Week Eleven – The underscore

Tuesday 25th March 2014

The Underscore is a framework which has been revised and developed since the 1990’s and we came into the space today knowing that our class is entirely based around this. Nancy Stark defines this framework as ‘…a score that guides dancers through a series of “changing states.”…’ (Smith, 2008, 90) Today as a class we worked with this process to create a piece of contact improvisation and developed it ourselves. This was our last class of the semester. It was time to bring every method of contact, every piece of experimentation and every last inch of fear together to explore one last time our questions of contact improvisation.


At first I felt a sense of loss unlike any other class, I couldn’t seem to find the ground, my feet or the sensation of movement that I needed to fully engage in the space. I broke this barrier of feeling lost when I first came into contact with another body. This helped me to feel like I was in the space and exploring it with another. Once this had happened I allowed my body to feel what it want and release all tension I held. At the beginning of the underscore I felt like I controlled what my body felt through pressure into the floor and guiding my body into a sense of feeling however as the class progressed and we approached the section ‘Overlapping kinespheres – the space through which their energy, movement, and attention are circulating.’ (Smith, 2008, 93) I let it choose its own pathways.


The question I aimed to answer after today class was ‘how do I continue with movement when my pathway has been interrupted?’ (Utting, 2014) Coincidentally this situation approached me and Emmie when we were giving and taking weight. Another dancer, Sinead, stepped into our joint kinesphere and started contact with us internally without physical contact. I initially thought oh no this now means I need to contact with Sinead, but I didn’t. It felt natural thanks to last weeks exploration of contact internally and through the eyes to carry on the movement pathway that me and Emmie were taking but now there were three of us on that journey of experimentation.

week 11 last


I feel that today I explored even further the idea of contacting with a part of my body which was not my hands. I explored rolling of people initiating from my head and lifting peoples weight with my elbows and knees using my core support for myself and the body I was contacting with. I found that this exploration helped me to feel more relaxed with the sensation of contact and the small dance I created seemed more playful rather than rigid movements strung together.

week 11


As soon as we finished the physical element of the underscore we moved onto harvest and reflection where without even thinking about what I was writing the words intense, unpredictable and influential appeared on paper. I took these as positive outcomes from our final class. Contact improvisation now reveals to me ‘The sense of freedom your body must have to fully engage in this practice with a further sense of awareness and spontaneity.’ (Utting, 2014) I feel like I have discovered ways to connect with other dancer’s centre of gravity and breath, in other words not only thinking about the physical connection between dancers but also the internal. Due to this I now believe is essential element which you must apply to contact improvisation to get the most out of it.


In reflection to my first blog of this module I asked myself the question what is contact improvisation to me? After 11 weeks I feel like there is no clear explanation, which is not a bad thing. Contact improvisation can be whatever you want it to be. It is an art form that can take you and your body in any direction. To me contact improvisation is an ongoing practice which will be constantly developing through exploration, experimentation and questioning of those who embrace it.


Works cited:

Utting, Z (2014) Contact Research Labs – structuring, investigating, performing and reflecting [seminar] Contact Improvisation: An Ongoing Research Lab DAN2005M, University of Lincoln, 25 March.

Koteen, D., and Smith, N. S. (2008). Caught falling: the confluence of contact improvisation, Nancy Stark Smith, and other moving ideas. Northampton: MA contact editions

Week Ten – Investigating the unexplored

Tuesday 18th March 2014

Structuring – investigating – exploring – experiencing – trying it out – reflecting – accomplishment. It was our time to explore areas of contact improvisation that we struggled with, found physically challenging or simply wanted to expand our knowledge on. In small groups we came up with a question which would purposely challenge us along with a few group questions of areas which we felt could be further explored.


Our initial thought were to create a mini score and play around with our 4 chosen questions so we could have a clear understanding by what we actually meant by them. Another thought was to have a few people exploring these questions with two observing peers to take notes. We decided to combine these initial thoughts. This allowed us to create a space for exploration and perceptive viewing. We worked through each question in depth building up knowledge and understanding along with a confidence boost with element we were individually unsure about.


