Dancing Without Steps: The Art of Improvisation with Margaret Beals

  • Director

    Adriana Davis, Margaret Beals

  • Country, Year, Length

    United States, 2022, 20:00

  • Category

    Documentary Short

  • Format


  • Festival Year


Film Screening & Ticket Information

When & Where to See this Film!

THE WORLD OF DANCE: 6 films that you can move to.

April 27, 2024 @ 3:00PM • Kaufman Astoria Studios – Zukor Theatre

View the Trailer


Join acclaimed dance innovator, Margaret Beals, in her exploration of the art of improvisation. In this short documentary, Ms. Beals demonstrates the power and authenticity of improvisation as performance and also as a tool of discovery for any creative endeavor.

Throughout “Dancing Without Steps”, audiences are offered glimpses of Ms. Beals’ extensive career in improvisational dance. One of the first solo dancers to perform whole concerts without steps, she started her early career in the free-wheeling atmosphere of the 1960’s club and cabaret scene and continued her pioneering journey through five more decades.

In this film, Ms. Beals draws from various artists to give fuller context to her thoughts on improvisation. Keith Jarrett, renowned jazz pianist, reveals insights into his own creative process. The action paintings of Jackson Pollock and the powerful black and white abstractions of Franz Kline are used to further illustrate Ms. Beals’ ideas and techniques.

Also included are brief excerpts from the works of the great modern dance choreographer Martha Graham and the celebrated dance/theatre choreographer Valerie Bettis.

Meredith Monk, award-winning composer, singer and creator of music-theater-film works, gives an insightful introduction to this latest documentary from Impulses Dance Theatre Arts, Inc. The company’s previous award-winning film, “Impulses” (1974) gave audiences their first experience of a collaborative concert featuring improvisational artists from the different fields of music, dance and theatre.

“Dancing Without Steps” expresses the principles that animate Ms. Beals’ art while offering her experiences of improvisation to a new generation of dancers and artists from all disciplines.

Meet the Moment that is “Dancing Without Steps”.


Adriana Davis, Director, The Last Jews of Baghdad, Play It By Ear, Saving the Iraqi Jewish Archives, The Life of Frank Iny, Searching for Baghdad
Margaret Beals, Director
Adriana Davis, Producer, Play It By Ear, The Last Jews of Baghdad, Saving the Iraqi Jewish Archives, The Life of Frank Iny, Searching for Baghdad
Margaret Beals, Key Cast, “Herself”, Impulses
Meredith Monk, Key Cast, “Herself”, The Big Lebowski, Book of Days, Quarry
Kathleen Drinane Davis, Associate Producer
Roger Phoenix, Production Sound
Adriana Davis, Editor, The Last Jews of Baghdad, Saving the Iraqi Jewish Archives, The Life of Frank Iny, Searching for Baghdad, Like A Springsteen Song, The Hidden Force
Margaret Beals, Executive Producer, Impulses
Impulses Dance Theatre Arts, Executive Producer, Impulses
Margaret B. Hunnewell, Original Concept, Impulses, Interiors, Last Embrace, Windows, The Cotton Club
Glenn Navia, Post-Production Sound

Director Statement

“Dancing Without Steps with Margaret Beals: The Art of Improvisation”
Meet the Moment!
Director’s Statement by Adriana Davis

