Yes and… Lessons from Improv

Over on the Behance magazine network Jack Cheng is writing a series on Lessons from Improv, the first entitled Create Inertia , is about using the acting game of Yes, and… in our creative process.

As a jazz dancer using the Yes, and… game in classrooms and even as a personal exercise on the social dance floor or in a jam can be a great tool to break out of your typical routine of steps or variations.

The Yes and… game can go like this:

You invent a gesture to go along with your name.  With a bunch of people you stand around in a circle and when someone points at you, you say your name and perform your gesture and follow it up by pointing at someone else and performing theirs.  The goal is to go back and forth as fast as possible.

As a  jazz dancer we can extrapolate it to be more contextually relevant.

We pick a jazz step or motion within the jazz aesthetic.  With a group of people you stand around in a circle and when someone points at you, you perform your jazz step/motion and follow it up by pointing at someone else and performing theirs.  The goal is then to go around the circle performing various jazz steps for yourself and others.

This would be a great way to build jazz steps into your repertoire or the repertoire of your students without just drilling steps in a more stereotypical classroom fashion.  It will also most likely result in some good laughs when doing it with friends.

As a lindy hopper you could extrapolate it into a game within a single dance on the social floor.

As a lead – make the decision to dance simply – take out the complex moves so you can watch your follow.  As a follow – make the decision to dance simply – take out your standard variations and watch your lead.

As you dance pick out something that your partner does as a variation, footwork rhythm or motion regularly and when they perform that action – on your next opportunity – repeat it back to them.  Do this often enough and with the right partner and you can easily get into a two person game of Yes and… where you play off each others motion.

With the right kind of social relationship on the dance floor you can easily bring the idea of Yes and… into your partner dancing.

Termed differently, Yes and… is just a variation of our understanding of call and response which is such an integral part of our dance and the music we dance to.

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Published in: on January 9, 2009 at 5:48 pm  Comments (1)  
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  1. We played a slightly different version in my 6th grade music class, where the gesture associated with our name had to somehow be alliterative to the first letter in our name. So, being Breanna, my gesture was something like a ballerina twirl (Breanna-B-Ballerina).

    I haven’t played the game in years and probably would never have thought to apply it in a jazz class setting. Thanks for such a great idea, Carl!


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