The worry of hurting someone when lifting them or hurting myself is a constant barrier for me. One of our questions was based on surrendering weight and taking weight. We started by surrendering all our weight to the floor and someone lying on us to sense each other’s centre. We slowly worked our way up to standing. As the lifter I always feel as though I am not strong enough, however after exploring today I found ways to have a more stable structure and feel comfortable. The centre of each dancer must be connected and active in order to have a comfortable lift.  We discovered that we must think about our core and centre of gravity rather than forcing all the pressure of the lift into the arms.


Catching someone’s eye in a contact piece can be off putting so we decided to explore eye contact and create tasks to challenge our uncertainties. One of the tasks consisted of four people keeping eye contact with the person diagonal to them while three others danced within square not making eye contact with anyone. We all found that when we kept eye contact as an outsider our peripheral vision was heightened and we felt open yet enclosed in our diagonal gaze. As an inside dancer I especially felt like my movement was restricted and I had no connection with anyone else in the space.


The understating that arose from these individual tasks was quite profound once we fully explored our uncertainties. I feel that eye contact is part of the success to any contact improvisation piece as it connects you to your active centre and those of others. ‘One dancer wields a large effect on the actions and tasks of other dancers’ (Albright and Gere, 2003, 231) here Maura Keefe states a strong point of whom I agree with. Without a relationship to the other dancers in the space the triggering of new and innovative movement would not arise.


Works cited:

Albright, A, C. and Gere, D.  (2003) Taken by surprise: A dance improvisation reader. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press.

Week Nine – Our definition

Tuesday 11th March 2014

What is your definition of contact improvisation? How do you feel contact improvisation should be described? These were a few questions that began our class. As a group we are influenced by various practitioners of dance with their own theory as to what contact improvisation is. We used those influences today as well as our own experiences to create a group definition. With this definition, which included statements such as ‘A gentle yet active visual art form’ (Utting, 2014), we approached various tasks given to us with a sense of understanding and personal relation.


The previous weeks exercises were compiled in today’s class as we collected everything we have learnt with new techniques of contact. The atmosphere in the dance space was extremely calm and collected which allowed everyone to be free of tension and have a flow with the rhythm of movement. We worked a lot with pressure and pressing into the floor allowing the skin to mould onto different surfaces and skin to skin dancer to dancer connection. We also revisited “flying the limbs” which is where dancers connect through their centre to shift each other’s weight within the space. Today I finally understood that control is a key component in order to keep the centers connected and finding the right balance is essential, once you have found this it is easier to come back to this state of stability.


Our definition also included ‘Bodily connections and communication/conversation.’ (Utting, 2014) as a group we felt that this is key to the definition of contact improvisation as without that communication to another body there wouldn’t be a connection and therefore the exploration of movement would not be as influential as it could be. By this we mean that it is easily done exploring a method of movement on your own however with that connection to someone else it opens up so many more opportunities for experimentation and therefore results in a clearer understanding of those given opportunities.


To complete the understanding of our group definitions we created a score where there was a sense of freedom within the space. The movement seemed to come more frequently without hesitation and the control from each dancer when taking someone weight was continuous. The use of “moments of nothing” created a state of awareness in the room and allowed the relationship between the dancer and audience to build. This relates to how Steve Paxton believes contact improvisation affects its audience ‘It is through the eyes that the audience begins a kinetic response, or a physical empathy with the dancer’ (Turner, 2010, 128).


Works cited:

Utting, Z (2014) Going Up! [seminar] Contact Improvisation: An Ongoing Research Lab DAN2005M, University of Lincoln, 11 March.

Turner, R. (2010) Steve Paxton’s “Interior Techniques”. Contact Improvisation and Political Power, 54 (3) 123-135

Week Eight – Juxtaposing energies

Tuesday 4th March 2014

What does it feel like to share your centre of gravity? Will it feel strange? Is it possible? When do you know you’re sharing it? How do you achieve it? These are just a few of the many questions that were flying around my head today once we had been explained the outcomes of class. Exploration of centre of gravity, balance and weight bearing were our focal point today… it scared me.


