Tonite I dropped into a Facebook message thread discussing an improv article that basically said fidgeting and pacing in an improv scene is always wrong. First comment I saw was from a fellow improviser who said she naturally paces a lot and what should she do? And from that I've started a new blog feature, the Unintentional Mailbag! Where I accidentally stumble into a facebook post while searching for something else and write a way too long for facebook answer so I make it into a blog post at 1am on a random Wed morning because it's such an interesting topic. Now you're all caught up. So the answer is, Yes, And Yourself. Which is actually a short answer. So my explanation of the answer was the too long part. Now you're actually caught up.
Before we dig in, a key point is that no actions in improv (and most actions you'll make in life) are ever wrong. However, they can be poor choices that make the scene/life a lot harder. For example, fidgeting and mindless pacing are not wrong, and they do make a scene/life harder. The majority of people are distracted by shiny things; it's not our fault, we're mammals. Fidgeting and mindless pacing are distracting. A distracted audience is thus paying attention to your movement and not to the scene. You have to work that much harder to get them back. And now you're chasing points like when the Eagles go for 2 in the first quarter and miss. It sucks for everyone.
Yes, And Yourself
Yes, anding yourself is the most important yes, and there is. It means you practice self-care. If you have a physical ailment, you take care of yourself and make sure you're safe. It also means you accept all the urges, thoughts, emotions, and actions you have...without judgement. At least that's the goal we're moving towards. Trying to suppress a thought, urge, emotion or action does not work as a long-term strategy because it invites actual constriction, tightness, less blood flow in the body. How? Well, how do you suppress your body from physically moving? You tighten your muscles. Same thing happens if we try to suppress thought, urges or emotions. Suppression degrades the strength of the connection to relaxed/in the flow/zone, a connection that great improv requires. Instead of trying to stop judging yourself...can you spend one less second today judging yourself than yesterday? One more second without self-judgement on stage this time? One more second second in the zone? One more second allowing? One more second intentionally moving? You can totally do one more second a day of something!
For your particular question, some part of your body has an urge to move. So let the urge be there....and then choose to direct it, to move/not move in a way that works for you; that serves your life and the scene. Here's one way to do it.
Everything in life is a practice. No one learns how to drive or tie their shoes in one attempt. Remember it took Harry Potter 7 books to learn to use his wand well enough to defeat Vladimir Putin. It takes time and practice. I bet you can do it in 5 books, and zero pressure from me. The specific practice you're going to cultivate is the intentional movement muscle.
The goal is conscious intentional movement. Start small. Build up. When you can do each step 3x for 2 performances in a row, move to the next step. Start with step 1, then 1&2, 1&2&3, etc., until you are doing steps 1-5 each show. The more you practice, the easier and faster it gets.
1. Notice you have an urge to move while on stage
2. Say 'Yes, And' to that part of you that wants to move on stage. Accept and allow it to be there...without judgment. :)
3. Take a slightly deeper than regular breath, and briefly pause
4. Choose to move or not. (Just because the voice is saying 'move' doesn't mean you need to listen.)
5. If you choose to move, make it work for you and the scene. Decide on the reason you're moving; even if you don't speak it, it transmits to your movements and they are more natural.
Here's a secret the Dali Lama told me....you can practice this at home! Huh?!?! Because how we are on stage is how we are in life. I'm going to guess there's times in your day or week where you get an urge to move. Use those times to practice the steps. There's a whole industry of applied improv that teaches improv as a practice for life...who knew life could be practice for improv?!?!
For extra credit:
Sit in a quiet place with eyes closed and ask what part of you wants to move. Invite that part of you to sit with you and have lunch. Ask what they want to eat and serve that. See and imagine yourself sitting at lunch eating with that part of you. Cultivate a relationship with that part of you. Ask who that part is, what's it's name, what does it need, for what reason is it asking you to move. Let the conversation wander from there.
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Mike Coe. Transition, Creativity, and Leadership Coach