The practice of Compositional Improvisation involves composing in the moment to create ephemeral works. Generally our only parameters are space in time. We tend not to use prompts, though sometimes we allow for wishes (which may or may not come true). In this way, we are wedded to whatever is happening or arising–until it changes, and then we tend to that.
One of the more beautiful aspects of the form is its emphasis on equity. It breaks down traditional hierarchies between choreographer and dancer and asks everyone in the ensemble to make compositional choices. We follow our own impulses and tend to needs of the composition in equal measure. One of the form’s adages is “Everyone is responsible for what is happening (even the audience.)” This requires a rigor of attention–to self and others. Of course, our bodies are already politicized, but we work hard to free ourselves from limitations and habits we carry with us in the world. At the same time, we allow limitations (along with moods, mistakes, and mystery) to inform the work. Again, we tend to whatever is happening.
Because we are also poets and writers, we often use text in our compositions. We recognize that words are powerful and we use language as a way to open doors instead of limit choices.
Jennifer Hoefle and I co-founded Movement Salon in 2007. Original members include Gregory Colburn, Vicki Brown, Amanda Morse, Katie Rutterer, and TC Tolbert. Additional performers have included Lisa Bowden, Michael Dauphinais, Connor Gallagher, and Abigail Stage.
Our mentors are The Architects, from whom we first learned the form. Many of us have been repeat participants in their annual Movement Intensive in Compositional Improvisation (or MICI or “dance camp”).