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

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.

Carpet Session on Identity

identiteit vingerafdruk

17+24 September 2015: Two Carpet Sessions on Identity led by Zwaan de Vries and Nadine Grinberg

We both come from multicultural backgrounds and Identity has always been a challenge to define ourselves. As we grow into a multicultural and global society, how does this phenomena affect the concept of identity in improvisation?

What do we mean when we use the word ‘Identity’?

Does our identity leave traces in time and space, during an improvisation?

How do we affect each other in our identities, when playing together?

And in the interplay between meaning and creation, performers and audience, how is identity being formed and transformed?

Is it enough to be yourself?

( and who is that)    

We hope to investigate this challenging theme together with you! ( who ever you may be )

We will start at 13:00 both sessions. Please leave us a comment below if you are going to be part of our research!


Zwaan & Nadine

What are the Carpet Sessions? / Where is the studio?