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Chopinot, Régine (France)



Merzouki, Mourad (France)


Marche et improvisation

Wolliaston, Elsa (France)


Questa pazzia e fantastica - Paysages fabriens

Fabre, Jan (Belgium)


Dominique Mercy danse Pina Bausch

Obadia, Régis (Germany)



Charmatz, Boris (France)


My lunch with Anna

Halprin, Anna (United States)


De la composition en temps réel - Joao Fiadeiro

Fiadeiro, João (France)


Maison de la Danse de Lyon 2015 - Director : Plasson, Fabien

Choreographer(s) : Chopinot, Régine (France) Merzouki, Mourad (France) Wolliaston, Elsa (France) Fabre, Jan (Belgium) Bausch, Pina (Germany) Charmatz, Boris (France) Buffard, Alain (France) Gourfink, Myriam (France) Fiadeiro, João (Portugal)

Author : Philippe Guisgand

en fr



"Improvisation" is frequently used to refer to the creation or performance of a task in a spontaneous manner, in the moment and unplanned. In many professional fields, the term’s use is rather pejorative and refers to the lack of preparation or organisation. However, this is quite different in the arts. Whether in music, theatre or dance, whether individual or collective, improvisation often requires a vast amount of preparatory work. In terms of choreography, it has become training and practice method for contemporary dancers and a way of creating new material in choreography.  


 Improvisation with Régine Chopinot

When we asked French choreographer Régine Chopinot about improvisation, she responded, with her customary honesty, that today improvisation has become a throwaway word, a sort of unbearable hodgepodge. Yet, she gives few hints on how to see things in a clearer manner. How can some sort of order be re-established amongst this jumble ?

 Kartons - Compagnie Käfig

Improvisation is, therefore, at the root of jazz dancing and the relation is nowhere more present than in the hip hop universe: just as in jazz, hip hop dancers are self-taught, they grant improvisation an essential place. Today, even if hip hop, especially in Europe, has moved towards the stage, it continues to protect improvisation through battles which retain the area for regeneration, unique proposal and a test area for the movement.

 Elsa Wolliaston : marche et improvisation

Improvisation is also found to be an educational method which allows teachers to react to propositions made by pupils, as in this Master class led by Elsa Wolliaston on the theme of walking.

 Questa pazzia e fantastica - Jan Fabre

Certain choreographers have also perceived improvisation as a tool for composition. They see it as a reflection of the contemporary creation process, which combines the performers in the process of development of the artistic material. Composition thereby consists of identifying, selecting and adjusting gestures seen in improvisation as we can see at the start of this documentary.

 Dominique Mercy danse Pina Bausch

It is during this period of appropriation of forms that meaning is extracted. The choreographer should then be an onlooker aware of what is unfolding. Consequently, Pina Bausch guided research undertaken by dancers with questions, themes and key words that she proposed during a very long preliminary work as discussed here by Dominique Mercy.

 Poetry Event - Carolyn Carlson

However, certain promoters of improvisation do not intend to confine this to the secrecy of studios where choreographic creations are developed; they claim the interest of performance and want to portray this on stage. In 1975, Carolyn Carlson proposed that dancers from the Opera be open beyond just the classical technique. She created the Groupe de recherches théâtrales de l’Opéra de Paris (theatrical research group at the Paris Opera), which sometimes attempts to perform shows with improvised sequences. Carlson would never give up on this alternative form and she continues to develop this in the company of her musician friends. In Poetry Event, it is no longer only about reacting to the music, but creating the conditions for mutual listening so as to implement a dialogue with instruments, other (arts), poetry and the location.

 Improvisation - Boris Charmatz et Mederic Collignon

Now, this this spontaneous use of the body opens up onto a large landscape. This may take on very fun dimensions, such as in this stage improvisation by Boris Charmatz et Mederic Collignon [Improvisation, 2011] where the dancer and musician constantly rebound to the movement, sound or space created by the other.

 My lunch with Anna - Alain Buffard

Improvisation further still symbolises the permanent nature of resistance, of a manner of experiencing dance differently, as has been championed for over half a century by the Californian dancer Anna Halprin. The film by Alain Buffard named My lunch with Anna, shows this critique towards a "puppet dance" focused on the spectacular, which turns the Halprin process towards almost therapeutic practices.

 Un Temps autre - Myriam Gourfink

With both critical and aesthetic concerns, it is also possible to cite the work of Myriam Gourfink [Un Temps autre, 2011] hich uses partitions displayed on the floor allowing each performer choices, in a sort of elastic tempo.

