Contact Improvisation (CI)

Contact Improvisation as a movement form and practice has been central to Earthdance’s history and development. Contact Improvisation is studied at Earthdance in workshops, classes, and festivals. It is also practiced in regular monthly community contact jams and in longer multi-day contact jams.

Contact Improvisation as a concept and influence also impacts daily experience for staff, volunteers, and guests at Earthdance. It has played a part in the construction of our facilities, in the way we prepare food, in the way we seek to interact with each other and with the land. 

(3 Images here: Definitions of CI (Link to Lower down the page); CI Discussions & Resources (Link to Lower down the page or a new page; Earthdance CI Events (Link to List of Earthdance CI Events)

Definitions of Contact Improvisation

There are many ways of defining the dance form Contact Improvisation.
Here are two:

Contact Improvisation is an evolving system of movement initiated in 1972 by American choreographer Steve Paxton. The improvised dance form is based on the communication between two moving bodies that are in physical contact and their combined relationship to the physical laws that govern their motion—gravity, momentum, inertia. The body, in order to open to these sensations, learns to release excess muscular tension and abandon a certain quality of willfulness to experience the natural flow of movement. Practice includes rolling, falling, being upside down, following a physical point of contact, supporting and giving weight to a partner.

Contact improvisations are spontaneous physical dialogues that range from stillness to highly energetic exchanges. Alertness is developed in order to work in an energetic state of physical disorientation, trusting in one’s basic survival instincts. It is a free play with balance, self-correcting the wrong moves and reinforcing the right ones, bringing forth a physical/emotional truth about a shared moment of movement that leaves the participants informed, centered, and enlivened.

—early definition by Steve Paxton and others, 1970s, 
from CQ Vol. 5:1, Fall 1979

Contact Improvisation is an open-ended exploration of the kinaesthetic possibilities of bodies moving through contact. Sometimes wild and athletic, sometimes quiet and meditative, it is a form open to all bodies and enquiring minds.

—from Ray Chung workshop announcement, London, 2009

Above text from From Contact Quarterly

Discussions and Resources in the Field of Contact Improvisation

Considerations about Gender in CI.
Excerpt from: Queering Contact Improvisation / Addressing Gender in CI Practice and Community by Kristin Horrigan

Why talk about gender in CI?

There’s an interesting tension around gender in CI. On the one hand, CI seems to have nothing to do with gender—there are no assigned gender roles in this dance form. On the other hand, we bring our humanity with us into our improvisation, and that includes our gender. Gender shapes how we organize our bodies and move in space on a fundamental level. And gender dynamics, particularly heteronormative ones, are a key feature at many jams.

Themes Explored at the Future of CI Conference at Earthdance / April, 2021

We can no longer ignore that CI spaces have been unsafe and unwelcoming for many dancers who fall outside the norm of white, middle class, able-bodied, heteronormative, cisgendered dancers (including individuals who identify as BIPOC, trans, non-binary, and differently-abled). How can we address traumas surrounding consent, sexual harassment, inequality and social hierarchy – hierachies from broader society as well as hierarchies within CI communities?

RACE/EQUITY: What issues of racial inequity, injustice, or oppression play out in the CI community? What other inequities are prevalent in CI settings (around class, disability, language…)? What would a new CI look like based on the experiences of those who’ve suffered from oppression?

CONSENT: In the #metoo era, we cannot continue to allow the boundary crossings that have long been a shadow side of CI. How can CI culture develop new norms around consent? 

QUEERNESS: How are Queer CI and shifting definitions of gender influencing the CI landscape? What can the global CI community learn from ideas and practices in Queer CI?

PANDEMIC: How do we step back into our CI practices as the Coronavirus pandemic fades? What safety measures are needed to protect our jams and vulnerable dancers, now and in the future? 

CLIMATE CHANGE: How will climate change affect CI, travel, and festivals? What new vision of CI infrastructure might we create that supports the healing of our planet?

NEW FORMS: Where are people taking CI next? Researching CI, adapting CI to therapeutic and academic contexts, blending CI with other practices (Parcon, contemporary dance applications, mixtures with martial arts, connections with kink/sexuality work, etc.)?

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