Take Jason Parsons' Advice on How to Structure an Improv Class

Jason Parsons teaches contemporary at NUVO. Photo by Katie Rich, courtesy of Parsons

Though Jason Parsons is best known for excellent teaching, choreography and dancing, it's his role as consummate learner that has made him the impressive educator he is today. "I'm constantly taking new classes," says the NUVO convention and Steps on Broadway teacher.

"After each one, I write down what I've learned and then study it, so I always have it to share later." Parsons, who's danced with River North Dance Company, Mia Michaels R.A.W. and more, says: "Dance has given me so many things. It's given me a career, relationships, friendships—really my whole community of support. I can't imagine not being a dancer. I want to help others see that there's always more to learn and more to experience in dance."

Dance Teacher: What's a teacher's role in an improvisation class?

Jason Parsons: Improvisation is a technique just like anything else. Your job is to create boundaries as a guide and a leader. The more ideas you can give them—whether it's words or colors or nuances—the better prepared they are for their next creative jump. Your direction is what will facilitate them to take their practice into entirely different directions.

DT: How do you structure your improvisation class?

JP: I start my classes with meditation. I guide them through a head-to-toe evaluation of their bodies. I really break down each body part and talk about the multitude of movement ideas within them. Then I start giving tasks inspired by all of the classes I've taken over my lifetime. I have to give credit where credit is due—I'm just the messenger sharing what I've learned from others. Then I tap into my own vibration and layer on top of that.

DT: What is the most important rule of your class?

JP: You're always responsible for your own energy. I will bring my 50, you bring your 50 and we'll meet in the middle. If you bring judgment into the space, none of us will do our best, because we won't feel accepted. I want us to have a good time and work hard, so come to class with positive energy.

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