RDT Dancer Lauren Curley shares an improvisation lesson plan based on the dancers’ experience working with Bebe Miller.
Hero and Attendant
Improvisation Plan from Bebe Miller’s “The Event”
One of the concepts that Bebe used when creating this new work was an exercise she called “Hero and Attendant”. We played this game several times both in class and in rehearsal and used some of the material that emerged from the exercise in the piece.
How to Play:
Pair dancers into duets or trios and decide who is the “hero” and who is the “attendant”. If you’re working with trios there will be one hero and two attendants. The “hero” begins to improvise however they want to. The attendant(s) begin by watching for a bit to get a feel for what the hero is saying with their movement and then they begin to improvise too albeit in a supporting role. Everything that the attendant does should in some way support the hero, although they don’t necessarily need to stay connected to one another. The attendant can give the hero their own space, find moments of physical contact, support the hero’s dynamic choices by mimicking them in their own movement, or go in the opposite direction and provide a juxtaposition so that the hero can really shine in what they are doing.
Let them continue until the time is right and they can switch roles.
Things to Take Away:
This is a great partnering improvisation exercise that doesn’t necessarily demand that the dancers physically connect to one another. It is a teaching tool to show how spatial relationships highlight movement, and could easily be folded into a discussion about negative space in movement. Likewise, it can teach the role of support in duets, whether its physical support or dynamic support.
Eye focus will be an important through-line in this exercise as well given that the “hero” is dictating all of the “attendant’s” choices throughout the exercise. Unfamiliar or even ambient music can help break the dancers out of their comfort zones, and as with any exercise, a discussion about exploring unfamiliar movement beforehand can prevent it from turning into a tricks competition.