The assertion that improvisation is dead is meant as a provocation, not a statement of fact. Historically, movements and ideas have been declared dead when they are in fact transforming and taking on new life and vigor. Our aim with this issue is to bring to the surface the dissonance and tension that exist around the ideas of what improvisation is, how it is valued, and the role it plays in the larger arena of dance as an art form.
The recent Movement Research Festival 2004: Improvisation is Hard (November 29th through December 12th) provides a starting point for this discussion. Many of us perceived a new sense of diversity in the Festival’s choice of events, venues and artists. Structurally, the curation had shifted to a seven-member committee of artists who represented a larger sector of the community and varying approaches to what the festival could incorporate and address. During the Festival, questions arose. Did the curators have a consolidated agenda or vision? How pluralistic was the Festival? Was it thought provoking? What were the artists’ and audiences’ responses to it? What do we consider improvisation, and how is the term being stretched and contracted by current practices? And adding to those: How is the language of improvisation tangential to other art forms and disciplines outside the arts? Hos is improvisation activated by these discourses, or vice versa? We only began to address these questions. However, in this issue, current thoughts on improvisation are articulated, recipes offered, more questions raised and connections made.
It is a pervasive topic in formal and informal conversations that viable and extensive forums for discourse on experimental dance are lacking; that the preview/review format does not fill the need for a real discussion of the ideas and directions taken by artists; that mainstream dance criticism is lagging behind in its scope and focus. A variety of attempts and exercises need to be formulated to counter this neglect. The Journal is one such forum. Mirroring the approach taken to curate the Festival, a six-member Editorial Team came together for the production of this issue. We gravitated towards Movement Research with differing needs, interests and proposals, and eventually coalesced around the project of editing the next Journal. It is our hope that by continually incorporating the ideas of various artists in the publication of the Journal, we create a vehicle of analysis and dialogue that accurately reflects the diversity of our community.
Thank you and enjoy,
Editors: April Biggs, Kimberly Brandt, Levi Gonzalez, Isabel Lewis, Alejandra Martorell and Layard Thompson