Improvisation Research

Improvisation Research2021-01-16T02:20:17+00:00

These pages relate to several threads of research in and about improvisatory practices pursued by Vida L Midgelow.

This thread includes; making solo dance works, developing improvisation tasks and scores, undertaking the foolhardy effort of defining the features and significance of improvisation, as well as musings upon and proposals for the place of improvisation within the academy.

Listening on the inside – do you see my attention pulling me inwards, sideways, upside down? Head dropping backwards and recoiling, dropping and recoiling. I notice the left hand – it hangs loosely from the bent elbow – tucked into the waist – rippling with each fall of the head – folding at the wrist to uncurl in time with the drop and recoil, drop and recoil, mirroring with a fold and uncurl, fold and uncurl.

My, mainly solo, improvisation practice is informed by somatics, in particular skinner releasing, and offer a place for pleasure in the act of dancing, conscious unconsciousness and reflexivity, in the moment composition and exploration. The work is informed by somatic modes of attention (Csordas), nomadism (Braidotti), meshwork (Ingold), phenomenology (Merleau-Ponty) and relational ethics.

Insistent, driving, repetitive the music pulses through me.
Bah ba, bah ba, bah ba.
Knees bounce to the pulse and feet step.
Bah ba bah ba, bah ba.
A bouncing skip propelling me on a clear diagonal trajectory.
Then I hear it, a low tone, long and continuous – it is there, in the background. My arms open releasing the previous rhythm to extend out – fingertips reaching out on the horizontal, shoulders wide, like a bird of prey. I begin to take long sweeping curving rotations. Diagonal lines become arching curves.
Smooth. Swooping.

I look out and I smile, my curving rotations meet the pounding feet of my
fellow dancers. And then. And then another arm glides open, the smooth
motion echoing my own and I see my body in hers and her body in mine and
we are flying.

In the introduction to the Oxford Handbook on Improvisation in Dance, I elaborate improvisation as a wide field of practices and argue that improvisation may be considered “as a way of going about things for it has no inherent content”. As a “way of going about things,” we can think through the scope of improvisation as it entails entering a convergent space in which creative process and performance are one and the same generative occurrence, and in which the work evolves processually. In other words, in improvisation, thinking and doing, planning and executing, blur through a process of, at times, compositional, but always, in-the-moment decision making.

Often structured by various frameworks, be these shared movement techniques, compositional practices, tasks, scores or the like, in-the-moment nature of improvisation foregrounds irreversibility. This is a risky thing, for improvisation involves entering a space, often with others and believing something (even if that something is “nothing”) will happen. This something, in somatically based forms, is commonly developed through (inner) listening, initiating, responding and redirecting within more or less open terrains of possibility. This entails a willingness to be vulnerable and assailable, enabling the improviser to follow routes and note emerging pathways – to catch and respond to that which becomes apparent and sparks the imagination. This happens in real time and foregrounds how and what we (can) perceive is fluid. Open to each context the improviser seeks to let go of fixity through a deeply seated receptivity to self, others and the world.

Everywhere and Nowhere | Performance Lecture

A solo performance/lecture by Vida L Midgelow. She eats her words, ingests knowledge, animates her dead self and dances everywhere and nowhere, whilst speaking about improvisation and [...]

Improvisation and/as Nomadism

Developing a Nomadic Practice Over a 2 year period to I created materials, documented by video maker Tim Halliday and recorded in blog form, to reveal a NOMADIC DANCE IMPROVISATION PRACTICE in development. The [...]

Improvisation Handbook | Edited Collection

Oxford University Handbook on Improvisation in Dance Edited by Vida L. Midgelow This Handbook attests to the presence of improvisation in live and across many forms of dance as well as to ways improvisation [...]

Some Fleshy Thinking | Writing

Some Fleshy Thinking Improvisation, Experience, Perception Vida L. Midgelow Introduction and a Few Contextual Thoughts Conceived as a playful conversation between myself as dancer and as practice, the performative form of the duologue is [...]

Trace | Improvisation Project

Trace: Playing with/out Memory Vida L. Midgelow A solo improvised dance work with live mixed sound and video material. Revealing its’ own making, Midgelow speaks from and of her experience as the improvisation [...]

Some materials in emerging from these investigations:

Research Practice Blog – Improvisational Movement Practice (with video and still images by Tim Halliday) –

Performance – Trace: playing with/out memory (with music by Tom Williams and video by Tim Halliday) –

Video work – Voice (a retracing), with Tom Williams and Tim Halliday

Performance lecture – Everywhere and Nowhere

Professorial lecture: Dance and the Academy: Improvisation, (dis)appearance and language

Toolkit – Trace: Improvisation in a Box (including workbook, score cards, essays and video materials)

Workshops and research intensives:

I also work with the research group: ‘Transdisciplinary Improvisation Network’ ( With this network I can convened improvised research salons ( and The Capstone Theatre – Improvisation & Research), a conference and events with The Cultural Capital Exchange (TCCE).

Go to Top