How Improv Classes create Relationships
We at The Maydays were delighted when our first ‘Improv Couple’ got together. They met at one of our improv classes, improvised together for 8 weeks and – BOOM! Since then we have seen a succession of couples emerge from their time improvising together with us and elsewhere. In some ways this is purely a numbers game – put a series of randomly selected people in the same room repeatedly and some of them will surely get together. However, I have a suspicion that improv beats the odds every time. It’s not just love either, lifelong business relationships and on-stage collaborations are regularly formed through improv. So why? Here are just 5 reasons.
There is something very touching about seeing people open up and be vulnerable. To be prepared to try, fail, try again, fail again and keep trying really fires up the empathy levels. While we like to teach that there is ‘No way to get this wrong’ there are times when you simply have to hold up your hands and say ‘What am I doing?’ or just double up, put your hand over your mouth and laugh at the sheer ridiculousness of your attempt. Seeing this in others is very endearing, life affirming and brings us closer together as we recognise our own shortcomings and admire the efforts of others to overcome theirs.
For most people, it takes great courage to stand up in front of people and act, sing, dance and perform without a script. While we do our best to make this journey easy for people, there are countless incremental steps that people take that takes them outside their comfort zone. Watching this process from an ‘audience’ or supporting it onstage (or in my case, from behind my piano) fires up our mirror neurons and part of us goes through the process with them. This is clearly a bonding experience and it is reciprocated when it is our turn to step up and step out.
Now without going into too much detail…role playing has been proven as a highly effective way to get people to…well…bond. While improv is not role play per se, it shares many of the same characteristics. Embodying the character, voice and physicality of someone else while your scene partner does the same opens up an infinite number of unique and new interactions. The more we find out about people and their different facets, the more we can connect to them.
Accessing the creative, unconstrained and joyful aspects of ourselves can be almost impossible in the hectic and judgemental world most of us move around in. Play allows us to set aside society’s expectations of us and behave freely. Playing is a crucial part of learning about the world and about people. I often hear people lamenting the fact that we don’t play enough. Well improvisers do. The word play often goes alongside laughter, music, dance, cheekiness and love, but also childishness, frivolity, pointlessness. Improv allows us to access our playful side without the judgement that often comes with it, and with practise, without the self-judgement that can so often shut us down.
Can there be a more bonding activity than laughing together? Well yes. However, laughter is right up there in the relationship-forming activities. Watch any couple flirting and you can guarantee that they will laugh together. Laughter is bonding and many studies show that we think that to be its primary purpose (here is just one). Improv classes provide the perfect environment for laughter and I feel incredibly fortunate to experience the face-ache from laughing every week in our music improv classes.
Happy Valentine’s Day.