Week One – An Introduction

Tuesday 14th January 2014

Today I was introduced to contact improvisation, thinking that I would be pulled out of my comfort zone completely, I was wrong. Prior to this class I researched into this method of dance, I watched videos and looked into various practitioners’ opinions and explanations of what contact improvisation is. One of Steve Paxton’s responses to what contact improvisation means is that ‘It aims to bring consciousness to the dark side of the body, that is, the ‘other’ side, or the inside, those sides not much self-seen…’ (Paxton, 2008) In contrast to my initial thoughts as I walked into the studio, as a group we were slowly eased into this new method of dance.


The class was primarily based on weight bearing and touch, sensing subtle movement in the body and pure exploration of potential movement. We got into partners for the majority of the class which I didn’t feel comfortable with, this due to working with someone different and in close proximity. However after we had completed a few simple tasks together I started to relax into the movement, I learnt to enjoy it rather than hold tension and prevent my body from wanting to explore. We started standing and simply putting weight into each other hands slowly working into the arms, then moving onto the back and releasing into the flow. Together we travelled across the space gently giving weight to each other. As we played with the pressure and placing of weight we both became more comfortable and moved freely across the space with ease. The movement generally initiated from ‘…the reflex reactions…’(Buckwalter, 2010, 42) of our bodies weight and the pressure given from one another.


Individually we also explored Steve Paxton’s rolls including the crescent and helix roll which are intended to make the dancer aware of the spinal curvature. I found with the Helix roll I had to really focus my attention on the placing of my foot as a rolled over onto my back, so the movement was continuously flowing with ease. The crescent roll I found easier, even though my arms wanted to do something different to what they were supposed to I liked the C curve that happened as I rolled from one side onto the other.


Once the class had finished I thought to myself ‘and breath’ it was over. I came out of the studio with a sense of relief however it was not as bad as I thought it was going to be. At the beginning of the class our tutor told us to have a desire to move and after looking at various movements and completing various tasks I now know what she means, if you move without a purpose the movement is lifeless. The question still remains in my head, what does contact improvisation mean to me?


Works cited:

Paxton, S. (dir.) (2008) Material for the Spine. [DVD] USA : Contredanse.

Buckwalter, M. (2010) Composing while dancing: An improviser’s companion. Madison, Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press.