There are a lot of different artistic disciplines. An emerging art form in the field of dance is improvisation. I met with Naïma Ferré to understand more about what is at stake in improvisational dancing. I quickly realized that this way of dancing and the insight it has into art needs to be expressed more widely in order to give a valid counterargument to mass art.
Art is a constant search and it can exist at all levels. It’s a discipline where you need to question everything constantly. I have been around the art world in several countries for more than ten years now. For me, art needs to be a constant evolution towards your notion of truth. It’s all about sharing. I slowly came to improvisational dancing after years of theatre, on stage as well as backstage. My attraction took to this style of dance took a long time to emerge. One of the most enticing elements for me in improv dancing was that it breaks down the “fourth wall.” It allows you to be in direct contact with the space you’re in and the spectators that are watching you.
By improvising in a space, you’re creating colors and making these colors come alive. Like a magician, you are communicating through animation and liveliness to your spectators. You never know what is going to happen because you are trying to find a constant balance between the space, the audience and yourself. When you are honest as an artist, the wall between these three entities no longer exists. The best dancers I have seen were the ones that would make you forget that they were professional dancers. You would see persons, identities, real emotions. Professional dancers can sometimes look like machines. When a movement is perfect, it looks like it’s objectified and you can’t feel it deep down in your bones. You have to let yourself be carried by the movement, not the other way around.
In improvisation, there is the feeling that everything is here and now. You have to accept what happens no matter what. You’re not hiding between anything, you, your complete self, has to be present. When you achieve true honesty, it gives you access to a particular moment that all artists are searching for. The feeling of being in perfect tune with the moment, with every inches of your body and every millisecond that goes by. It can go on for the entire performance or for merely the blink of an eye.
This feeling can be magnified if you are in a group of improvising dancers though the balance is a lot harder to find. You have to be constantly attentive to the others while also trying to find yourself. Even if everyone is taking different paths, when the performance is good, you all reach the same destination. You always have to consider the others without judging them even if you don’t understand what your partner is doing; you have to let it flow. That’s the big question, how do you react to something that you don’t understand? You have to cope with it and make it yours to be able to go on. Accept it. A group of dancers are like a microsociety where everyone has to take care of each other. You reach that impression of togetherness that is indescribable. There is always space for different individualities in a group but then again, it’s all about the balance of the whole.
I’m working with a new dancer and she is all about pure movement—the opposite from me. I’m convinced that movement is just the mere means in order to reach the presence I was talking about. My new partner makes movement for the sake of it. For her, the action in itself is what matters and not the other way around. I stay open minded and I think both approaches are worth it. As I said, as long as you enjoy it you need to try everything in art in order to find yourself. This is basic. I see art as a very hedonistic domain, where the search for pleasure makes you surpass boundaries. You share pleasure and you feel yourself and everybody else with such extremes as kindness or revulsion. The aim is to trigger emotions and open new realms of consciousness.
In the end, Improvisation can be reduced to a metaphor for life. You have to find your space by respecting others and taking into account their existence, wills and desires. It’s all about choice and communication. I think Berlin allowed me to be aware of my emotions. It’s a city where creativity flows, where people are still putting up a lot of projects. Beautiful projects.
Being recognized and especially living from improvisation and performance is really hard. Most of the time investors ask you “But what are you going to do?”; the whole point is that we don’t know, they have trouble understanding this and as usual it’s all about the money.
I can’t blame them because they live in a different world than mine. Improvisation is a really new discipline and I guess it will need time before it becomes a major art form. It has always been present throughout history but it was only at the beginning of the seventies that it became a true practice in itself. We need to accept it in order for this activity to be more accessible. Make people understand that improvisation is beyond concepts and intellectual thoughts. It’s about communication and sharing. It’s about finding a space in the world. It’s about living in the moment.