Towards a definition of performance improvisation
This thesis discusses the interconnection of 'performance' and 'improvisation', which, despite its long and established history, has always proved difficult to definitively pin down. My research question presupposes that 'performance' and 'improvisation' are neither completely separate nor completely interchangeable. I focus on the area where 'performance' and 'improvisation' overlap each other, which I call 'performance improvisation'. The thesis seeks to answer the question, 'What can I induce from materials focussed around the individual "creativities" that might serve to construct a prototypical explanation to define "performance improvisation"? '. The main chapters interpret and analyse materials written and published between the beginning of the twentieth century and the 1990s with particular emphasis on the so-called 'theatre' and 'dance' in North America. The concluding chapter proposes oppositional features of 'performance' and 'improvisation', stating that 'performance improvisation' is a dynamic intertwinement of those features, which manifests in each individual 'creativity'. The conclusion offers a benchmark for future attempts at defining 'performance improvisation'. A brief overview of the commedia dell'arte in Chapter 1 introduces the main chapters. Chapter 2 looks at the correlation of human body and mind. In Chapter 3, I discuss body and mind negotiating with and deviating from traditions and conventions. The scope of the discussion expands in Chapter 4, which considers the idea, or the concept, of 'performance' and 'improvisation' as seen by individuals. Chapter 5 looks at the audience's point of view in relation to the performer's point of view. The argument in those chapters is tested in Chapter 6 against case study materials that discuss highly experimental practices. Chapter 7 concludes the thesis, in which I answer the research question by way of proposing eight pairs of oppositional features that characterise 'performance' and 'improvisation'.