The Art of Improvisation

The Art of Improvisation


For those of you that don't already know, last weekend was Karavan Studio's 20th annual Give Belly Dance a Chance recital. Friday and Saturday night featured a multi-media show including online students. Sunday night's show featured live Middle Eastern music with the Byblos Band of Houston, oud virtuoso Naser Musa, Georges Lammam on violin and star singer Jabour Bakla. Called "Project Band", Karavan students work hard all year to learn the art of improvisation to live music. I consider myself very fortunate to be able to participate in Project Band and I've learned so much about dancing to live music, but also improvising when it comes to life in general! Here's some things I've learned:

Plan ahead.
Wait a minute, isn't improvising just going with whatever is thrown at you? Well, yeah, but having some sort of plan is helpful and can get you through uncomfortable bits. It will prepare you for the most exciting possibilities as well as the monotonous or scary things that might pop up. Let's look at a song you want to dance to. Breaking it down into smaller chunks and phrases can help you figure out the best course of action for each chunk. Maybe here you will play with the melody and there you will follow the singer. Maybe there's a section of the song that requires something big and dramatic! Even if the band doesn't play all these things, at least you were prepared. You could equate this in every day life with saving money for a rainy day. You know, when the roof starts leaking.

Don't panic!
Sometimes the band will play something you didn't expect. At all. Is that even the same song??!! Keep calm and summon your inner badass. If you appear confident, your audience will never know that you had no idea what was happening. Just keep going. For example, in the Saturday night show I lost my hip scarf towards the end of a number. Front and center. YAY ME! I did my best not to make "oh sh*t face", just step out of the scarf and smile. As a result, I don't think anyone noticed much. Right? HA! Anyway, the same thing can be applied with unexpected changes in music, screwy costumes and life's little surprises.

Don't take yourself too seriously.

Okay, so you screwed up, and the audience can see it. It's okay to laugh at yourself or make a silly face. You're human! If you can get the audience to laugh with you, you've actually made a connection with them. More about connecting with your audience in the next blog. 😉 Again, it's about confidence.

Have fun!
It's easy to get caught up in the idea that you must execute your plan exactly or you've totally bombed. Or worry that your scarf will fall off. There's always going to be something that didn't go as planned, but those things will also help you grow. Relax and enjoy the ride, my friends. Improvisation is also about catching those things you didn't expect and turning them into beautiful, memorable moments. Take some time to really listen to the music and express what's in your soul. Use your plan but add your own unique style to it. You might be surprised what comes out! That's the fun of it! And if you're not having fun anymore, it might be time to quit.

Did you make it?
Give yourself a pat on the back. Even if you had some mistakes, you made it through and you gave it your best. Reflect on what went right and remember those things for the next round. I celebrated the end of recital week with champagne and good friends and I can't wait to make plans for the new semester!

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