Improvisation: Graduate Movement Practice

Archive Date: February 19, 2018
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Facilitator: Laura Rodriguez

For my facilitation, I was initially going to do Lisa Nelson’s “Tuning Score” then move into Barbara Dilley’s “Red Square” since they compliment each other nicely. However, we had to rearrange for an exciting Department announcement and I have given the re-structure and some resources for you all.

My foundation for the day was the focus of love, care, and ethics that surround our daily ritual of a rigorous movement practice together. I was also interested in researching some models that I have been working on for developing community connections that can be deepened with every practice using the material from my ancestor’s lineage. So preserving the past connections here but moving forward.

First: The Gift

This piece of paper was given to me as a gift with no ties to any resource or page number. However, I cut it into parts and as each person came into the room I offered them to choose a gift. My hope is that one day I will find its home, but for now, it sets up some wonderful values for space, time, and movement. We used this in our walking structure for our pre-warmup and dropping into connections. We used voice, movement, memory, and care during our interactions and explorations. These words became one of the containers for our time together.

The Outline:

Care + Senses + Imagination + Attentionography

Lineage Building from Lisa Nelson, Barbara Dilley, and Alia Swersky/Karen Nelson. Some viewpoints work has been integrated.

  1. Welcome + Clearing

  2. Gift exercise (vertical space and 360 perceptions): Walking pre-warmup for connection. Exit Space.

  3. 2nd sequence: You are cared for, you are safe (building sensory awareness, listening inner/outer and close and far space): Take a moment to answer your own I am _____________ mantras. Moving practice deepens in space – Group: You are cared for, you are safe mantra incorporating self-mantras and noticings inner and outer. The end was felt and happened collectively.

  4. Reflection: I noticed the warmth, connection, and depth of space gained from these awarenesses. I was able to drop down to many levels with the group and explore movement attention, with my senses inner and outer. I felt at peace to experience what was there, and I was drawn to the other humans in the room. Touch, tenderness, care, warmth, present, here, and open are words I found myself collecting. Everyone shared beautiful reflections and thoughts during this time.

  5. Break for Dept Announcement.

  6. Rigorous Communal Warm-up: to reinvigorate our body after a break I shared a version of a communal warm-up practice for care. Elevated music played to motivate working the body to investigate movement. (vertical space, horizontal space, and 360 perceptions deepened)

  7. Lisa Nelson Tuning Score: Laboratory on composition, communication, and the sense of imagination within a community. Dual dialogue of inner and outer organization, space, time, movement, and desire. We chose collectively to change the “insiders” and “outsiders” to “witnesses” and “doers.” Noting the emphasis on Lisa’s choice to specifically implement these words with an intent.

Lisa Nelson’s Tuning Score: We chose these words to start a 25min dive.

Begin – signal a shift of attention.

Pause – as long as you like or as long as you can (resume movement when you choose).

End – Dancers choice to exit or remain.

Reverse –  movement as far as you can remember without effort, then continue in real time from a new starting point.

Replace – One dancer replaces another dancer’s activity – all dancers exit and begins again.

The collective was off to an energetic start and was well cared for from our rigorous communal warm-up. The group managed 25min and passed through initial reserves quickly. It would be nice to develop towards an hour and a half dive with the score to experience where the “Go” phase happens or when Barabara Dilley would say the “river stage” appears. The point where we are operating without direction and the sequences have aligned. Or we could increase the words used by Lisa Nelson into the score or decrease. The score came to a collective end while noting, we all wanted to continue for a longer duration.


LISA NELSON is a dance-maker, improvisational performer, and collaborative artist who has been exploring the role of the senses in the performance and observation of movement since the ’70s. From an investigation of video and dance, she developed an approach to real-time editing and performance she calls “Tuning Scores.” Nelson travels widely to perform, teach and create dances and maintains long-term collaborations with other artists, including Steve Paxton, Scott Smith, Daniel Lepkoff and Image Lab. She’s been encouraged by receiving an NY “Bessie” Dance and Performance Award and an Alpert Award in the Arts. She has co-edited Contact Quarterly dance and improvisation journal since 1976. In recent years, she’s been constructing two interactive computer video games with the Brussels publisher Contredanse that provide tools for players within a field of movement, sound, and touch.

Contact Quarterly click here. 

8. Closing Circle: Share – energy in a close circle with I am Mantras.

There was so much care and charge in the room.