For trauma survivors, who also need to re-learn how to effectively integrate experiences, improvisation can provide the opportunity to move through fight/flight/freeze states towards more embodied, integrated, empowered, fluid and mindful states. In those states we can masterfully respond to stress, challenge and conflict, rather than react, by teaching us to stay present no mater what arises, and giving us and experience we can trust.
For non-verbal people or people with atypical neurological functioning, improvisation can be the only way to experience flow in connection and self-expression. This can have a profound positive impact on their ability to self-actualize, communicate, and allow for self-expression with a fluidity otherwise impossible.
Definition by Cécile Rêve, All rights reserved, April 2010, revised 2016.
Improvisation is the practice of creating, in the moment, and in response to stimuli from our outer and inner worlds. It is a practice where process skills and form skills work cohesively together for a higher purpose, and where we learn to be one among many. In this context, where multiple parts of the brain are engaged simultaneously in a pleasurable and safe experience, change can happen.
This practice can also be compared to an invention cycle where new thought patterns, practices, structures, symbols and behaviors can emerge. The skills of improvisation can be applied to many different disciplines, problem salving techniques, forms of communication and expression. Improvisation offers the opportunity for neurological and behavioral renewal resulting in emotional and intellectual freedom.
In expressive arts therapy, when the practitioner has a thorough intuitive, diagnostical and technical understanding of the necessary skills within the improvised domain (music, art, theatre, movement...), improvisation provides the opportunity to develop new neuropathways.
In addition to being fun, this practice can help develop performance skills as well as life/coping skills: mindfulness, listening, focusing, integrating information and being able to use it efficiently, reflecting, relating, communicating, expressing, problem solving, teamwork and more.
For caregivers and therapists, improvisation can be a powerful tool for self care. It can help us rejuvenate our compassion and revitalize our capacity for seeing the humor in the human experience. It can also help us deepen and widen our listening and observations skills, as well as prepare us to be more spontaneous and authentic in our overall lives.
Improvisation is similar to what play is for children. Their play is work, it is a work of art resulting in mastery of themselves and regulation ability. For children, play is related to learning and integrating, sometimes for the first time, while experiencing pleasureful feelings, moving, projecting stories and socializing. It serves an important role in supporting the development of the sensory and neurological systems, as well as providing many health benefits in a child's life.
For children improvisation is natural, when children play they are constantly improvising. They weave internal with external stimuli, with content references from the past, imagery created in the moment... inventing stories over and over, acting them out, and transforming
Action Theater™ is an improvisational physical theater training and performance method created by Ruth Zaporah, which integrates movement, vocalization and speech into present expression. This training is taught by certified Action Theater™ teacher Cecile Reve, with a focus on exploring how the body connects to sensory input, emotions and images. Through the exploration and practice of embodied exercises, we learn to reframe, reroute and redesign our memories, understanding and feelings about experience, creating new associations. This leads to increased self-awareness, spontaneity, and freedom of expression, as well as skills of strong, clear and artful communication. This practice provides opportunities for sensory integration and "neurological rerouting".
Advanced Action Theater performance