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”Improvisation as a Hobby and a Job”

Interviewing Johanna Torasvirta

Johanna Torasvirta is the sports, dance, theatre and improvisation teacher at the Institute of Adult Education in Helsinki. Johanna also provides study counselling for dance.

What is improvisation?

Improvisation is the art of the moment, listening to one another, acceptance, reacting. It is also the freeing of one’s inner child. Improvisation strives for the state a person has before the norms and taboos of society take hold. During improvisation one finds one’s inner spontaneity through interaction with others. The result is something no-one can create by themselves. This is why you easily get  hooked on improvisation.

For how long has improvisation been in your life?

I started working with theatre in pre-scripted theatre, through which I ended up in the world of improvisation. In 2003 – 2007 I studied theatre and drama studies  at the University of Tampere to become a director. I have also studied acting, and the techniques of improvisation became familiar during those studies. I have both acted and directed in both professional and amateur theatres. My own theatre work lead me through professional theatre to amateur theatre, where I feel most at home. Afterwards I acquired additional training in improvisation. I have taught since I was 20, and I have always used improvisation as a method. I have taught improvisation in adult education since 2008. The more I get to do improvisation, the more I exited it makes me.

What takes place during improvisation courses?

The most common thing during improvisation courses is laughing, we laugh a lot. The basic course starts from the basics of improvisation and we use the Johnstone improvisation methdods. Among these are spontaneity and acceptance. The courses are 6 classes in total and each class has its own theme. We do talk about the theory of improvisation sometimes, but mainly we do exercises and act out different scenes. The courses largely form around the students.

During the course we, for example, do status expression, which helps us to be flexible and put ourselves in others’ position. A large part of peoples’ interactions consist of momentary and changing statuses. A status is being spiritually above of below another person. You can also be of equal status.

What is the best thing about the courses?

The best moments during courses are those when a student spontaneously lets something out and is genuinely surprised at what actually came out. There are always fun moments during courses. The atmosphere is aptly described by this comment from a student: ”My stomach muscles have never been as sore as when I took the basics and advanced courses in improvisation.”

For many, improvisation is a way to unwind, and an outlet, a total opposite for work. Many students give feedback also on the fact that for example the status execises have provided valuable help for everyday life, especially work.

Kallio, Scissors, Paper Improvisation Group

Kallio, Scissors, Paper is a Helsinki-based improvisation group that has been together for a few years. Back in the day I started to teach improvisation in the Kalliola Settlement. After a while I noticed that the same people took the same basic and advanced improvisation courses multiple times in a row. I then suffered from improvisation envy – I was teaching and directing, but I also wanted to act. In the end we formed an improvisation
group with the most active students.

Further info:

Kallio, Sakset, Paperi (Kallio, Scissors, Paper) at Facebook

The improvisation classes at the Institute of Adult Education in Helsinki can be found by searching: https://opistopalvelut.fi/helsinginaikuisopisto/index.php