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.

Finding Flow and Sharing Weight – dance workshop Sat. May 30th

Social partner dancing, including ballroom dance, has become really popular lately. It is fun to just get out on the dance floor and dance. But there are two things that I dont like about traditional partner dance styles. The male/female roles are annoyingly strict and stereotypical, and you have to memorize a whole bunch of steps in order to actually connect with your partner in motion.

Ill be teaching a free class at Artomatic this coming weekend introducing a partner dance form called Contact Improvisation. Aside from being a fun way to dance, studying Contact Improvisation can help you learn how to move with grace and pleasure in your own body. For this class Ill be teaching a set of exercises on weight sharing, and another set of exercises on flow. This is an introductory class appropriate for all levels.

Contact can get pretty acrobatic, and extreme. Here’s a video showing two of the founders of Contact Improvisation – Steve Paxton and Nancy Stark Smith.

The acrobatic stuff they’re doing – the ‘flying’ – is enabled by a real awareness of how you share weight. You can share weight with other human in many different ways. If you are facing someone like youre about to shake hands, and you both put your hands out in front of your shoulders, you can lean in and support each other like playing cards making a house of cards. You could also then clasp hands and lean out from each other, sharing weight to make the letter V (coming from your feet toward your heads.) There are many ways to share weight, and to develop sensitivity to shifts of weight. Ill be introducing just a few exercises in weight sharing. Because weight sharing exercises can lead to balance points, and lack of motion, Ill be teaching a few exercises on finding flow. With these two sets of exercises under our belt well spend the remainder of class having practice dances with each other.

I’ve been dancing Contact Improvisation for fifteen years, and have enjoyed studying with a number of visionary teachers in the field. I love Contact Improvisation, and Im really looking forward to introducing some of the skills and ideas of Contact Improvisation in this class Saturday May 30th from 2-3:30pm. I hope that youll be able to join me; please feel free to share with your friends.

The is a one-off, free workshop Im doing to help promote the shows Im having in the Fringe Festival this summer. Check out http://www.dayeight.org for more information on that.