Improv in Motion 

A tangled string of glowing lights lies crumpled on the black floor, and is slowly lifted into the air by a contorted dancer's slowly rising foot. The performers watch silently as violin notes swirl in an electro-loop that fades away into silence.

"This is what looking looks like," someone in the group says. "This is how I looked for you."

The violin gets louder, and loops get faster and faster.

Someone else bunches up the lights and starts to stuff them into a small treasure chest; doing so seemingly quickens the pace of the words, the violin, and the movement. The group sprints toward a conclusion as the lights are bundled up.

Another person walks onstage with a desk lamp, surveys the group and turns the lamp on. The other group members look on approvingly.

Suddenly, a sharp clap breaks the silence, and the dancers, poets and musicians in the improv dance/poetry/music group smile.

The members of Movement Salon are preparing for their latest performance piece, titled "The Scene of a Decision." It's a longer-than-usual piece, at 45 minutes. The group consists of "four dancers, two poets and a musician"—if you have to categorize it that way, said Kimi Eisele, a founder of Movement Salon.

The group improvises collaboratively. "The ensemble works together to create a piece that has a beginning, middle and end," Eisele said. "We make it up as we go. We usually have a parameter of time, and depending on where we are, a parameter of space," Eisele said. "Then we're going to see what happens."

What results is a performance that amounts to a kind of creative drama, or, rather, "a narrative arc through the piece," said Lisa Bowden, a poet and dancer in the group.

Movement Salon consists of TC Tolbert, Jen Hoefle, Greg Colburn, Vicki Brown and Katie Rutterer, in addition to Eisele and Bowden.

After a performance, "We learn how to read each other, and we name things," Eisele said. "We ask, 'What just happened there?' 'Well, we kind of noticed this structure, and there was, like, a solo and a supporting cast.'"

But Movement Salon is anything but rehearsed. "We're really about keeping it in the moment and keeping it live," Bowden said.

Practicing—which the group's members have been doing every Sunday since they started—is more about coming up with "a toolbox," as Bowden described it.

Added to the toolbox is the audience itself—which, of course, can completely change the show.

"It also asks attention from the audience in a different kind of way," Hoefle said.

The audience can participate without even knowing it, Eisele added.

"A baby could cry in the middle of the piece, and that could be an opportunity for a movement about that, or a verbal response, a musical response. There's no set agenda," Eisele said. "It's about taking up space and not taking up space."

In addition to Movement Salon's main performance, Saturday's show will include improvised performances by Brazilian percussion and dance group Batucaxé, and Odaiko Sonora.

At the end of the performance, the groups will get together for an improv set with everyone involved.

"It's going to really be something," said Mike Zecchino, a performer in Batucaxé.

The performance is hosted at the Rhythm Industry Performance Factory, an artist-owned space in Tucson's downtown industrial area. It's part of a yearly series of fundraisers that the artists hold to help pay the rent.

"It's a pretty rad space, and we're just trying to keep it alive," Zecchino said.

Rhythm Industry, which has more than 3,000 square feet of practice space, is one of the largest open spaces owned by artists in Tucson, Bowden said.

The performance is part of the artists' "quarterly review," to "showcase what's being made in the space," Eisele said.

So what can the audience expect from Movement Salon? The members aren't even sure—but the performance will be purposeful and say something about words, movement and sound, Eisele said.

"It's about working together. The participatory, collaborative nature sounds like a beautiful reflection on what democracy is supposed to be," Eisele said.

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