I recently taught company class for Columbus Moving Company, and taught a dance improvisation class at Feverhead, a local arts space in Columbus,OH. In both classes we explored different aspects of improvisation including how we can generate dance movement from a place of sensational stimulation.

When I dance from a place of sensation I do not necessarily know which sensation I am tapping into at every specific moment. Sometimes I do know which sensation type drove my action in the space, and other times I don’t know until after the movement has already happened. And some times it’s not a single sensation that encouraged me to move, rather  a combination of sensations that initiated the movement.  Sensation can be easier to access some days opposed to others for myself. Sometimes its my overall state of being that is making it difficult for myself, other times its the speed (slow or fast) of the movement being asked of me, and other times it could be the energy of the room or how physically/emotionally tired I am…etc. I divide these sensations in three categories: Feelings, Emotions, and Impulse.

  • Feeling Sensations: For myself feelings are the physical things I sense through touch or I feel with in my own body by an inside or outside force/stimulation. Examples: my hot skin during a improvised warm up,the cold Marley dance floor first thing in the morning, a sore hamstring after a long day of dancing, a belly full of water, etc. Feelings are physical in nature.
  • Emotional Sensation: These derive from my psychi and my over all state of being at any moment. Examples: Boredom, anguish, love, lust, anxiety, hate, excitement, etc.  My thoughts, and how I process the world, create my emotions. These in turn can manipulate how I move. These can stimulate my body into movement if I allow them.
  • Impulse Sensation: These sensations, suggest or demand, that I move in a certain direction. In a specific pathway through the space. These may tell my arm to swing in a circular pattern, or they may tell me to move my entire body in a diagonal pathway through the space.

These three sensation types are all dependent of each other. As I improvise I may notice an Emotional sensation of excitement, this will lead me to notice my heart rate and breathing rate increase, both Feeling sensations, I then may feel an Impulsive sensation  to move more quickly in the space. This is just one very specific “mapping” of sensation progression as you improvise. The initiation sensation could have started with a Feeling, that lead to an Impulse, and then to an Emotional reaction. Any combination is possible.  Many times I feel myself giving more attention to one type of sensation and allowing the other two sensation types to happen cognitively, or subconsciously, in the background of my awareness and dancing.

Sensation is a malleable, always changing, awareness of your state of being. You can start a class sensing movement in one particular way and move through dozens of sensational states of being as the class progresses. By the time class is over you will have experienced a completely new way of understanding of sensing your body in time and space. This is what excites me so much when moving through sensation. It allows me to adapt at any moment in accordance with the sensation of that moment. This in turn allows me to improvise in any kind of way with out forcing the movement to happen; giving myself the ability to be genuine and more creative with my improvisation as a result.

(Photo is of Columbus Moving Company Dancers taking class)