Dance Genre Buzz: Contact Improvisation

Dance Genre Buzz – Contact Improvisation

Contact improvisation (CI) is a dance technique in which points of physical contact provide the starting point for exploration through movement improvisation. Contact Improvisation is a form of dance improvisation and is one of the best-known and most characteristic forms of postmodern dance.

Take a closer look at Contact Improvisation.  Watch this informative video made at Easter Impro Festival 2009 in Göttingen – Germany. 

The first performance work recognized as Contact Improvisation is Steve Paxton’s Magnesium (1972) which was performed by Paxton and dance students at Oberlin College at Warner Main in Warner Center. Five months after Magnesium Paxton led the first Contact Improvisation performance series at the John Weber Art Gallery in New York City where dancers performed Contact Improvisation in marathon fashion on mats.

Contact Improvisation (also referred to as “Contact” or “CI”) is a 39-year old dance form, practiced as both a concert and social dance form.

In the performance context, Contact Improvisation is used either as a dance practice end-to-itself or as a dance research method for identifying new set choreography.

Weekly meetings of practitioners that take place world-wide are called “jams,” in which participants participate and watch as they choose over the course of 2-4 hours. Dancers practice both known CI technique and conduct new dance research with different partners or groupings over the course of a Jam session.

The name “Jam” is used in keeping with its use by contemporary musicians, who come together to spontaneously explore musical forms and ideas, with some group agreement about structure and duration of the exploration. While there is now an established CI Fundamentals technique, CI dance vocabulary is not closed, so all who practice the form contribute to the constant expansion and greater understanding of the dance form’s vocabulary, which is exchanged and taught among practictioners world-wide via regional jams, classes, week-long festivals, both print and online publications and, since its inception, via video in a process of dancing/watching/refining.

Contact Improvisation is often practiced in duet form but can also be performed in groups or as a solo using physical objects (floor, walls, chair, etc.) as the point of contact.

As many teachers say in introductory classes, the floor is your first partner.

Contact Improvisation technique fundamentals include: weight sharing/distribution, counterbalance/counterlever, rolling-point-of-contact, falling, inversions, momentum-infused lifts and rides. A process of preparation and staying present for this dance includes some relatively still/slow arrival time to let go of high-tone muscularity and encourage releasing in the joints and connective tissues, use of breath and soft gaze to ready one’s attention to varying qualities of touch and pressure, and some partnered gentle touch or bodywork that prepares the dancer to have a dialogue of listening and responding through touch.

CI Fundamentals employ multi-sensory awareness, eg: hearing, sublty of direction through touch and heat, expanded peripheral vision and unfixed gaze to facilitate going upsidedown. CI Fundamentals also introduce dancers to basic improvisational performance composition approaches, such as: use of gesture, switching partners, transitions in group dances, tuning-in to group attention/energy while making movement choices, awareness of speed, level, proximity and volume around a partner or in the whole dancefloor. While CI dancers usually stay touching or in physical contact for much of a dance, a CI dance can occur in which partners never touch yet there is a clear “listening” and energetic connection/intention that creates the “contact” of their shared dance. CI practitioners may also draw on other Somatics and New Dance approaches such as:

5Rhythms, Alexander Technique, Acrobatics, Acroyoga, Adagio, Body-Mind Centering, Cognitive science, Emergence, Feldenkrais method, Eutony, Gymnastics, Ideokinesis, Kinetic Awareness, Laban Movement Analysis, martial arts, especially Aikido, Tai chi chuan and capoeira, Newton’s laws of motion, Parkour, Skinner Releasing Technique, Tango, Yoga.

When used as a choreographic technique, movement sequences that emerge during Jam research or rehearsals may be adapted and set to form a part of set choreography, or a score (a set of rules or limiting factors and transitions) may be employed to give dancers a structure to navigate through a performance. CI Scores can have few or many rules, (less rules are referred to as more “open” scores, more rules or closer to set choreography are more “closed” scores).

Genre Buzz Source: Excerpts from Wikipedia

More about Dance Genre Buzz:

Each month, a new dance style is celebrated. View videos and learn about the heritage and history of different dance styles. Discover innovators of the dance, trends, variations, and current events for each dance genre featured.  Watch artistic videodances featuring dance styles, and learn more about Dance made for the Camera.

Participate in Dance Genre Buzz:

Help Dance Parade New York support the dance community. Share information on each dance style we feature, including dance classes, events, competitions, and other productions, such as film and video productions. Teachers, participants, and enthusiasts are welcome to share their network and experience with our audience to support dance education, online and on the dance floor!

Videodance Genre Buzz:  Contact Improvisation Dance Film


By, Dawn Paap

View more Dance Films on Video Dance TV

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