Underscore Alchemy: Extending the Underscore for creative artists

McKenzie, V. (2014). Underscore Alchemy: Extending the Underscore for creative artists. Journal of Dance and Somatic Practices 6(2), 159-173.

Underscore Alchemy is a research project designed to investigate how artists from disciplines outside the performing arts might engage with Nancy Stark Smith’s collaborative improvisation model, the Underscore, in order to enhance their creative practices. Creative artists with limited prior experience of somatic practices were invited to participate in a series of research workshops based on Smith’s Underscore. These participants were offered somatic exercises based on everyday movements by facilitators trained in contact and improvisation, within an egalitarian workshop culture. This phenomenological study captured data generated through practice as well as qualitative data, analysis of which suggests that the Underscore can be successfully adapted for artists working in non-dance disciplines. This article looks at the role Smith’s Underscore played in Underscore Alchemy, entailing an investigation of how contact manifested through rhythmic and visual patterns, as well as how these creative artists from a variety of disciplines engaged with improvisation through attention to the experiential body.