To acquire wisdom, one must observe

Make it up yourself: an improv course

To those who have never danced before, sometimes the most daunting part of dance is memorizing three minutes or more of complicated moves. For those looking to dance in a more relaxed environment, Sarah Lavin ’21 provides a nurturing, stress-free space for anyone to dance, regardless of skill level.

Lavin is in the process of creating an Independent Interdisciplinary Major combining neuroscience, studio art and education and is also considering a minor in psychology.

She has been very involved with dance on campus: she is on the E-Board for Adagio Dance Company as dance ensemble coordinator, is a member of Dance Ensemble and choreographs for Adagio Dance Company. Dance is so integral to Lavin’s life that she wanted to continue doing it in college through Adagio.

Dance has always played a very large role in Lavin’s life; so much so that she can not remember a time in her life without it. She has been dancing since she was two years old, and as she grew up, the dance studio she attended became a second home. She eventually became part of the competition team at the studio, and even attended dance conventions where she had the opportunity to learn from the likes of Travis Wall and Robert Roldan, notable contestants on the TV show “So You Think You Can Dance”.

After she left her studio, she joined the varsity dance competition team at her high school and participated in that throughout her high school career.

Once she had the ability to dance on her own outside of a group, she had the ability to truly step outside of her comfort zone. She notes that one of her “biggest accomplishments as a dancer was my first and only solo that I learned and performed senior year of high school.”

“Being onstage by myself was simultaneously terrifying and exhilarating. Having the ability to share my passion and hard work in a piece that was completely me as a dancer was extraordinary,” said Lavin. “One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced as a dancer would be how easy it is to compare the way that I dance to other dancers.”

Therefore, while Lavin benefitted from all her formal training in dance, she realized over time that dance was more to her than just hitting certain moves and looking picture-perfect.

“I started off being taught to focus on technique, performance, perfectly put together hair and makeup and a can-do attitude. Yes, this was important to learn from a young age in order to succeed in the competition world, but what I have come to learn is that to me, dance is much more than a comparison or competition. To me, dance is a form of emotional freedom and artistic expression,” explained Lavin.

Coming from a world of competition, where dancers learn routines from choreographers, Lavin explains that the freedom of moving to music without instruction has truly impacted her the most strongly. “Dance improvisation is where I feel at home in the dance world because it lets me express and understand my feelings without having to use words,” said Lavin.

In order to share this attitude with other dancers, Lavin has created her very own improv class at Brandeis. In order to keep the class as relaxed as possible, she gives her dancers a lot of artistic liberty. For example, “if they don’t like a song that is played, they can lie down on the floor until it is over. If they want to give themselves their own prompt, they are free to do that too.”

Throughout the class, Lavin provides dancers with suggested prompts to keep the class moving. She does so in order to foster creativity and new experiences and to “change the movement and allow the dancers to find new ways in which they can dance that they haven’t necessarily experienced before.”

“This could include playing with dynamics by providing adjectives for them to interpret or playing with levels by suggesting that they only do floorwork for an entire song,” said Lavin. “Each class is different, and though I plan out different prompts, I always ask the dancers how they are feeling and reflect on that to enhance the class.”

She hopes that through prompts like this, she can help fellow dancers to discover their own affinities within dance. “I think improv is important in any dancer’s weekly life because it serves as a way to collect your thoughts, create something new, and exude emotion…The ability to give someone else a place to feel safe and free to express themselves and see how my class has made their day better is truly heartwarming. Improv is so special to me and being able to share that with others is truly amazing,” said Lavin.

Lavin’s class is a secret gem at Brandeis. Because she only recently started it, her biggest difficulty has been getting people to join. “It is always hard when you start something new because there are always problems to be worked out, and in this case, people having availability has been an issue, as well as people not really knowing what the class would be and not having the time to try it out. I really urge anyone who is interested or has questions about the class to contact me and try it out!” said Lavin.

For those who are interested, Lavin’s class is on Wednesdays from 5 to 6 p.m. in Gosman Dance Studio. It is completely open to anyone interested in dancing, no matter the experience level. Lavin is also available at srlavin@brandeis.edu for anyone who might have questions, or who wants to be added to her spreadsheet.


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