Exploring Male Emotion Through Improvisation: A One-Hour Study

In considering how I will use my degree after graduation, my immediate desire and love is performance. However, I am also incredibly interested in Dance Therapy. Dance Therapy is an emerging form of psychological therapy in which physical movement is used to explore and assist a patient’s emotions and mentality. Given my love of working with people and helping others, this career path caught my attention when it was first mentioned to me during my senior year of high school. Though it is only a career that can be attained through a Graduate degree, it is my goal to pursue such a path after first pursuing professional performance.

When assigned to complete a One-Hour Research Study in Freshman Seminar, my immediate thought was to connect this project to my particular interest in Dance Therapy. Mentality and emotions are largely related to dance both on an artistic level and a human level. As both a choreographer and performer, I am extremely aware of not only my emotional level, but that of the audience. Shaping my One-Hour Study around this concept of Dance Therapy, I intend to use my results in order to better myself from an artistic standpoint in being more conscious of the emotional mind and how it is affected by movement.

Ann Sofie ClemmensenThis being said, I proceeded to divide my one-hour time slot into three twenty-minute sessions of a Dance Therapy-based improvisation sessions. In my study, entitled “Exploring Male Emotion Through Improvisation,” I conducted these three improvisational sessions with male participants and examined their emotional responses through a series of video-recorded interviews. Each session consisted of three two-minute improvisations, both preceded and followed by interviews so that reactions and effects could be tracked throughout the process.

Speaking further on my methodology, my subject group consisted of all male participants, two with no dance training and one current dance major. The study was conducted in Sullivant Hall Studio 270 on Friday, March 25th 2016. Each participant was assigned a particular twenty-minute slot, to ensure that they would be unaware of the study until arriving for their opportunity. The improvisational prompts were as follows:

  • Now take the next two minutes to move around in space according to the way that you feel. You may move however you choose, either illustrating your emotions or exploring them through movement.
  • Now take the next two minutes to release yourself of your current emotional state through the means of movement. Feel free to experiment with new dynamics and movement vocabulary.
  • Now take the next two minutes to move in a way according to the emotional state which you would like to find yourself in. Once more, you may move however you choose, either illustrating the emotion you desire, the journey taken to achieve that emotion, or exploring such an experience through movement.

With these vague prompts, the participants were given free reign to move how they chose in a silent setting (no music playing). Improvisations were recorded via iPad. Interviews before and after the prompted improvisations mainly focused on inquiries regarding how the movement made the participants feel, asking them to rate their emotions on a scale of one to five – one being great, five being angry.

After completing this project, I was able to draw a variety of conclusions from the three sessions that were recorded. The first was that each participant experienced a 0.5 increase in their emotional scale in accordance to the way that they had rated their emotions during the interview process. The second was that each participant generalized that the physical activity made them feel calm and relaxed, placing them in a peaceful state. Lastly, the non-dancer participants expressed a desire for music, which I had specifically chosen to avoid due to the way that music can influence one’s emotions. In my opinion, such conclusions displayed the effect that Dance Therapy can have on participants – even despite the fact that my sessions were not official Dance Therapy sessions. It became clear that the freedom granted to move in the space allowed for self-exploration and expression. Additionally, I plan to use this concept of “feeling good after moving” in my choreographic work throughout my Undergraduate studies. I think it is important for dancers to feel comfortable, in addition to prompting the audience to feel a certain way. Personally, when I consider my dance career up until now, the pieces I remember the most are the ones that made me feel something. I want to be able to do the same for others, making an impact on not only their personal lives, but their artistic personas.

If I was to conduct this study once more, I think that I would make sure to cover the mirrors so that the experience for the participants would be strictly internal. Without my prompting, each participant gravitated towards making the mirror their front-facing. Though this is not an issue and though it did not interfere with my results, I would be curious to hear participant reactions when their responses would be strictly based off of what they felt as opposed to what they could see. Additionally, I would consider the use of music in order to add a level of comfort. However, I still believe that I would ultimately decided to conduct my study in silence due to the effect that music has on the mind and the body.

Though my focus in these four years is Performance, I look forward to eventually pursuing Dance Therapy as a Graduate Study after hopefully extending myself into the professional world. Until then, I plan to use this data in order to improve my choreographic work and gain new insights into the emotional mind. In focusing mainly on the opposite gender, I hope that this will also offer me new eyes when working with my male peers.