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Tammy MacLeod : mapping intention

Choreographer / Performer


  • To decipher her creative process for creation of a self-solo: i.e. how to cultivate and refine improvisational sensibility in her process.

  • Create a score that contains all elements and performance anchors needed for an improvisational dance-work.

Beginning with:

  • A prop (a plastic drop-sheet), a collection of images/cues/directions, and

  • fear of “formed” dances.


  • To develop skills to make dependable performance


  • When performing in the moment, how does one recognize the inner logic of what one is doing and the inner logic of the entire piece?


  • To stick to the Task you set for yourself.

  • Start with an idea: stick to it

  • Make physical instructions: stick to the instructions

  • Congratulate yourself when you’ve completed the task then continue creating.

Development and Skill building:

  • Became better at identifying the essential movement aspects in a mini–score.

  • Became better at following her own instructions therefore tangibley advancing the work.

  • Increased the clarity of her physical performance.


  • The CM provided a supportive container to realize self as soloist, while not being alone.

  • The CM was a lot of outside-in information that seeded processes and ideas of how she can work alone from both outside and inside.

  • Realized that her solo process previously began from unpremeditated states.

  • This particular piece will probably be highly premeditated: the improvisational nature will be to cultivate the state of presence within the performance.

General Observations:

Tammy was able to create dependable mini-scores to assist in her deepening of sections of her larger frame. She was able to use the mini-scores as anchors within performance. She was not yet at the point to recognize what “meaning” each mini–score could transmit to audience, but this move toward discovering the content started to happen when she returned home.

A discussion point was:

  • Improvisational performance is sometimes described as “unfolding”. With an improvised piece that is expressing a preconceived theme, when does the performer, who is also the creator, recognize the shape, form and content of the piece as a whole so that the improvisation transmits the intent to the audience?

To Practice:

  • Specificity of movement-ideas that are generated from body (not head-ideas)

  • Recognizing and mapping what is occurring when performing (sometimes using “dream-body” (Tammy’s phrase), sometimes using “director mind”).

  • By nature of being performed in linear time, the order of events will suggest meaning to an audience. Task: Take dependable mini–scores, perform them one-after-the-other in different orders. Notice and come to know how the ordering of them in transmits meaning.

Strategies used at the CM to generate and develop material:

  • Used these Steps to create mini-score 1. Have clear image. 2. free improvise on image. 3. Reenter state and identify 2 or 3 essential movement actions e.g. tender, fingertips and toe tips, touch plastic, bones are melting. 4. Use essential movement actions as mini–score.

  • Practiced changing from one mini–score to the next (called it “dropping in–dropping out”.

  • Visualized what she did, then reentered the state for more exploration/discovery/noticing

  • Used word cloud chart words (riffing on principles of energy, force, tension, time) to practice making mini–scores. This freed her from over-attachment to the thematic material that she brought with her.

What next:

  • Already started to be physically inside mini-scores: Now begin to Address symbol, metaphor, narrative, place, context, character…

  • Add a question mark to the end of each one of these issues.

  • Dance Freely! Use all of yourself and all of your capabilities, and either, as you or after you dance, answer a few of those questions.

  • Notice how some of your answers may be or may not be in verbal language. Notice how verbal language sometimes sparks, for you, more detail in the noticing.

ABOUT: TAMMY MACLEOD (2017 from Newfoundland-Nova Scotia): accomplished dance improvisor in process and performance: Some influencers include Nancy Stark Smith (underscore), contact dance, principles of body-mind-centering.

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