improvisation Xchange berlin 2014

© Elma Riza / ‘The Physicality of Words’ with Crosby McCloy at Improvisation Xchange Berlin 2014

Improvisation or instant composition is sometimes referred to as a category or genre. As you take a closer look, the richness within this category makes this classification tantamount to putting all scripts or all choreographies or all music scores together. And yet, true, there is something in common about those who are the authors of what they perform and who create and perform at the same time.

At Improvisation Xchange Berlin 2014, the word practice was pronounced time and time again. Every performance discipline has its own practice. And in improvisation there is the added essential practice of not getting so comfortable that it becomes mechanical, of keeping one’s senses awake to perform each moment as what it actually is: never before, never again. Technique is not enough, as everything that is learnt has to be learnt so deeply, that it becomes nature, so that it can then be unlearnt, deconstructed, so that the pieces are minute enough to mosaic as required by what the moment is presenting, so that they do not prevent that which has not been learnt and that which is unknown, from emerging. Practising not to get too cosy in what is familiar, not to apply “one size fits all” reactions to conditions which are never the same. Practising a balancing act between solid foundations and being on the verge. Practising not as perfecting, practising as a participation in the continuous transformation that existence is. Practising the yielding to what is there: inside, outside, upside down. Practising questions rather than affirmations. Practising not sitting on the answers, but turning them into more questions. Practising engagement and exploration.

Few activities demand such an ongoing renewal and training of skills as improvised performance. Or rather, every activity would benefit from this and very few get that dedication. I came away from the festival inspired and touched by the profound, serious and perseverant work of many people who research, explore and practise day after day as an attitude to life.

Art is a committed practice, improvisation is a committed practice: easing one’s actions into the being-becoming, feeding it with energy without hijacking it, sensing how we ourselves are part of it, cultivating and yielding… Considering the state in which most of our societies find themselves in, with thinned out connections to and understanding of the environment we are part of, embarked in an insatiable project of self-delusion aimed at disguising our estrangement from the very foundations of life and existence… it seems to me that the art of improvised performance, its practice and practitioners, represent inestimable contributions to the human community.

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