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by Darren Held

Turns out, among my many improv analogies, I somehow overlooked the improv-is-like-being-a-trapeze-artist analogy. I’m sorry! If you’re mad, please blame Lorna for not taking a trapeze class sooner and inspiring me with it. (Thank you, Lorna!)

Of course, there are a couple of differences between improv and trapezing. First of all, obviously, you don’t have to wear sparkly, spangly costumes to do improv. In fact, we really prefer it if you don’t. Darren has a tendency to get distracted by shiny objects and if all the students are shiny, his head will probably explode. Second, improv requires very little upper body strength. And finally, there is no net in improv.

But there really are many similarities: both require fearlessness, a high degree of trust, the ability to work well with your partner, balanced give-and-take, and a desire to entertain people, among other things.

If you think about it, denial in improv is akin to a trapezer refusing to catch his partner as she comes flying towards him. In both cases, one partner has tossed something (either information or their own body) to the other, only to have the something unceremoniously dropped. Obviously, in a trapeze act, if one person fails to catch the other, the show is pretty much over.

Guess what? In improv, the scene will also come screeching to a halt if one person drops the other’s information: if you deny it, or fail to react to it, or just flat-out don’t bother to listen to it. You don’t want to drop your partner to their messy and untimely demise, so do your best to catch them!

Of course, if you don’t leap, you’re in just as much trouble as if you don’t catch. Nobody wants to watch a trapeze show where the trapezists just swing back and forth and back and forth and back and… It’s B-O-R-I-N-G. Somebody has to f*ing leap, or there’s no show.

In improv, you have to be brave and leap, also. Make a bold choice. Make an important discovery, confession or admission. Have a huge emotional reaction. Otherwise, you’re just two people swinging back and forth and back and forth and back and…

Lorna said that the most important coaching she got during her trapeze class was, “Don’t let your brain get in the way.” This is also the most important coaching for improv. Scenes go fabulously when the players aren’t in their heads, wondering, thinking, trying to be clever, being afraid, being cocky, judging, keeping score, strategizing… Your brain is used to being in charge, but to truly be in the moment and in sync with your trapeze partner or improv partner, you have to shut off your brain and connect and trust.

I’d argue that DON’T LET YOUR BRAIN GET IN THE WAY is also the most important coaching for life. What would you do if your brain didn’t conjure up all the reasons you might fail? What would you learn? Who would you talk to? What would you wear, say, eat, sing, try?

Held2gether improv classes in Long Beach are great at teaching you how to get out of your head and fly with a safety net of incredible encouragement and support. Classes start the first week of January. Register before December 1st for discount pricing.

By Sonnjea Blackwell

Darren Held
About Darren Held
Darren is the CEO and Creative Director of Held2gether, Improv for LIfe. He has been teaching and performing improv for 15 years, and has performed with H2g, the Groundlings, UCB and Second City. He loves Moto, red wine, and Madonna.

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