“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.”
– Ray Chung, London 2009
CI is a form of dance based on the physical principles of touch, momentum and weight sharing. CI practice is an open exploration in which two or more people (masses) meet through a point of contact and together examine senses and impulses. Dancers use intuition and their own interests in dance. They test their skills, needs and, more importantly, their limits. CI teaches how to focus attention and be present here and now. Each partner in dance is an element of an ever-changing landscape, which evolve under the influence of an individual sense of time, space and energy. ‘Listening’ through touch and proprioception, we tune in and constantly solve the puzzles of how human bodies can coexist in rhythm and flow.
CI dates back to 1972. Steve Paxton, a pioneer of this technique, combined his experience with contemporary dance, acrobatics and Aikido. Many other techniques, trends and researches, as well as the individual approaches of practitioners and teachers, have influenced the diversity of dimensions in CI. This dance practise explores the skills of falling, rolling, balancing, lifting with minimal effort, and being light during ‘flights’, centring and breathing techniques, as well as the ability to listen and respond to partners and the environment. While dancing CI, we do not get unambiguous answers, but we delve into continuous exploration. Those allow CI to remain invariably fascinating and interesting.
Ray Chung described Contact Improvisation as an empty form that becomes what we put into it. Simone Forti described CI as a form of artistic sport. These apt descriptions include physicality in sport and creativity in art. Those are characteristic of CI. To this day, however, the idea of improvisation is the object of reflection and research for both practitioners and theorists.
“(…) To grapple with the pshysical forces and grapple with each other on a physical level, and a nervous system level. Seeing human nature manifested in micro version in the dancers, the movement, the pauses, the excitement, the dilemmas, thrills, virtuosity. All of that you can see in a very non linear, and not particularly narrative form.”
– Nancy Stark Smith, interview by Paul Roberts, 1998
Jam is an informal space where dancers practice this form of dance, develop physical abilities in communication with partners. It is time and space for deepening experiences, discovering and finding your own interpretation of dance. It is a space of freedom, choice, but also responsibility and self-reliance. You can start or end your dance at any time or decide to participate as an observer, respecting your own needs. Space where ‘no’ is equal to ‘yes’.Sometimes the jam space is filled with music that supports dance, sometimes the practice is accompanied only by the sound of movement, partners and space.