 De la composition en temps réelJoao Fiadeiro

Finally, let us cite Joao Fiadeiro who seeks to construct availability and decision-making at the time of a performance. What these three choreographers have in common (inter alia) is that the responsibility is left to the performer. The performer is prepared to use a method, he/she is able to manage the actions improvised, within a simple dramatic framework, which is pre-established, but under permanent development. In this artistic posture, dancers, choreographer and viewers together create, in an uninterrupted manner, the sense of what is happening.

In more depth


BANES, Sally. Terpsichore en baskets. Post-modern dance, Paris ; Pantin : Chiron ; Centre national de la danse, 2002. 310 p.

BOISSIERE, Anne, KINTZLER, Catherine. Approche philosophique du geste dansé : de l’improvisation à la performance, Villeneuve d’Ascq : Presses Universitaires du Septentrion, 2006. 206 p. (Esthétique et sciences des arts).

FORSYTHE, William. Improvisation Technologies: A Tool for the Analytical Dance Eye [CD- Rom], Karlsruhe, Hatje Cantz, 1994.

POUILLAUDE. Frédéric. Le Désœuvrement chorégraphique. Etude sur la notion d’œuvre en danse, Paris : J. Vrin, 2009. 430 p.

 Articles et reviews

BENOIT-NADER, Agnès. « On the Edge / Créateurs de l'imprévu », in Nouvelles de Danse, n° 32-33, Bruxelles, Contredanse, automne-hiver 1997.

BELEC, Danielle. « Improvisation et chorégraphie. L’enseignement de Robert Ellis Dunn », in Nouvelles de danse, n°36-37, Bruxelles, Contredanse, 1998. p. 88-101.

« Contact improvisation », in Danser n° 297, Monaco, Editions Du Rocher, avril 2010, p. 58-59.

FIADEIRO, Joao, GUENIOT, David Alexandre. « Entre moi et moi-même, entre réalité et fiction, entre ici et là », in ROUSIER, Claire, La Danse en solo, Pantin, CND, 2002, 115-124 p.

KUYPERS, Patricia. « Contact improvisation », in Nouvelles de Danse, n° 38-39, Bruxelles, Contredanse, 1999.

PAXTON, Steve. « L'art des sens », in Contact Quaterly : Dance journal & improvisation journal, vol. XII, n°2, Spring/Summer, 1987.

SIX, Nicolas. « Battlemania », in Danser, n° 266, Monaco, Editions Du Rocher, juin 2007, p. 41.


LE MOAL, Philippe. « Improvisation », in LE MOAL, Philippe, Dictionnaire de la danse, Paris, Larousse, 1999. p. 586.


PAXTON, Steve, ANDRIEN, Baptiste, CORIN, Florence. Material for the Spine : a movement study [DVD]. Bruxelles, Contredanse, cop. 2008, 4h.

 Dissertations and thesis

CHAUMETTE, Sarah. Elaboration d'une présence en scène dans l'atelier de Mark Tompkins : analyse d'une composition en temps réel dans un contexte pédagogique [en ligne]. Mémoire de Master en danse, sous la direction d’Isabelle Ginot, Université Paris 8 Saint-Denis, septembre 2012, 274 p. Disponible sur : http://www.danse.univ-

FOUILHOUX Biliana. L’improvisation chez William Forsythe : une approche singulière, thèse de doctorat en théâtre, Université Paris III, 2007.


Philippe Guisgand is professor of dance universities at the University of Lille. He is a researcher at CEAC and leads the program "Dialogues between art and research". He is a designer of a choreographic analysis path for which he has developed an original kinesic bias ("Reception of the choreographic spectacle: from a functional description to aesthetic analysis", STAPS Review n ° 74, autumn 2006, 117 -130). He also works to better understand the means by which spectators give an account of their sensitive reception as well as the political consequences of aesthetic debates ("The workshops of the spectator, factories of the sensitive", Quaderni n ° 83, winter 2013-2014, 59 -71). Specialist of the work of Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker (The Sons of Endless Intertwining, Septentrion, 2007, Anne Teresa of Keersmaeker, L'Epos, 2009 and Intimate Chords, Dance and Music at De Keersmaeker, Septentrion 2017), Finally, he is interested in the dialogues of the arts ("Demands and addresses: dance and music by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker" in Stephanie Schroedter (ed.), Zwischen Hören und Sehen, Würzburg, Koenigshausen & Neumann, 2012, 425-437) and to certain aspects of performativity ("About the notion of body condition" in Josette Féral (ed.), Performative Practices, Body Remix, Montreal / Rennes, University of Quebec Press / Rennes University Press, 2012, 223-239).


Excerpts selection
Philippe Guisgand

Texts and bibliography selection

Philippe Guisgand

 Maison de la Danse

The "Improvisation" Course was launched thanks to the support of General Secretariat of Ministries and Coordination of Cultural Policies for Innovation (SCPCI) 

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