Research Seminar: The Art of Making Mistakes: Dance Improvisation as Performance
Dr Renee M. Conroy, Visiting Fulbright Scholar, Department of Dance, University of Roehampton
27 May 2015, 1-2pm, LU.052 Lulham, Froebel Campus, University of Roehampton SW15 5PJ
Free, all welcome, no need to book
Jazz legend Miles Davis claimed boldly, ‘I do not fear mistakes. There are none.’ But he also chided European audiences for being too forgiving of musical flaws in their assessments of live jazz performance. Davis’ remarks reflect a common tension in the views expressed by those who specialize in improvisatory performance as an art form, viz., that improvisations both can – and cannot – contain aesthetic or artistic missteps.
In this talk, I examine improvisation as a performing art in several stages. First, I argue that traditional accounts of improvisatory performance that rely on concepts such as ‘extemporizing’, ‘problem-solving’, or ‘ephemerality’ are conceptually insufficient to distinguish the accomplishments of improvisers from those of other kinds of performing artists. Second, I suggest that a useful supplement to standard accounts may be afforded by close consideration of the various ways improvisatory artists and philosophers appeal to the concept of ‘mistake-making’ when discussing the distinctive character of improvised artistic events. Third, I articulate and assess several views about the potential relationship between improvisations as art offerings and mistakes. I argue that although these approaches may appear theoretically opposed, philosophical rapprochement between them is possible. I also claim such reconciliation to be desirable insofar as it is well-poised to highlight the ‘twin virtues’ typically associated with improvisation: risk and recovery.