Making Space Day 2: Split-second Decision-making by Izah Jeandelle

Making Space Day 2: Split-second Decision-making by Izah Jeandelle

In our everyday lives, things don’t always go according to the plan. You might miss your alarm clock in the morning, so you have to go to work unshowered. Then you figure out your local café downstairs is closed for the day because it’s run by an italian family and it’s an italian holiday today. You head over to your bike shed and you realise that the front wheel, which you locked onto a post, is the only thing that’s left of it. You walk into an exam room and you realise today is Wednesday, and not Thursday, and you studied for the wrong subject. As they say, expect the unexpected, because things will always go wrong once in a while, and we all have to find a quick solution. If there is something that we all have in common, it’s that we are all life improvisers.

As performers, we take improvisation onto a different level. We intentionally place ourselves in strange situations to see how we respond emotionally, mentally, and physically. We constantly try to study our intuitive impulses so that we can play with them and eventually create a performance with them. This works almost flawlessly when we are in a safe empty space such as a studio, where we have control over all the aspects of our environment and the participants of the performance. Dancers can improvise endlessly in the studio, because we have infinite possibilities with our bodies and energies. But what happens when we multiply the infinite possibilities we already possess with the infinite possibilities we have in the outside world? Outside the realms of our studios there is a complex constellation of moving bodies within different types of spaces, with different elements affecting the environment in real-time. This means that by placing our research in this environment we are also adding different dimensions to our performance. Suddenly we become hypersensitive to sounds and background noises, to the lines and shapes in space and to the passersby who are simply trying to get from point A to point B. We can decide to ignore them, or we can decide to play with them and see where it takes us, but this is where it all boils down to: decision-making.

In the outside world nobody waits for you to perform. There are no musical, visual or light cues, they just come and go without any warning. You have the choice to respond, or to ignore and carry on. If you decide to respond to them, the great challenge is to make a strong and clear decision in a split-second, because otherwise you will have missed the moment. If you miss a moment, you also miss possibilities for a great composition and reaction. Since people come in fleeting moments, you might also miss the opportunity of connecting to your audience and getting a reaction from them. Thus, ultimately, the strength and clarity of your decision determines the impact of your performance to the audience. This is precisely what draws people’s attention and interest towards you. Your confident decisions may also be a factor in the decision-making of your audience, because if you make a clear decision to perform, this can encourage them to make a clear decision to participate.

In making clear decisions, we give our audience the sense of security in our work and we relieve them of any uneasy feelings they may have about our presence in the public space. Yet again, there is a bigger challenge that lies upon the big challenge, which is to be as flexible and responsive as we can be. More often than not, even our strongest and clearest decisions can seem like a blur if there is suddenly a massive truck passing by, or an aggressive dog barking at us. It is this unpredictability that makes working in the public space so exciting and intriguing, because we would never get this chance to be in such random situations in the studio. We have the possibility of combining our absurd and surreal world with the reality of other people, and this can lead to very thrilling and stimulating compositions. Because these two are almost completely contradictory worlds, they can lead to very challenging situations where you must make a choice: do you stick to your decision or do you respond to your environment?

This week’s challenge to the students is to develop an intuitive awareness within public space. There is a need to enhance our sensitivity and recognition in order to be able to connect with our space and the audience, and most especially to maintain that connection. In the public space we are surrounded with a great variety of characters, colours, lines, and shapes in space, thus we must develop the skill of recognising the moment to respond to them or to sustain our decision. Of course, the skill of split-second decision-making is not only applicable to dance, but also to our daily lives. The skills that we learn in these situations are the same ones which can help us become better life improvisers – so that the next time you enter the exam room having studied the wrong subject, you can swiftly decide to go with the flow, be cool, and pretend as if you knew it all along, or convince everybody else that today is Thursday.

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