A little more about Contact Improvisation

There’s a myth in the Contact Improv community that you should dance the same way with everybody. That if you’re a good loving contacter, you dance the same way with everybody, and you love dancing with everybody the same. I’ve been doing Contact Improvisation for 15 years, and have studied with some wonderful teachers – including Nancy Stark Smith, Anne Cooper Albright, Andrew Harwood… – and it’s absolutely clear to me that we all dance differently with one another.

The Contact community is open, and caring. Closing doors to connection is not encouraged. But I have seen the most generous dancers exert clear control over the depth of connection in a dance. They don’t close the door, but they know not to fling it wide open with every dance either. That’s something that many amateurs can not perceive at first.

We are all capable of being truly sensitive to ourselves and others at the same time. But you can’t control other people. If you find yourself dancing with someone who is not really being sensitive to you – what can you do? What should you do?

If I feel like I’m having a dance with someone who is not present with me, I get more distant. And I have developed a variety of physical skills to create slight distances. (I’ll be teaching some exercises to develop those skills this weekend.) If I try to take some distance and they don’t let me – they are unresponsive to me – I know to push a little further away, and create as much distance as I need until I find myself in a dance I am comfortable with.

The class I’m teaching this Saturday at Artomatic will introduce some exercises focusing on control of our boundaries, and the edges of contact. I hope you’ll join me. Saturday, 2-3:30pm on the 6th floor dance stage at Artomatic. I’ve designed this class to be friendly for beginners, but hopefully of interest to those with experience, too.

Contact dance is intimate. It is built around following a point of contact on someone else’s body, with a point on your body. But the release and flow of improvisation do not negate the need to be able to make choices. This class will allow us to practice some options for dance connections.

The video here is a nice example of Contact dance. I see in it how partners follow the point of contact as a guide to following each other’s energy.

Author: Robert Bettmann

Founder of Day Eight, and the DC Arts Writing Fellowship.