Contact improvisation


  • CONTACT IMPROVISATION
  • Fundamentals of Contact Improvisation
  • (full semester laboratory description)
  • Questioning Contact Improvisation
  • Contact Improvisation
  • CONTACT IMPROVISATION

    Fundamentals of Contact Improvisation Early on in the development of Contact, there was a choice to not codify the practice… to allow each person to find for themselves their curiosity within the frame of investigation. With the spread of contact improvisation, many of these fundamentals have become obscured, but they are the roots from which the practice has grown, even if they are not present in dances of most contemporary contactors.

    Below is a list of aspects of exploration that we would call the basis for contact improvisation… the Contact Fundamentals. How long of study does it take to learn the fundamentals? This was primarily to differentiate their explorations from something like modern dance or ballet where it takes many years of study before one has a solid grasp of the basics.

    It also assumed someone already engaged in athletic, dynamic physical activity. While it takes some time to be introduced, it takes far less than many other practices and therefore the entry point into the practice is relatively more accessible. Of course, time to become familiar with the fundamentals will depend on the person and the instructor. It is also the case that the fundamentals as in any art, could be studied for many years and one would still not find the end of interesting phenomena and deepening of practice.

    As with any art, the fundamentals are not something learned once and then forgotten, but the basis of deepening inquiry. The introduction to the fundamentals is just that… an introduction. One could spend endless time studying them and going deeper. List of Fundamental Skills, Techniques, and Questions of Contact Improvisation Physics — the root of contact is a study of physics of bodies moving through contact.

    We create for ourselves precarious situations and unusual tasks relative to another body and then see how we solve the problems and how our bodies self-organize to survive. This is the root curiosity. Keeping this as the root of our exploration gives us a container that has allowed amazing explorations to evolve that otherwise would likely have never evolved if the relational emotions of touch and proximity had been invested in as the primary explorations.

    This gives us an amazing practice for study of body use. Should we choose to investigate them, this focus on the physical gives us a kind of container for exploration of emotion. Similarly, aesthetics were very secondary to function, pr, to phrase it another way, the aesthetics were based at least partially on function. The focus on function and physics, in addition being an aesthetic experiment from the 70s, also has a basic safety function — many of the injuries that happen in contact thankfully few as they are can be traced back to aesthetic concerns of a moment overshadowing functional awareness of physics of the joints and falling bodies.

    First, find a comfortable standing position. Second, scan the body for excess tension and inefficient ways of holding the body and allow the body to become more easily aligned with less unnecessary muscle use.

    From here, with just a little attention, it will become obvious that the body is still in motion… the small dance of reflexes below the level of consciousness which keeps the body standing.

    One watches this small dance, perhaps for a minute, perhaps for an hour. Taken into the larger dance of bodies in contact, one realizes that within the larger dance, there is always the small dance which can be tuned to, related to with curiosity.

    This study of the small dance is one of the primary foundations of contact improvisation. All movement that we choose is in the context of the ongoing small dance.

    This point can either roll or slide. This is not a rule of contact, but a fact of reality. This makes it more useful in pushing off our partner for navigating over and around them or for supporting them over and around us. Falling and rolling … movement into and out of the floor.

    To support the pursuit of more and more precarious situations, we learn how to move into and out of the floor more fluidly, at greater speeds, from greater heights. We get comfortable using the landing gear of the hands and feet, learning how to use the pliable bending of the arms and legs for shock absorption and catching of weight falling with us.

    We learn how to slide and roll out falls. Weight Exchange, Counter Balance, and off-balance — mutual support, neither partner on their base of support, but being supported by the other.

    Keeping this sense of off-balance is a constant challenge to wakefulness. We then become one organism composed of two. This weight exchange allows us to find efficiencies of joint movement that are impossible if we both try to maintain independent control, allowing greater speed, power, ease, and 3-dimensional complexity with less effort. We are able support each other and take support into and out of the floor.

    Through focus on our skeletal alignment and body-use, we can lift and support weight with greater ease and freedom. It was through an exploration of this fact that contact has been so able to allow a challenging of gender and size rolls in partnered dance.

