Contact Improvisation Blog
Week 1: Key practitioners and playing with tone
My initial thoughts of contact improvisation were quite daunting and not really knowing what to expect in my first session. It is something which I have never really studied in great depth however the prospects of the module are exciting and the outcomes of what we could achieve by the end of the semester are inspiring. I have only briefly studied contact improvisation in my first year with one session a week exploring different lifts and ways of contact with one other individual. We had to put together a short choreographed duet incorporating different lifts, levels and points of contact.
One of the important elements which were highlighted by Dexter Heitkamp throughout the reading ‘Moving from the skin’ is communication by touch. ‘Improvisation is communication by touch, both by touching and by being touched, in the course of which a wide range of information is exchanged through the skin.’ (P256, Heitkamp, 2003) The whole body interactions are created through exploring space, pushing and pulling, rolling and using different levels. We started by lying down on the floor experimenting with how our body moves and if we developed any habitual patterns. I enjoyed the feeling of not knowing the maximum limits of my body’s natural reactions to the instructions given, I also surprised myself exploring the space and how my body interacted with touch. Breath was a function that anticipated our connection with movement throughout the body. The task set was to get into pairs and to observe each other’s improvisation to see if any habitual patterns were created. ‘It is not constructing or planning ahead, but rather perceiving what is happening right now, letting it happen, letting oneself go, being in the flow.’ (P259, Heitkamp 2003). Analysing and observing peers will always help for future works and the critiques will always help improvement and development. I initiated my improvisation with experience from previous sessions of this ongoing week; technique helps initiate movement although all inhibitions should be lost for the stimuli to develop.
How is an improvisation started? My movement began stationary which I think if I were to explore different ways to start an improvisation; I wouldn’t choose to start this way again as I found developing my movement from it quite challenging. My body let the next movement happen and the transitions between the floor helped all of my movement choices. I thought that my improvisation was very repetitive. My feedback however wasn’t that any habitual patterns were created. I used my surrounding space and a sense of touch to travel using different levels. My direction and orientation became lost as I explored and experimented with space. Steve Paxton states ‘Contact Improvisation constantly challenges ones orientation; visual, directional, balance, and where in the body consciousness is positioned.’ (P178, Gere, 2001)
The concept of contact improvisation is described as not constructing or planning ahead and perceiving what is happening right now. We then swapped partners for A to improvise and B touches every point of contact. I found that looking for the point of contact whilst in the flow of movement was very difficult. If I was to try and develop this specific task further again I would explore all of the open space using different levels and dynamics to reach the point of touch. My body automatically chose to react to what B initiated, I found this hard to break the habit. We then had to create a seem less transition without noticing the change. When it speeds up the movement became more dynamic with no verbal communication except the body. I also experienced that the sense of touch changes depending on the speed and rhythm. For future experiments with this task I would deliberately touch my partner properly so they could sense the touch and initiate there movement.
The task which I enjoyed the most in this session was the ninja jabs. We had synchronized arm movements mirroring our partner creating imagery. When you hit the same position as your partner you had to hit a set movement in synch with each other. In this shared experience I felt my weight and my dynamics change the more we sped the task up. The decision of which direction we was to go in was influenced from my partner as we both found it very easy to never end up in the same direction. The closer we got and the more the rhythm sped up the easier it became to anticipate each other’s movement.
For the next session I will bring a change of clothes as the room got very hot and we are always in contact with one another. I will also let my body have no inhibitions and not to be anxious about what is next, I am also going to try to be in the moment more to achieve the best outcome at the end of the session. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience learnt in today’s session and will continue to develop my skills and into the ongoing sessions.
Heitkamp, D (2003). Moving from the Skin: An Exploratorium. Contact Quarterly/ Contact Improvisation Sourcebook ii, vol. 28.2
A.C & Gere, D (2003). Taken by surprise: A Dance Improvisation reader. Middletown, Conn: Wesleyan University Press