Dance teachers, does the thought of incorporating improvisation into your classes intimidate you? While some have called it “free dance,” “free movement,” etc., the actual development and structure of an improvisation lesson is a lot more than turning on the music and have the kids dance around the room. While that is wonderful and fun in its own right from time to time, this week we’re giving you our own introduction and overview to an art form in itself with a rich dance history and niche of its own. Be open to exploring for yourself and see what creativity emerges. Explore with your students and watch their own imaginations and creative movement profile unfold into individual artistry; prompted by free spirit and instinct. The summer is a great time to try new things, so this week I’m passing on my reading list on to you to add to your own dance library! Wonderful resources to have on hand, you can also share with your students and faculty! Think about cross-referencing with other books in related categories including: 


  • Postmodernism
  • Post Modern Dance
  • Judson Dance Theater
  • Steve Paxton
  • Contact Improvisation
  • Nancy Stark Smith
  • Merce Cunningham
  • Choreography Composition
  • Laban Analysis
  • Bartenieff Fundamentals
  • Somatics


Albright, A.C., Gere, D. (2003). Taken by surprise: A dance improvisation reader.  Middletown, CT: Wesleyan Press.

Bayne, S. (1987). Terpsichore in Sneakers: Post-modern dance. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan Press.

Best, S. (1997). The postmodern turn. New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Burt, R. (2006). Judson Dance Theater: Performative traces. New York, NY: Routledge.

Buckwalter, M. (2010). Composing while dancing: An improviser’s companion. WI: University of Wisconsin Press.

Foster, S.L. (2002). Dances that Describe Themselves: The improvised choreography of Richard Bull. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan Press.

Franklin, E. (1996).  Dance Imagery for technique and performance. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Goldman, D. (2010). I want to be ready: Improvised dance as a practice of freedom. MI:  University of Michigan Press.

Kaltenbrunner, (2003). Contact improvisation: Moving, dancing, interaction: With an introduction to new dance, (2nd edition). Switzerland: Meyer & Meyer Verlag.

Minton, S. C. (1986). Choreography: A basic approach using improvisation. Chicago, IL: Human Kinetics.  

Morgenroth, J. (1987) Dance improvisations. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press.

Nachmanovitch, S. (1990). Free play: Improvisation in life and art.  New York, NY: Penguin Putnam

Novack, C. (1990). Sharing the Dance: Contact Improvisation and American Culture . WI: University of Wisconsin Press.

Reeve, J. (2011).  Dance improvisations: warm-ups, games and choreographic tasks. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

With the abundance of information out there, keep in mind, there are tons of avenues to go when beginning to incorporate improvisation into your lessons! Go slow, take your own classes, become informed of the history and various styles, etc, and impart that knowledge onto your students. This will no doubt substantiate how valid and important improvisation is to dance technique in any idiom. Plus, you will be amazed to see what your students’ instincts, bodies and movement vocabulary are naturally capable of! So....don't think, just move! :)

Good luck!

See you in the dance studio!



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