    Intelligent use of the body substitutes for brute muscle for delivering force and giving support. At first, we look at alignment in static situations… being a solid table or post for our partner to work off of, climb over through lining up the bones and establishing power through spirals. We explore how we can make this even easier through subtle, continuous adjustments of the body as our relationship with partner shifts.

    Similar to the way we find excess tension and inefficient ways of holding ourselves in The Stand and learn to release them, we look at how we can let go of unnecessary tension in order to flow with and steer momentum.. We see how we can use alignment dynamically for mobile support and how alignment is part of what allows off-balance partnering to be potentially so easy. We can take the energy that we were pouring into inefficient use of muscle and turn it into easeful adaptive speed and expanded 3-dimensional complexity.

    References for this work on the one hand include various forms of self-study of body-use Alexander and Feldenkrais Techniques , martial arts ie, Tai Chi, Aikido , and contemporary release techniques.

    Where an intention is held or set, the interesting thing is not the accomplishment of the goal, but the process of the attempt, which comes from listening to, following, and adapting to what is actually happening. Through the study of the small dance, this following becomes more and more detailed, expanding our awareness of the many things happening in each moment. We start to recognize patterned movement and response patterns and learn to breathe into them into order to open them up for greater functional listening and following.

    Not just a passive thing, physical listening is quite active and can result in quite energetic dances as it turns into a blending with the flow of momentum. We practice static lifts and then see how we arrive at lifts through weight exchange and how they are not ends, but actually processes, feeling the movement out of as much as into the lifts, and feeling them as connected parts of a flow.

    We use them to propel us further into unknown territories. Later, we use the hands, not as the central focus of interaction, but as an extension of the body and access their dexterity and articulateness without attachment. Opening up the back space — In opening up our dance to our whole body, we attempt to to cultivate a dexterity and readiness for interaction in all directions, especially the back space. Practicing soft focused vision that helps us use our peripheral vision and tuning into the senses of touch and proprioception, we cultivate degree awareness.

    Continuity of motion and momentum — as the body is in motion, there is a commitment to pursuing where the body is already flowing. This would be contrasted to reaching a certain range of motion and then doubling back to stabilize.

    The unconscious impulse to stabilize constantly drains energy from the dance. The adventure of contact is in continuing motion together off-balance and then organizing together to survive the continuous fall. As we project further into ongoing motion we channel and recycle momentum in an unending vortex rather than throw momentum away in re-asserting stability.

    The Ouiji dance — a Ouiji board is a board with letters and numbers written on it. The Ouiji dance is a dance where one treats the point of contact as a Ouiji wedge. No directing from either partner, just listening and immediate following of the subtle shifts in pressure.

    Three primary variants…1 just the pad of the index finger, no sliding or rolling, just a few grams of pressure, 2 just a few grams of pressure, but the point is a rolling point, and 3 a rolling point with variable weight, both partners falling into each other and giving weight as appropriate to follow and support the rolling point of contact Version 3 in particular can get quite athletic as you allow yourself to be more and more immediate in the following.

    Lifts emerge not because we try to lift but because they just flow functionally out of the following. Posted by Karl Frost at pm Upcoming Events.

    Fundamentals of Contact Improvisation

    The whiteness and gender norms in CI parallel many other predominantly white alternative cultures developed since the s e. The central question of my PhD dissertation was: How do predominantly white alternative cultures defeat their stated intentions and wishes by reproducing mainstream or hegemonic injustices? And then we go back to dancing, as if asking the question was enough, and as if the lack of an articulate response affirms the group identity as creative explorers. Recently, especially since the emergence and mobilization of Black Lives Matter, the way that race, racism, and white supremacy get addressed in CI contexts is changing, for the better.

    No one ever declared that the intention of contact improvisation was to eradicate white supremacy and patriarchy. But how many times has someone linked CI dancing or Modern dance, or dance in general to freedom, to feminism, to peace, to community, to creating an alternative to the ugly aspects of mainstream cultures?

