Contact Improvisation (CI) is as much a freestyle dance form as it is a kind of contemporary Western yoga. I like to think of it as a folk dance for the 21st century – we gather in gyms and dance studios to move together and instead of following set steps or a beat, we follow the play of physical forces between our bodies. We lean, we roll, we touch and follow a point of contact, sometimes we fly.
“Touching and leaning” is how Steve Paxton, the originator of the form, recently described it at a talk-back at MoMA after we performed his works for the Some Sweet Day (http://www.moma.org/visit/calendar/exhibitions/1316) exhibit last Fall. I like that definition a lot, but you can get some fleshier definitions from Contact Quarterly, a great publication for learning about CI and dance improvisation in general. http://www.contactquarterly.com/contact-improvisation/about/cq_ciAbout.php
CI is one of my primary movement practices – it’s how I get my dance on several times a week. My passion for it is both physical and intellectual, and that’s what makes is so sexy. Physically it’s absolutely thrilling in its athleticism and deeply restorative in its touch. Intellectually, it embodies a politics of change, providing a methodology for transforming fear and disorientation into playful communication, and teaching us to harness natural forces to bring more pleasure and ease into the moment. I love imagining the implications, but I love dancing them even more!
If you want to learn more, here are some good resources:
- contactimprovblog.com – Richard Kim keeps an updated calendar of CI jams and events in NYC at contactimprovblog.com/nyc
- If you’re a CI lover and/or teacher, check out Martin Keogh’s new blog: http://sandgrainsintopearls.wordpress.com/