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Episode Info

Episode Info:

Are you ever worried about boring your audience when you improvise?  Everything starts off pretty well.  But then you begin to see people fidgeting in their seats and shifting around. Alarm bells start to go off in your brain.  It feels like a full-on dance emergency!

And then it happens… you start to “scribble”.  

You pull out every trick in your belly dance bag of “stuff” to get their attention.  But you end up with a mish-mash of moves that make no sense.

How can we use “less”

to give our audience (and ourselves) a more satisfying performance?

Listen now: Or Read the Transcript...

Do you ever worry that you are boring your audience when you improvise?  Maybe everything starts off pretty well.  But then as you’re looking out at your audience, you begin to see people fidgeting in their seats, shifting around or maybe you think you see their eyes glazing over.

You don’t panic, but you know you must do something to get their attention. That’s when it happens.  You start to “scribble”.  You throw in a few more moves and some layers.  But it doesn’t work.  They’re still shifting in their seats, looking around the room.  You’re losing them!

Alarm bells start to go off in your brain.  It’s now a full-on dance emergency!  You’ve got to get your audience’s attention.  So, you pull out every trick in your belly dance bag of “stuff”. You layer, you travel, push and pull.  You basically do anything and everything you can think of.  But you end up with a mish mash of moves and none of it makes any sense.

The truth is, is that you lost your audience the moment you felt required to give them more.  We’ve all heard the expression “less is more”.  How can we use less to give our audience (and ourselves) a more satisfying performance?

Let’s talk about how to use repetition and alternation patterns to create interesting dance on the fly.

If you worry about repeating moves too many times, stop it.  You’ll become bored with a move way before your audience does.  When you begin a move, you already know what you’re going to do.  Repeating a move gives you a chance to develop the movement phrase and it gives your audience a chance to follow your train of thought before you take a new path.

Using the “Rule of 4” can be very useful for creating dance that doesn’t overwhelm you OR your audience. It helps your audience follow along throughout your performance.  It also helps your audience feel smarter.

So what does the Rule of 4 look like from an audience perspective?

  1. The first time you use a move, the audience will miss it completely.
  2. The second time they see it, they’ll only begin to understand what it was.
  3. The third time they see it, they’ll begin to appreciate what you’ve done.
  4. The forth time they see the move, they’ll be able to anticipate what you’ll do and they’ll feel pretty smart when they’re right.

So you can see that by the time you start to get tired of the move, your audience is just beginning to appreciate what you’re doing.  If you switch to a new move or thought before your audience catches up to you, they’re likely to become overwhelmed and lose interest.  Because you’re always two steps ahead of them.

But you don’t want to be so predictable you say?  That’s easy.  You can keep your audience on their toes by using Alternation Patterns along with the Rule of 4.  You still get the comfort of repetition with some surprises in the mix to keep things interesting.  Drummers do this all the time in drum solos.  The riff played is usually something very similar the first three times.  But often the fourth time has a little surprise tacked on.

What does that look like?  Okay. Using a very simplified example, let’s say we have a 32-count phrase of music (or 4 counts of 8).  With simple repetition, we’re using the same move for each of those 8 counts.  That would be an “AAAA” pattern.  With an alternation pattern, for example AAAB, we can plug in one move for each “A” of the pattern and use a different move in the “B” of the pattern.

You can use all sorts of different patterns too.  Things like ABAB, AABB or ABAC for example.  Sometimes music doesn’t always present itself in tidy counts 8 or phrases of 32.  And in that case, you can adjust your pattern segments to fit the music.

Repetition and Alternation Patterns are only a couple of several strategies from Volume 2 of the Improvisation Toolkit video series that can be used to create really good dance on the fly.

In summary, it’s easy, very easy to fall prey to “scribbling”.  When you don’t feel like your audience is engaged, you may feel compelled to throw in more “stuff” to try to impress them. But when you start to “scribble”, your audience can never really catch up or follow your train of thought.  That’s when you lose them.

Using the “less is more” approach of repetition and alternation patterns can help you weave a satisfying performance for your audience and for yourself.

If you’d like to learn more about how to create great improv, take a look at our Improvisation Toolkit video series. And it’s Volume 2’s birthday and we are doing a birthday giveaway! One lucky winner will receive a premium Improvisation Toolkit Vol. 2 package. The deadline to enter is 5pm eastern, Feb. 24, 2019. And you can enter at

Your Turn

Do you “scribble” when you improvise?

Do you notice when “scribbling” is about to happen?

What strategies do you use to keep “scribbling” from taking over?

Got a question or topic that you’d like us to talk about on the show?

We would love to hear from you.

Leave a comment below, or better yet, leave us a short voice message. Maybe we’ll even play it on the air!

Want More?

These strategies and MORE are featured on the Improvisation Toolkit Vol. 2: Structure video.  It’s Toolkit, Vol. 2’s birthday also!  So we’re giving away a premium package to one lucky winner.

Enter by 5pm eastern on Feb. 24, 2019 for a chance to win!

Enter to win the Improvisation Toolkit, Vol. 2 premium package

AND….we’re having a 25% off birthday sale (Nadira’s birthday is coming up too!).  Just use coupon code: BIRTHDAYSALE at checkout on anything directly offered by Belly Dance Geek.  Sale ends March 3, 2019.

Shop the BDG birthday sale

The post Do You Scribble On Your Improv? appeared first on Belly Dance Geek.

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