Recap from the first Identity Session

Dear improvisers,

Zwaan and me, summarized the first session on identity from last Thursday.

For those who would be interested to come to our second session and for all those who could not come, we think this could be useful and interesting to read.

Please find our text below.

Hope to see you on our second session this Thursday!


Nadine & Zwaan

Recap of the first identity Carpet session 17/09/2015

What is Identity?

On 17 September, we (Zwaan de Vries & Nadine Grinberg) lead a session on Identity in the context of improvisation. For those who might be interested in the process we engaged in, or will join us for the second session, we wrote a summary of the research session we led.

 Second Session (24/09/2015)

On Thursday 24th we would like to explore Identity by adding the audience point of view and vice versa: the improvisation artist point of view towards ‘the audience’. Does this factor affect your Identity in improvisations?

We will perhaps also review some of the themes we worked on last Thursday.

If you have any suggestions, we would love to hear them.

You are more than welcome to come to our second session if these questions intrigue you as well!

See you in the studio!

Zwaan & Nadine

First Session Introduction

We began by introducing ourselves, our relation to the topic and how we got into researching it. One important point was defining the concept of identity from our point of view, as we used it throughout the whole session.

For us, identity is not stable, very complex and multiple. Tightly linked with western psychology and philosophy, identity evokes the ego, the Self, the dualism body/mind, cultural and sociological context as well as many other vast entities.

Meditating on identity as artists is a fruitful and engaging practice, as art is created directly from one’s self and therefore its shape and dynamics are unique.

Gaining consciousness of the inner processes involved and the build in mechanisms of our body and mind, can open many new paths of exploration of the self and of the group in a improvisation.

About the session structure

Our session was structured by several research impros in which we identified different elements and phenomena and their impact on the concept of identity. After each task, we spoke about what each experienced, gathered feedback and newly formulated questions. The outcome was very different for each of the participants which enriched the session and the exploration of this complex research..

Time/ speed research:

Research items:

  • the internal clock;
  • time and space as common language (inspired by Thomas’ text);
  • Does time pass by differently depending on the individual?;
  • Exploring speeds (tempo, dynamics) as a whole.Then explore your own speed preference, stillness and length in time.
  • What happens when time around me changes, how do I feel then about my presence/existence at that moment in time and space? Who am I in relation to time, tempo, dynamics?

Feedback & questions that arose:

  • we all had different energies, it was difficult to tune in all together.
  • how to pass from identity to another?
  • link with our comfort zone

Risk factor research theme

Research items:

  • comfort zone; letting go; being in the moment;

Getting out of your comfort zone, being bombarded with questions. Some of which concerning risk taking in an impro (ex: is it dangerous to be in the center of the space?), the theme of belonging (are you afraid to be left out?), and other questions with no relation to the impro (do you like your feet?).

  • How does one feel? are the questions helping or a disturbance – how do you deal with it?

This frame gave space to everyone to interpret the task their own way, either answer to the questions or stick with only one, or ignore them all.

The task involved inner flexibility of an ever changing state of mind. Building a coping mechanism, but also reflecting actively on your state in such an environment.


  • “having to answer questions is a western education reflex”, why do you have to answer the questions?
  • risk/danger/fear
  • being confronted with yourself
  • risk = what am I most afraid of? when do I loose my confidence?

Say it all research theme

Research items:

  • gaining consciousness of our inner monologue/thoughts during an impro and at a later point saying it out loud.
  • A flow of words, describing, verbalizing everything happening in one’s head.
  • congruent with your body and mind expression
  • bridge to expose yourself to yourself and the others accessing a deeper understanding/ conscious of the self. (like automatic writing, no censorship)
  • would your actions be different if you were not saying your inner monologue at loud?

Feedback & challenges:

  • “dealing with chaos”
  • “silence yourself “(control the flow of thoughts) /concentrate on breathing
  • “stay with my identity” in this very loud space where everyone is speaking simultaneously

Switch of identities

We began being interested into melting into new identities and exploring the possibilities of become someone else of the research group. This new idea was suggested by the participants.

New task about switching identities – imitating another performer, being him/her. As we had now already enough observation about how the others move, what their energy is and so on, we were able to investigate the inner and outer metamorphosis between identities. (an exercise we will develop in the second session as well)

Feedback & challenges & questions:

  • difficulties going deeper beyond the physical appearance/feeling.
  • Actor’s technique into becoming someone else.
  • How does this work for dancers?
  • The improvisers were not connected between each other, but very concentrated in their metamorphosis, transforming themselves. Difficult to have the same awareness, a need to close inside to embody someone else.
  • How can you then improvise being some else?
  • the consciousness of embodying several different identities (Director, actor, leader, participant, role, neutral.)


Research items:

  • How does silence influence your identity/role in an impro?
  • From the moment you speak intelegible words your status is defined as human being speaking. Otherwise you can be anything in an impro (energy, water, animal…).
  • When for example an actor speaks how can you react in an impro being a dancer, a vocal artist, a musician? what does speaking mean for your discipline, what does silence mean in your discipline?


  • before starting the task, questions arose about the concept of silence in an impro. We then chose to use the “neutral state” as an equal to the idea of silence and anything out of this state being “speaking”.
  • The task raised new questions: what is a neutral state? is it possible to be neutral? What impact does it have?
  • Can I be without a defined identity? Can I be neutral or is that ‘a neutral Identity’?
  • Working with being neutral (undefined) and transform to defined identity during a long impro new insights developed on our own identity.
  • One of us got very bored of not being in a clear action, others liked the neutral state as a place to reflect and transform. And some got very isolated from the others as well as from themselves.

On leading the session:

Zwaan: Observing, as well as being part of the Improvisations myself, was hard to get in line with the talks and readings we did on this subject in our preparation. To see and experience, how rich the outcome was from the different perspectives on the floor was overwhelming.

I found it rather difficult not to be the ‘leader’ with assumed responsibilities for the well-being of the group, but instead being the co-initiator for research. That last identity needed time to get used to, because it felt strange and ‘irresponsible’ not being the one who makes the others happy. I often had to force myself to go back to the question, ‘What actually do I want, from the point of view on your own projects? Well, I know this conflict very good and is often an item in my improvisations, if not a life-theme. After all I can say that I met that tension between identities in a challenging and confronting way. That was a good experience.

Nadine: After long discussions and reflections on the philosophical, psychological, social, cultural and other aspects of Identity, we prepared a serie of research themes that would put in light different phenomena occurring in the relation improvisation – identity. Which would give us insight on this broad research and will help us contextualize it in the improvisation frame.

Personally I experienced the complexity of leading such a philosophical/psychological session, as the only tool we had were the questions we prepared, fruits from our long discussions and speculations on the theme of Identity. The role then of a leader in a research session resides in the power of the questions and premeditated outcomes.

I was very happy about all the interesting topics that arose from the questions we confronted the performers with. I came out of the session with a lot of new ramifications and enriching insights from the performers reasoning and active participation in the research.

2 thoughts on “Recap from the first Identity Session

  1. Dear improvisers,

    We just wanted to add that it would be great if you can bring paper and pen for today, as we are going to write during some parts of the session.

    See you in a bit!
    Nadine & Zwaan

  2. Hi Zwaan & Nadine. I’m on my way from Utrecht with the train but of course there is a delay. So I’ll be a little bit late (13:15 hopefully). I can’t find anyone’s phone number to send a text…

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