Discoveries Through Improvisation

Rudolf Nureyev is quoted stating, “my feet are dogs”. It got me to think about what this means in terms of play in dance, more specifically improvisation. In one study, scientists in Sweden tested over 15,000 dogs to determine personality traits. Dog’s personalities can be broken down into five categories: Playfulness, Curiosity/fearlessness, Chase-proneness, Sociability and Aggressiveness.

In looking at the body as the feet being the “leader” or “initiator”, what does this mean in terms of what Nureyev is saying, that our feet are like dogs? In Merian Soto’s Corporeal Improvisation class, we are always challenged to find new ways of moving through various exercises, modes and entry points. If we are to play around with this idea of the feet being dogs within class, what could it in fact produce?

I played around with this concept in class and this is what I in fact found. Playfulness and curiosity, for me, are quite fruitful. Taking something so simple as the feet being the initiator to movement, can actually lend itself to be quite complex. I started off really small and built from there. I tried to move an inch at a time. I kept coming back to the same questions: what can the body say that isn’t “technique” focused? What does the body want to release and let go of?

Perhaps man’s best friend can teach us a lot in dance through the lens of Nureyev’s quote. Dogs are creatures that are very much in the moment and present in that. In improvisation, my most fruitful explorations have been when I have been so immersed within the moment; I lost sense of time and even space. Like a dog frolicking through a field, we can find much of that same curiosity and fearlessness found in this study. So I leave you with this question to answer through your exploration: How can your dancing change in an instant by taking off your tired worn out lens and putting on that of another?

By: Alana Melene Yost

M.F.A. student