Contact Improvisation as a Solo Practice
“We’re all alone in this together”
Steve Paxton from a class in 1995
We always move in relation to the earth (ground) from which we get support and to the air (space) which invites us to move through it. When we dance, we support mostly directly from the floor.
There might be some objects in the studio that offer other possibilities of support. Things that we could lean against or hang off, sit on or climb up onto. But contact improvisation offers the the additional possibility to play with the support of the earth as it presents itself through other living bodies.
It’s physically similar to enjoying leaning against a wall or sitting on a chair but it’s much more interesting. This support is warm and contoured, constantly and dynamically in motion and that motion controlled by a nervous system similar to our own.
In this sense, I consider contact improvisation as a solo practice. I experience myself having a solo with the earth (ground) and the air (space) however they present themselves. I dance in and offer myself to an environment which includes other moving human bodies.
This has the advantage of removing psychology from the dance. Or at least grounding the social relationship in physicality through a common tuning to gravity.
In English we have the expression “finding common ground”. It means establishing what we have in common and implies the possibility that this is a good foundation from which something can unfold.
In thinking of CI as a solo practice, I don’t have to worry if someone I’m dancing with is having a good time or not. I just work with the support of the earth as it presents itself through them and through the space around us.
Paradoxically, the more clearly I’m working with the sensation of the support of the earth through the other person’s body, the less interested I am in them as a person in that moment. And the safer we will both feel.
A jam becomes a multiplicity of ongoing solos and is experienced as a living, moving, playground of possibilities. Each solo is directed by the attention, interest and desire of the individual dancer. Unforeseen choreographies emerge from the interaction of many solos in the environment, the choreographies nested inside each other, within the group activity of the jam.
In this workshop, we’ll play with the idea of CI as a solo practice and see what the image brings us. Both in the study of technical aspects of the dance and as a tool for jamming.
See below for a short video shot and edited by Catalin Munteanu while I was teaching some of this material in Bucharest in February 2019
Read more about Malcolm’s approach to teaching CI in the article On teaching Contact Improvisation
Read more about Malcolm’s teaching in the article On Teaching Contact Improvisation