When I first became aware of Margaret Beals’ artistry and her pioneering efforts to further the art of improvisation I was struck by the ways she stayed true to the movement, message and methods of letting dance flow through her work. It was the most compelling factor that informs the meaning of this short documentary. The intensity. The dedication. The possibilities. Experiencing Ms. Beals’ dedication to living in the moment of self-expression as she accepted the risks, and rewards, of improvisation has given me a new take on directing and producing documentaries.
Over the last 25 years, I have most often directed fact-based, historical films rooted in personal stories of persecution, escape and survival of entire communities. “Dancing Without Steps” offered me an opportunity to connect an audience to one artist’s emotional journey driven by the music, sounds and words in the moment they are conveyed. I reversed my usual process of using history as a foundation for storytelling and instead allowed Ms. Beals’ natural storytelling abilities to convey her thoughts on improvisation alongside historical footage from her long and acclaimed career as a dancer and performance innovator.
Luckily for me, Ms. Beals maintains a well-preserved storehouse of archival material documenting her more than four decades of performing life. Though some of the images and footage had been utilized in previous productions, those archival resources gave me a way to do more than just show examples of Ms. Beals dancing. Rather, in this film I endeavor to establish a foundation to encourage young improvisational dancers and artists to find new dimensions in their work sustaining the life of an art form that may soon be lost to time. Today, technology makes it very easy for us to constantly revise our work, performances and messages. It has been so refreshing to create a film that celebrates creativity in and of the moment and see how those performances connected Ms. Beals to her future growth as an artist.
The best documentaries allow audiences to enter the subject’s world and mindset while entertaining and informing. I crafted “Dancing Without Steps” to create questions in viewers’ minds about incorporating improvisation into their lives while simultaneously being entertained by Margaret Beals’ diverse performances. As she often comments, “Dancing without steps doesn’t mean you have no plan or discipline. It means you allow the energy within to shine beyond a planned series of steps or movements, so the audience feels, more than sees or hears, where you are as an artist.” I hope you will enjoy “Meeting the Moment” as you view this documentary, suggestive of the immediacy that is improvisation.

Director’s Statement Copyright ©2022 D-Squared Media

Director Biography

Adriana Davis – Filmmaker, Director, Producer, Editor, Writer, Voice-Over Artist & Coach

Adriana Davis has worked in film, television and radio as a writer, producer, editor and voice-over artist since 1991. She is the founder of D-SQUARED MEDIA, a full-service production company based in New York City with corporate and film clients.

Ms. Davis is the co-director, producer, writer and editor of an acclaimed quartet of documentaries about Iraq’s Jewish community and history: “THE LIFE OF FRANK INY” (1999), “SEARCHING FOR BAGHDAD” (2002), “THE LAST JEWS OF BAGHDAD” (2005) and “SAVING THE IRAQI JEWISH ARCHIVES” (2020). The series has screened at over 90 premiere film festivals in the US, Canada, Israel and Europe and was featured on PBS and JLTV.

In addition to documentaries, Ms. Davis has produced several narrative films including the romantic comedy, “PLAY IT BY EAR” (2005) starring Academy Award® winner Rita Moreno, a noir thriller “KILL JOHNNY MILLS” (2006) and “LIKE A SPRINGSTEEN SONG” (2006) and “THE HIDDEN FORCE” (2021) for the festival circuit. In radio, she has produced a well-received enlightenment series for WNEW-FM “COURAGEOUS RADIO” (2001-2002). In television she production managed numerous documentaries, news programming and one-off specials for NBC, A&E, Discovery, PBS, ESPN, BET, Animal Planet CourtTV among others.

She is currently producing two other documentaries: “A GRAND IDEA” following one man’s quest to mount a Broadway production of his own Yiddish version of “The Pirates of Penzance” and “WHAT’S FOR LUNCH” profiling the struggles of the NY City school lunch program.

As a voice-over artist, Ms. Davis has lent her voice to numerous videos, communication systems and live events for corporate and commercial promotions and productions. She is a sought-after voice-over director and coach having trained hundreds of voice actors worldwide. She has been a frequent guest speaker at filmmaking and voice acting workshops and podcasts and has written several published articles for print and online publications on independent filmmaking and voice acting.

Ms. Davis received a B.A. in political science and completed all but her dissertation for her M.A. in Congressional Studies from The Catholic University of America and holds a Producing Certificate from The Hollywood Film Institute. Productions she helped create have won Ciné Golden Eagle and Telly awards.

For more information visit www.dsquaredmedia.com.