Improv & Comedy

Circle of claps - Clapping circles

Clapping circles describe various warm-up games and rhythmic exercises where the participants stand in a circle and a signal - mostly a clap - is sent according to a fixed pattern or randomly through the group. There are many various games and they are easy to adapt and generate new versions.

Classic clapping circles

All players stand in a circle. One starts and sends a clapping signal to a partner of his choice. Important: Always make eye contact and make a clear gesture with your clapping hands to the receiver. It is paramount that the signal is clearly sent, especially as the game speeds up. Player 2 sends the signal to payer 3 and so on. The goal of the exercise is to create a sense of 'flow' within the group: meaning that everyone is highly attentive whilst being laid-back and relaxed; and that the signal continues to move automatically without having to think to much about it. Flow has been reached when the clapping is of an even tempo.

Common mistakes: Over time many exercises become a ritual and their sense and goals are neglected. In this exercise the following errors often occur:

No eye contact during passing: The receiver of the clap is not looked at and the clap is simply sent blind. It shouldn't become an automatic reaction, instead I should always paying attention to partners and building it up anew. The impulse should only be passe on when eye contact is made. Just as you build up contact to partners in a scene to interact with them, I use this exercise to build contact and then allow an action to follow.

Speeding up too soon: The clapping often accelerates as it goes round, even though the group has not found a common rhythm. Just as actors in a successful scene have a common rhythm, so should those in a clapping circle. When this rhythm is found, then it can be played at speed. This requires patience, as some games need longer than others to find and take on the rhythm of the group. The golden rule is: if the rhythm hasn't been found - don't get faster!

Variations

  • The clapping signal is not given to just any player, it actually goes around the circle: everybody gives it to their neighbour. This is the beginners version. Here the danger is that players "switch off" after clapping and no longer concentrate on the action.
  • The same as above, with a the addition of a double clap, which reverses the direction.
  • As above, but a player can duck their way out of a clap; the impulse then goes to the next player which has not ducked.
  • The player who receives the clap has to clap simultaneously, if that doesn't work it has to be repeated. The goal is to find a common rhythm.

In addition to clapping you can send a word around the group. In order of difficulty:

    • "Zip!" (or "Puff!", "Zap!", "Pling!", "Zack!", "Fong!", "Peep!", "Klung!", "Boing!"…)
    • "Zip, Zap, Zop" (repeat these words for the duration of the game)
    • "Zip, Zoom, Boing" - one word to pass to the neighbour on the left, one on the right and one to any other player in the circle
  • Clicking circle - here you no longer clap, but click your fingers to pass on the impulse
  • Word association - Instead of clapping you send on a word and a clear signal, the next player has to provide an associated word. E.g. "Tree", "House", "Door", "Window", "Open"… Here too, it is vital to find a flow - and remember, that in association there is no wrong word!
  • Word for word - As above in word association, but the words tell a story. This needs a slower tempo. The goal is a slower, but more even rythym. A common capping/moving rythym helps, where, for example from 4 beats, the new word is always added on "1!"

Editing pattern x

updated: 2016-11-06 by Edd Turner

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    pamelafox

    We always call this "Pass the Clap", which is a bit of a funny joke in America. Should I add that title?