I work with people and movement first and foremost. Sometimes I work with touch (a sensation that has been lost as time has passed) with older people, sometimes I make running patterns with tiny tots based on abstract art, and sometimes I create contemporary work with a group who want to explore a particular idea. Alongside such projects I regularly teach and train in contact improvisation and perform with like minded artists perhaps in the theatre as part of a performance bill or alongside some art work in a gallery. More recently I have been making improvised movement scores with dance-film maker Lisa Thomas and her team using T.S. Elliot’s ‘The Wasteland’ as the primary resource.

I feel that often improvisation is misunderstood as a spontaneous, unserious approach to performance

Improvisation

Recently I gained an MA with distinction in dance theatre from the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts combing making dance, improvisation and academia. Underpinning my practice with experimental research and philosophical theory has helped me identify the skills and knowledge in improvisation performance practice. I feel that often improvisation is misunderstood as a spontaneous, unserious approach to performance; however it is a disciplined practice in which the dancer must tune in to many roles at the same time – creator, observer, director and performer.

I remember reading a passage from a writer and school teacher who was turfed out of his classroom and put on the spot to work with the class children in an empty room. He suggests that it was one of the most successful teaching practices of his days. Why? No resources (or not the usual ones), but plenty of children and more space: An empty space, space to fill. And to work with those children I guess it had to require more listening, less hierarchy, and movement. But more than that the teacher responded to the children and the environment in the moment. It was improvisation.

How do we practice for something that we don’t know what is going to happen? How do we create the skills to do what is required in the moment?

Working experientially with body and mind techniques and not with a particular style of dance allows the dancer to open new channels, cut through habitual patterns and be available to act spontaneously. We can use sensation to soften our thoughts and be fluid enough to listen to our impulses or catch a new wave. Using our body as a source of understanding we can practice increasing the capacity to perceive what is happening inside and around us. A safe contained context to practice improvisation is needed to encourage extemporaneous thinking and experimentation. Often, limitations are created in the form of “scores” which are generated as a way in for the performers and the audience. These scores could be a set of rules, a notation, a proposal or a flavour of something. Here performers practice the ability to play, make spontaneous decisions, use the imagination, remember, listen and respond to what is happening. Improvisational practice is an accessible way that a performer can discover their own aesthetic.

Improvisational practice is an accessible way that a performer can discover their own aesthetic

Community

I enjoy making high quality dance pieces with community engagement; people with or without dance training. Some people relish the opportunity to dance, work towards something as part of a social group, or have a connection with where the work is being made, such as a park or a theatre space.

My creative process includes the dancers (that’s everyone) to become involved in ideas for the piece, together making movement and compositional devices for us to play with and create performance scores.

Each group of people is different and each project is unique. It is about the group coming together and creating together. It’s about having a new experience, and hopefully getting the opportunity to share that in performance. The simple activity of moving together means people have a holistic experience. In feedback sessions people don’t just speak about what they did – moving their body involves their emotions and imagination and interaction with others.

More long term workshops and classes can offer a different focus. I feel we all need space to explore our inner wisdom, away from the academic rigour of school or deadlines at work. How often do we take time to play, create, look inside and listen carefully to others and work with that. This still involves careful attention, and practice. My work here is to find ways of engaging with people of different backgrounds and abilities, and the connection is through movement. I try to feel my way to adopt the most appropriate approach; it can be playful or caring aiming to help people achieve what they need to do or want to say.

Ideas I have for the near future involve creating dance-theatre work with young children, working on movement direction with actors and exploring the role of the representation of contemporary Muslim women. I enjoy making work for performance to challenge stereotypes or break down barriers in our society. Exploring dance and creative practice allows for difference and experimentation. It also allows us to develop the individual with an awareness of others. It brings us, people, together. I love the variety of projects I have experienced working with people and movement.

To get in touch with Vicci about her work, or for more information email: riley73@btinternet.com