“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 open exploration in which two or more people meet through a shared point of contact and explore sensations and impulses together. In dance, dancers use their intuition and their own interests, examine their needs and limits. CI opens and teaches to focus on here and now. Each dancing partner is part of an ever-changing landscape that evolves under the influence of an individual’s sense of time, space and energy. By “listening” through the sense of touch and proprioception, we tune in and constantly observe 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. The various faces of CI are influenced by many other techniques, trends and researches, as well as individual approaches of practitioners and teachers. This dance practice explores the skills of falling, balancing, lifting with minimal effort and being light during “flights”, the ability to listen and respond to partners and the environment. While dancing CI, we do not get clear answers, but we immerse ourselves in constant exploration, which makes this practice invariably fascinating and interesting.
Ray Chung defined contact improvisation as an empty form that becomes what we put into it. Simone Forti defined CI as a form of artistic sport. These accurate descriptions include physicality in sports and creativity in art that are characteristic of CI. To this day, improvisation in dance is a subject of deliberation and research by both practitioners and those dealing with theory.
“(…) To grapple with the physical forces and grapple with each other on a physical level, and a nervous system level. Seeing human nature manifested in micro versions 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 in which dancers practice contact improvisation, developing physical abilities in communication with partners. This is the time to deepen your experience, “listen” and discover your own interpretation of dance. It is a space of freedom and choice, but also responsibility and independence. You can start or stop the dance at any time, or decide to participate as an observer. Sometimes the space of the jam is filled with music that supports dancing, sometimes the practice is accompanied by sounds of one’s own movement, other people and space.