I don't define improvisation," says Sondra Loring, curator of the seventh annual Improvisation Festival/NY. "I leave that to the artists." More than 80 from around the world will appear in a two-week blitz of performances, jams, classes, workshops, and panel discussions beginning Monday.
"Improv is like at a business meeting: when somebody gives you an inch, you take a yard," says Ed Nelson of the PLAYERS Club (an acronym for Participating in Lives Among Youth to Educate and Restore Society), a group of young men making its first appearance at the festival. They use talentdancing, singing, rapping, and actingto "get the kids off the streets." Good improvisers, Nelson notes, know what to do when they "mess up."
"Improv gets better the older you get," says Brazilian dancer and capoeira "player" Tisza Coelho. When she started doing capoeira, she was one of a handful of women practicing the form. Now she and many other women have become adepts. At the festival, Coelho will present an all-female cast doing capoeira and the Brazilian stick dance maculele. She likes to think of capoeira as "a question and answer through the body; you never know what's going to happen, but you'd better have a lot of answers ready."
Choreographer and filmmaker Heather Burack, who will show two dance films at the festival, finds a connection between filmmaking and improvisation. Although she sees the "inherent tension in trying to capture forever, immutably, something that is lost as soon as it happens," both are about "making the best of now." Documentary filmmaking is particularly improvisatory because "you create the story and meaning as you go along from experience, moment to moment."