I remember my acting teacher Consuelo Trujillo saying “It’s not about you. What you do must be at the service of the piece”. Leaving behind personal preferences in order to become the means by which the piece fulfils itself is an exercise in letting go of self-assertion and in subordinating ourselves to something greater than us. Of course, that which we subordinate ourselves to must be meaningful to us. Serving is a powerful experience in making sense of life. When we yield to something, we become one with it and the inherently human need to belong and to transcend our limited identity is satisfied.
Of course, we can all imagine that dancers need to keep their bodies flexible in order to do their work. Actually, it’s important for all live artists to be flexible, and not just anatomically. Because of the nature of live arts, performers often have other jobs, projects overlap, different phases of the production process happen in different places and sometimes members of the team need to be replaced. This turns fitting everything together into a big feat, which can only be accomplished if everybody is flexible and willing to accommodate. Sometimes it’s necessary to stand firm by a plan in order to bring it to fruition. Sometimes the only way to make a plan succeed is to let go of certain aspects of the initial design and to adapt to evolving needs.
Improvisation has always been used in live arts, either to generate material that is then set or as an approach to performance. No situation is exactly the same as a previous one and the most appropriate response needs to consider the specific internal and external circumstances at hand, rather than what happened in a previous similar event. That is improvisation. It’s not about acting randomly but about being honest with what is here and now. Considering the brain’s strategy of saving behaviour that has worked in an attempt to be energetically efficient and repeat the success, how much can we actually bypass our patterns and improvise? Conditioning is building up every day. Being true to the moment implies letting go of this buildup ongoingly.