me in the moment. These choices help me connect with my idea after which I let it lead me into a conversation with the space I am presently in.
What are some of the misconceptions associated with improvisation?
I have been improvising for years and initially I found it really hard to improvise because it felt directionless and I was often asked to do what I don’t know, which sometimes made me lose connection. Over time I started researching different contemporary techniques and stuck to the source of these techniques. From there, I started developing my own understanding. That opened so many doors in my body and I realised that there is so much we can extract from ourselves. I found a way to bridge the gap between intention and improvisation. Since then I’ve been working on it constantly because of which, I believe that the way I view things has changed. There is a huge potential in improvisation to transform people.
I’m not sure about misconceptions exactly, but I feel like a lot of people are scared of this space. I think it’s because it can’t be coded and it’s a flow of uncertainty, where sometimes you lead and sometimes you follow.
What is your understanding of the word “movement”?
To understand movement, one has to understand stillness.
Movement is transition.
Movement is action and reaction.
Movement is in anything that is alive.
Anything that travels is movement.
Movement lies between two points.
These are the first things that come to me.
How, according to you, are a person’s mental and physical states connected? How does that affect the way one moves?
Our body reacts to how we feel and we feel different emotions because of our thoughts. So I would say it’s quite a strong connection! The opposite holds true as well. Changes in posture often lead to a change in our state of mind. Our body and mind both have different memories and together, affect our behavior.
Our body communicates all the time; someone watching us can tell a lot about us. At the same time our mental state can have a huge impact on our bodies. In class, I often try to bring my students to a place where they don’t listen to their minds but rather to their bodies. The body knows its potential much more than the mind, whereas the mind helps us to compose. Both work hand in hand.