    My writing is not intended as condemnation. It is an inquiry. It would be too easy to reduce my observations and questions to an indictment of CI as racist and heterosexist. Early CI dancers rejected institutionalization and encouraged egalitarianism.

    I am offering this analysis with the same intentions. They move me to challenge the claims and assumptions of too many CI practitioners, teachers and writers that contact improvisation is freeing, healing, and good for all people; claims that ignore or dismiss difference, pain, or critique. Progressive and regressive practices can be happening at the same time, in the same room, at any given jam.

    Male yielding and female strength are also core values or practices that shape the dancing. And yet CI social scenes too frequently espouse essentialist new age distinctions between women and men, between female and male energies, that further alienate queer and non-binary dancers who might already feel awkward or unwelcome. This zine presents questions with no answers as an admission that I am far from being able to propose an articulate program for un-performing white and male privilege.

    Do we recognize or erase the people of color, the queers, and the non-normative bodies when we say mostly white and mostly straight? Do these questions limit or liberate the dancing? How does the social scene around the dancing influence the dancing? How do I touch somebody? Is it possible to touch each other, across lines of difference, beyond representational frames? Is it possible to de-socialize touch? Does contact improvisation produce sites where alternatives of touch, discourse, and imagination can happen?

    Who is welcome to those sites? Is anyone NOT welcome? Did you know that Anna Halprin modeled her naturalist walking on Black embodiment? What is the influence of rock n roll and therefore of Africanist music and dance on the arts scenes from which CI emerged? How is the approach of free improvisation linked to jazz, to Black innovation and resistance? What are the Japanese influences on CI dancing? How did Aikido and Zen influence the embodiment and awareness practices of early CI dancers? How did centuries of Chinese and Japanese philosophies and martial arts practices produce the Aikido roll?

    How have Buddhist meditation practices influenced the somatic awareness practices taught in CI classes? How has Taoism, through its healing arts and somatic practices, been syncretized into CI dancing? How do Chinese American dancers, especially as CI teachers, influence the cross-cultural development of the dancing? When did dancers start sitting in circles? How have Native and Chicanx dancers influenced CI? How does the dancing change when engaged by queer Latinx femmes? What are the regional and cultural dialects of CI?

    What is the difference between appropriation, fusion, and syncretism? What are the settler or colonial dynamics of cultural fusion or hybridity? Is it too late to care about cultural appropriation? Does decolonization depend on reparations? Can cultural debts be repaid? Can a segregated subculture be politically effective?

    How do white people who identify as anti-racist or not-racist continue to reproduce privileged and segregated social contexts? Is CI a site of political refuge? Why does it flourish during or immediately following social unrest, national trauma or crisis?

    How does contact improvisation invite or allow a withdrawing from political engagement, a space of retreat and refuge? How does the notion of dancing-as-refuge privilege whiteness and middle class access?

    How does political dis-engagement allow other kinds of cultural research and social experimentation to flourish? If contact is for fugitives or refugees, what are they fleeing? Do you want to talk about consent before dancing? Does the mention of rape culture in a CI opening circle make you feel more comfortable or more awkward, more willing or more resistant? Is massage or cuddling, especially towards the end of the dance, part of your expected CI dance vocabulary?

    How do your romantic feelings influence your dancing or the choosing of dance partners? What are the best conditions for nurturing a dance of increasing trust, pleasure, and intimacy? How are men or women or queerly gendered folks reading these questions differently? How are white and POC dancers reading these questions differently?

    Can CI be supportive of decolonial or queer…? What am I doing right now? Am I listening? Will I yield to this dance of questioning? Personal interview re: dancing in Ukraine and Israel. Digging the Africanist Presence in American Performance. Westport CT: Greenwood Press. This article appeared in the October issue of In Dance. Keith Hennessy was born in a mining town in Northern Ontario, Canada, lives in San Francisco, and tours internationally.

    He is an award-winning performer, choreographer, teacher and organizer. Hennessy directs Circo Zero, a laboratory for live performance that plays with genre and expectation. Share: Dancers Group promotes the visibility and viability of dance. We serve San Francisco Bay Area artists, the dance community and audiences through programs and services that are as collaborative and innovative as the creative process itself. In response to the needs of its constituents, Dancers' Group has evolved to fulfill a dual function as a service organization and as a presenter of performance opportunities that maximize the visibility of dance in the bay area.

