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A short guide to group Improvisation


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A Short Guide To Group Improvisation

Group Improvisation is a creative process wherein a group of purposeful people get together to share ideas on a given topic. These ideas are not already written out. They may be based on previous ideas but these are new additions to the never-ending book that we are all collectively writing. In order to facilitate this type of activity it is important to allow each individual to participate with the greatest of ease. It is a disciplined activity. It is not a "free for all". Inexperienced participants may tend to gauge their success by assessing their own performance instead of the performance of the group. This is a very common misconception. It is the performance of the group that is of prime consideration. Using music performance as an example, here are some guidelines that may help us along the road to a successful group improvisation.

-We start by playing the initial composition. Once established, we then proceed to themes inspired by the nature of that composition.

-Each participant should build upon themes gradually. By doing this, we make it easier to understand where each other is going. Using this approach, we can then more easily accommodate each other's ideas. This ever-changing collection of ideas can then expand and contract. This expansion and contraction is the storyline for each section of the improvisation.

-Cohesiveness will occur when we are all paying attention to each other. We need to see that our contributions are relating well with what the rest of the group is doing. Paying excessive attention to our own contributions or to only certain parts of the group is only a partial solution. It can be seen as an easy way out. It is an incomplete answer. Cohesiveness requires the discipline of listening to all the components of the group just as much as one listens to oneself.

-Imitation is a good starting point when venturing into the unknown. It demonstrates that we are "on the same page". Children imitate their parents but will gradually find their own voices. In the same way, we can evolve from imitative responses to increasingly complimentary ones.

-A productive leadership role can be one that dissolves into a natural democracy where each person's strengths are best utilized to serve the group. Leadership roles change according to the demands of the piece as the improvisation evolves.

-Different situations require different degrees of importance for each participant. Sometimes we are all equally prominent. Sometimes we are supporting others. Ideally, all ranges of each person's prominence will be explored to maximize the group's creative output.

-In a group situation we must choose our statements well. If we present something questionable it cannot be removed. This will happen. We are not perfect. Yet, if we are prepared for this inevitable eventuality, we will more likely be able to utilize what we may have once considered mistakes as opportunities to explore paths that we may not have been otherwise considered. Subtle performance flaws can very well become doors of opportunity for increasing our creativity.

-In order for our ideas to flow smoothly from one to the other we must accept each idea that we present to the group as valid. The discarding of any idea abruptly can disturb the balance that has been achieved.

-The use of sufficient repetition of each theme presented will increase the level of trust within the group. Repetition of a theme shows confidence. Confidence breeds trust. Trust is a prime ingredient in all group activities. It needs to be established and maintained.

-Well-executed group improvisations are a result of a calm, intense group focus. This focus will increase with study and practice. It will spread from the participants to the audience. It is extremely rewarding for all involved.

-Any critical assessments that are made during the activity can decrease one's focus and take away from the productivity of the group. Assessment is productive as a post-creative activity.

In summary, language is our tool for successful communication. We all know how to use language. We've been on the road to successful communication since the day we were born. In whatever medium we choose, it is a never-ending progression toward fluency. Collaborative activities, such as the ones described, are very important to our degree of survival. We can do much more good as a part of a good team than we can do on our own. Understanding how a good team can operate can successfully get us all closer to our goals.

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