Recap from the second Identity Session

Dear improvisers,

Zwaan and me, summarized the second session on identity from Thursday 24th.

For those who would be interested to read what we did, please find our text below.

See you soon!


Nadine & Zwaan

Recap Second Identity Session 24/09/2015

led by Zwaan de Vries & Nadine Grinberg


We started the second session with a talk in a “circle”. Our aim was to create an atmosphere in which everyone could give their input and relate our questions to his/her own research.

Through this approach many new intriguing questions arose involving themes that could be further investigated by one’s self or in future carpet sessions.

In this second challenging session we worked on identity in improvisation,  bringing the factor of the audience in the equation.

We stuck with the first session structure of giving the task of the impro, performing and then talking as well as taking notes with the feedback.

Here are the research challenges we explored together with the group:

In identity footsteps

We started with an impro exploring the traces we leave in space. Imagining that our bodies, on a energetic, molecular, physical and many more levels, left traces in space. The impro developed connections between the traces in space, creating different dynamics and new relationships between performers in space and their movements. 

This impro was challenging for some as it was difficult to connect, to get a sense of a whole, of a connected group.

For others the shape of the room influenced much their explorations (drawn to the door).

Third got inspired by literature they were currently reading on “the other” and what is between people which led back to the traces that are left after us.

The geography of the space changed dramatically. New paths and itineraries were created in the invisible architecture, space embodied in its memory.

A wave of impulses and movements spread between different performers and new spatial relations developed throughout the research.

This task was very challenging and interesting to investigate, as the spatial anchors were not the same for everyone. The free interpretation of the levels of traces you leave in space multiplied the connections and possibilities to play with one another, or by oneself.

Changing identities

The idea of this impro was to enter it having picked a clear identity for yourself (human, natural element, animal etc.). Then, being very conscious of the choice (who you are entering the impro like) and the development of the impro, change into another identity. (three changes maximum; no time limit set) Then meditate on why you changed, what was your inner process etc.

The task turned out to be very inspiring, gave us as observers (from time to time) a magnificent picture. Counter intuitively most of the performers remained with the first picked identities even though it was very hard and some felt very limited by it.

Feedback & questions:

  • Where was the connection in the group?
  • As a dancer the only thing you define is your movements but not your identity
  • The focus was on the body and its movements
  • Why didn’t you change the identities you were bored with? “took it as a challenge”
  • identity for musicians and dancers: how can you distinguish your body from the identity you have picked?
  • With musicians and dancers is the concept of identity a possible form/limitation?
  • Does identity exist without context?
  • It is not only you giving yourself your identity; it is also the context giving you one.
  • Some might need context to adjust, adapt and/or belong.
  • In the improvisation context the end is (perhaps) when it all comes together
  • Our common backgrounds in dance (modern/ contemporary) form an accord within our comfort zone; agreement on a kind of code; consequence from a group pressure dynamic
  • If you know there is an end in 5 minutes you stay out of this unpleasant question of who am I ?
  • When a time limit is given, knowing there is a set end in time, the focus on the identity is avoided/fades away.
  • creating harmony or making an opposition; a solution to an end: a clear path to connect

PART 2 Audience constellations

Switching observers inside the impro

This impro’s idea was that inside the impro the performers have now the opportunity to become observers/audience when they want, and then return to improvising.

Some performers did not leave the space of the improvisation but continued to move while switching between observer and performer. Others made a still while being audience, and third went out of the impro zone.


  • It was difficult to go in and out of the improvisation
  • some liked the boundary of performer/observer
  • some played with the unrecognizable exterior change from one identity to the other (getting out of the self exploration and in again)
  • exploring the inner changes while embodying different points of view (exploring the audience point of view)

Sitting classic audience

The performers that chose to be the audience sat on chairs along one of the walls facing the performers. A classical arrangement which was the starting point of our research on audience identity.


  • felt passive, sitting back, no so involved
  • you become a critical observer
  • being audience you want to be addressed.

Standing audience

In the third audience configuration the observers were standing (we changed the orientation) facing back to the windows.


  • felt much more vulnerable than when sitting
  • an impulse to bond with the other members of the audience – we formed a wall, shoulders and arms touching (creating protection, feeling less vulnerable)
  • the strait gazes of the performers on us made me feel included, part of the impro
  • feeling of a much bigger and stronger involvement with the piece than when sitted
  • when the performers seemed to imitate us, felt the power of influencing the impro, inventing a new motif/trying to incorporate a new element
  • the feeling of resistance to the temptation of joining in
  • the fact that the audience was standing in a line influenced/inspired the alignment the performers made as a mirroring effect
  • feeling the spectators belonging to me
  • playing with the audience
  • including them in the performance

Chess board audience

The audience members would sit in a chessboard like constellation, spread in the space, facing different directions.


  • some felt even more vulnerable as the performers could sit on their laps/play with them
  • staying in the role of an audience was easier
  • the playful sitting on my lap the performers did “meant I am part of the game; an invitation to join”
  • one of the observers felt the transformation as being an island and felt there must be a bond  made with the other spectators – “they (the performers) are playing with us we can play with them & with each other”
  • again the topic of the illusion of power of the audience on the performers

In this audience constellation the mixed audience was performer and the performers could have become audience as well. There was a dynamic of action – reaction which could have been developed further between audience and performer that arose in the end of the impro as an initiative form one of the audience members.

What we found interesting is the inner changes one feels being audience in different spatial and physical conditions. The vulnerability, the illusion on the power relation, the mirror effect, the relationships and dynamics, the different points of view on a impro enriched the many aspects of identity in improvisation we researched during our two sessions.

We observed many different phenomena in the interchanging of audience/performer roles. We should bear in mind though, that most of the concepts we became aware of were also influenced by the fact that we are all improvisational performers. So these experiments we made are not representative for any audience.


These two sessions on Identity brought us a very rich palette of deeper understanding, widened awareness and most of all new questions which broadened our vision.

New themes were introduced in both sessions such as:

  • identity influence from knowing the time & end
  • codes/silent agreements/group pressure 
  • comfort zone / risk
  • refugees identity
  • surveillance theme/being observed
  • common understanding (codes, cues) in improvisation
  • letting go
  • context dependent structures in improvisation
  • how to interact with the audience
  • the end and its role in a improvisation
  • how does the spatial positioning of the audience influence my performance
  • and many others. . .

Thanks to all the inspiring discussions we had with the performers the exchange of ideas we were hoping for not only took place but blew us away in its depths and intriguing elements.

This has been a very existential, fruitful and useful research (we hope for everyone!) that has given us so much to investigate in the future!

Thank you all for your devotion and participation,

See you soon,

Nadine & Zwaan

One thought on “Recap from the second Identity Session

  1. Thank you very much for the detailed and clear reports ofyour sessions. Not having been there they give fruit for thought anyway which is inspiring :-)) Natanja

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