Student Blog: Improv as Composition

February 28, 2022

Shea Hancock performing alone on stage.

Shea Hancock (BFA '25) at the Fall 2021 Cypher Celebration | Photo by Rose Eichenbaum

As a current first-year BFA student, Improvisation and Composition is one of the required courses for our major. Last semester, we had the privilege of working with Lecturer Bret Easterling in this course, where we took a more improv-based approach. As a class, we constantly researched different tasks and broke down how to improvise. We had many discussions as a class about our individual relationships with improv. We discovered that we each have an entirely different perspective on improv in relation to our individual artistic voices. Some people described how improv is their main means of communication while others felt extremely inhibited by improv. Throughout the semester, we utilized this knowledge to challenge our artistry and dive into the vulnerability of the art form.

Improvisation as Composition with d. Sabela grimes

This semester, the first year students have the honor of working with Associate Professor of Practice d. Sabela grimes in this course, and we have taken the approach of Improvisation as Composition. During the first few weeks, we explored the concept of relationships, both to each other and to the space. We also looked at dynamics and symbolism in our movement. We began developing individual phrases and merging into groups to generate new material from our individual phrases. As we continued playing with these ideas and sharing our visions with the class, we also practiced “dreaming.” This meant we would share our dreams for each other’s pieces and then watch as they panned out in real time, which was such a magical process to be a part of.

In preparing for Fresh Sesh, Professor grimes wanted us to approach our pieces with the same mindset. His wish for us was to not get too wrapped up in the product that we forget about the vast opportunities for “dreaming” in the process. Within my own choreographic process, I have used so many of the techniques that we tested in our class exploration, and they have helped immensely to create a flow. Many of us have had the opportunity to partake in both sides of the process, choreographing and dancing in pieces, which adds another layer to this growth of knowledge.

We are so excited to share our works so soon with everyone, and I feel so grateful to have such a supportive class to embark on our first class-wide choreographic endeavor. I would also like to give a huge shoutout to Professor grimes for keeping us grounded in the journey and allowing us to let our creativity run wild. Let’s go Class of 2025!

Fresh Sesh will be held Thursday, March 3, at 7:30 p.m. Reserve your free ticket today!

By Shea Hancock (BFA ’24)