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Why do we do improv (free dance) in class?

Updated: Jan 19, 2022

Why is improv so important?

Most classes are filled with structured lessons including barre, technique, and combinations. After all, these are the aspects that make up a great performance and create beautiful dancers.

Yet, sometimes you see the teacher turn on the music and just let the dancers free dance or improv. Sometimes they are given a prompt or guidance. Sometimes the teacher just wants them to do their own thing.

It is one thing to perform a combination of steps and another to improv with the music. They are two different skills that each dancer should have. We have the dancers improv because there are great benefits to it. Here are our five favorites!

1. Boost Confidence

If dancers are only comfortable in predetermined steps and combinations, they’ll likely be insecure when it comes to improvisation. However, pushing through this fear and letting their bodies guide them can often serve as a huge confidence-booster! Dancers develop their own sense of style and learn more about how they express themselves which will give them more confidence when they perform. Improv exercises can also help alleviate fears about making mistakes. When they’re making up steps on the fly, there’s no “right” and “wrong.” Instead, it’s just about being confident and creative while having fun.

2. Encourage Self-Discovery

Sometimes stepping outside of their comfort zones can help students discover who they are as performers. It’s impossible for dancers to grow if they’re constantly held inside a box. Improv encourages your dancers to spread their wings. When students aren’t solely focused on learning your steps, their minds will be open to all the possibilities that dance offers them. It can help dancers express emotions through movement. It is a great way to let off steam, express joy, or just relax.

3. Improve Musicality

It can be hard to teach dancers about musicality and it can be complicated to explain, especially to tiny dancers. Improvisation can help teachers teach musicality. Dancers have to feel the music and let it guide their steps. They have to listen to the layers and levels of the music and manipulate their dancing to match. It may seem awkward at first and dancers may be uncomfortable, soon they’ll be connecting their movements with the music.

4. Aid Performance Recovery

There are times in every dancer’s career when she misses a step or falls. These moments are embarrassing for any dancer, but what sets the pros apart from the beginners is how they recover. Many times young performers will freeze after making a mistake. Improv can help dancers recover from their mistakes. When dancers are used to going with the flow, they’ll be able to turn a trip into a graceful turn, then get right back into performance. Many times, the audience won’t even notice the misstep if the dancer recovers fluidly.

5. Creativity

It's one thing to be taught a series of steps to perform and a completely different skill to just make it up on your own. Improv time should be a completely judgment free zone. Where dancers can twist and turn and try new things with no fear or being wrong. By improvising new and creative movements can be explored that may not have been discovered without the use of improvisation.

It’s also a great way for teachers to see if dancers are able to apply the skills they have learned.

As you can see, both dance teachers and students can benefit from improvisation in class. It helps everyone to think outside the box and continue growing as performers.


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