    Suite San Francisco, CA

    They communicate with each other less by active impulses than by passive following and listening to what is happening in the moment: gravity, pressure, weight, direction, response, resistance, role, slide, friction, inertia, flow and momentum, … CI has been developed as an open improvised art form for the stage, it is used as a research tool to find material or structures for improvised and choreographed pieces and parallel it has developed as well as a social dance form shared all over the globe.

    The sensations created through a physical dialogue between two bodies and their relationship to weight, gravity and other physical forces, are the source of an emerging dance. CI brings into play the abilities the bodies have, to survive safely an unknown situation whilst keeping the communication. CI practice trains the listening of functional, sensorial and perceptual eco- systems. It enriches and reinforces self-learning, co-learning, self-trusting and cooperation.

    Taken into the larger dance of bodies in contact, one realizes that within the larger dance, there is always the small dance which can be tuned to, related to with curiosity. This study of the small dance is one of the primary foundations of contact improvisation. All movement that we choose is in the context of the ongoing small dance. This point can either roll or slide. This is not a rule of contact, but a fact of reality. This makes it more useful in pushing off our partner for navigating over and around them or for supporting them over and around us.

    Falling and rolling … movement into and out of the floor. To support the pursuit of more and more precarious situations, we learn how to move into and out of the floor more fluidly, at greater speeds, from greater heights. We get comfortable using the landing gear of the hands and feet, learning how to use the pliable bending of the arms and legs for shock absorption and catching of weight falling with us. We learn how to slide and roll out falls. Weight Exchange, Counter Balance, and off-balance — mutual support, neither partner on their base of support, but being supported by the other.

    (full semester laboratory description)

    Keeping this sense of off-balance is a constant challenge to wakefulness. We then become one organism composed of two. This weight exchange allows us to find efficiencies of joint movement that are impossible if we both try to maintain independent control, allowing greater speed, power, ease, and 3-dimensional complexity with less effort. We are able support each other and take support into and out of the floor.

    Through focus on our skeletal alignment and body-use, we can lift and support weight with greater ease and freedom. It was through an exploration of this fact that contact has been so able to allow a challenging of gender and size rolls in partnered dance. Intelligent use of the body substitutes for brute muscle for delivering force and giving support.

    At first, we look at alignment in static situations… being a solid table or post for our partner to work off of, climb over through lining up the bones and establishing power through spirals. We explore how we can make this even easier through subtle, continuous adjustments of the body as our relationship with partner shifts.

    Similar to the way we find excess tension and inefficient ways of holding ourselves in The Stand and learn to release them, we look at how we can let go of unnecessary tension in order to flow with and steer momentum.

    Questioning Contact Improvisation

    We see how we can use alignment dynamically for mobile support and how alignment is part of what allows off-balance partnering to be potentially so easy.

    We explore being passive, active, receptive and directional, learning to trust ourselves and our bodies and to read and respond to the physical information we are receiving in a moving duet. All levels including beginners. This develops our ability to move fluidly and smoothly from horizontal to vertical, to receive support equally from the earth and from the space in our bodies, and to connect the pathways between our bodies and the physical environment in which we are moving and dancing.

    Learning to extend and expand that information and awareness into moving and dancing with a partner, the earth, the space and the environment, the physical forces of gravity, momentum, balance, weight, touch.

    Contact Improvisation

    Tasting the Nectar: Deepening our Connection This workshop aims to provide participants with tools that increase the choices they have available to them in any given moment. We will initially prepare the body and deepen its dialogue and relationship to gravity, earth and space both in contact and out of contact.

    We will bring in the use of the eyes and ears and integrate spatial and sensory information with gravity, sensation, weight and flow to begin integrating different aspects of our experience into our dancing. We will engage with classical contact improvisation repertory to establish our shared movement vocabulary and to bring structure to our internal experience in contact with our partners.


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