‘Have a sense of the room moving rather than you, how do we perceive that? How do we perceive those possibilities?’ (Silverthorn, 2014) When I’m in contact with another person in dance I feel like the space closes in on me and there is a restriction of direction and pathways that we can take. However I experienced the complete opposite of this feeling in the first task of today. We sat in a circle placing a hand on the person to our rights knee and sending breath through their leg to the person on our rights hand, the space seemed to open up and I had a sense of freedom and openness. Curtis writes that ‘When you are in the present moment and listening to your partner’s body, the point of cant can bridge the empty space between your bodies…’ (Curtis, 1988, 159)


I embraced the opportunities that arouse today allowing myself to be free in the space through connection of the breath with another dancer. I opened my eyes more to sense the space around me which in turn widened opportunities of movement. It has always occurred to me that I look away from opportunities in this class and try to get myself out of situations that I am uncomfortable with. Today I forced myself to get rid of these fears, to actually experiment with something that I haven’t before because I held my body back.


I took opportunities in the space to offer surfaces of support for another body. We worked more on giving and receiving weight through connection of centre of gravity. Chrissie and I worked on the element of touch as a sense of direction, opening up opportunities. We found it challenging to keep our centre of gravities connected when moving through the space whilst offering surfaces of support as we seemed to lose momentum occasionally and consistency of movement. However we both felt that we connected through the breath and widened our range of movement vocabulary.


After class today I felt that I needed to express to myself that exploring giving weight is a tough element of contact improvisation however one of the most important things to think about is the comfort and trust that the other dancer must feel when you are offering a surface of support, experimentation of this is the only way to progress.


Works cited:

Silverthorn, T. (2014) Sharing Gravity & (out of ) Balance off the floor, Awareness, Disorientation and Letting go [seminar] Contact Improvisation: An Ongoing Research Lab DAN2005M, University of Lincoln, 4 March.

Curtis, B. (1988). Exposed to Gravity. Contact Quarterly/ Contact

Improvisation Sourcebook I, Vol. 13. Pp.156-162.

Week Seven – A sense of direction

Tuesday 25th February 2014

A sense of where you are going gives the dancer a clear pathway for exploration. This doesn’t mean that you need to know what you are going to do next when in contact improvisation; it does however mean that if your body wants to move in a certain direction, in a certain way at a certain speed, let it. Sensing movement and direction should be a natural understanding, meaning that a dancer can be in the moment and allow the sensation of the movement and centre of gravity to guide them through the space and exploration. This means allowing your body to have a sense of spontaneity and surrender.


Change of direction through centre of gravity and weight distribution was our focal point during this class, along with active and passive focus. ‘Will and Surrender. Force and weight.’ (Silverthorn, 2014) were words that were given to us in the beginning of the class. We were asked to remember these throughout the class as contrasting feelings when in contact movement.


Today I was personally breaking the boundary of will and surrender. We began today by breaking boundaries with one another, seeing how close we could get to another person until they started to feel uncomfortable and experimented with choice. This allowed me to work with other who I haven’t before. I explored will and surrender with Emily today and the feeling was mutual as to how interesting the movement can be when you sense the other persons limitations. Knowing how far you can push spontaneity is a key understanding. It was difficult beginning but once we let go and went with our bodies it became fluent and comfortable and the centre of gravity found itself. I think it became clear to the both of us that even though you want to break those boundaries that you may personally have it cannot be done in one meeting. Exploration in yourself and with others is needed to find out exactly what those boundaries are and if in fact you have any boundaries. Sometimes it is just a state of concern as to what might happen if you experiment with something you haven’t before.

me and nick contact 7

‘In many situations, the idea of centre of gravity alone is not enough for analyzing the mechanics.’ (Woodhull, 1978, 47) here Woodhull is explaining that the mechanics of the movement in contact is not just focused around centre of gravity, space in the body along with how you hold yourselves and the control of the movement are also needed. Peoples comfort zones are now clear as well as our own, which I feel is a very important aspect of contact. We all used spontaneity in our work today which allowed experimentation of direction and sensing weight to be broadened.


Work cited:

Silverthorn, T. (2014) Releasing the head and activating the eyes [seminar] Contact Improvisation: An Ongoing Research Lab DAN2005M, University of Lincoln, 25 February.

Woodhull A. (1978) Center of Gravity. Contact Quarterly/ Contact

Improvisation Sourcebook I Vol. 4. Pp. 43-48.