Monthly Archives October 2015

Week 5: Contact research labs- structuring, investigating, performing and reflecting

I observed the majority of today’s session which I thoroughly enjoyed as it was definitely a positive experience and helped me gain a better understanding of contact improvisation. It made me appreciate how captivating contact improvisation can be to an audience, I also found it very interesting watching my peers and how everybody contacts with a different approach. What I found the most intriguing is how people work differently with different people. Why do people work better with some people more than others? The relationship that formed between each partnership is dependent on the strength of the connection with one another. Some partners instantly create a strong connection with a very good sense of awareness which instigates movement that is continuous and fluid with feeling of not wanting to stop.

The session began with a warm up consisting of walking around the space freely creating unpredictable pathways distributing the weight downwards into the ground to change direction. The bodies appeared to be released whilst using the plie at all times. The idea was to stay close to a partner and then change so that you’re the furthest away from someone in the room, this should all happen without the person you are following knowing. The exercises from the back of the room were repeated to help secure transitions making them become smooth and efficient in and out of movements throughout contact improvisation. Some of these exercises included; rolling, putting weight into the hands and shifting weight; they all looked very impressive! From previous sessions I found that some of the transitions were very tricky and difficult to get in to, to help myself improve my upper body strength I have set myself challenges every day to complete hopefully seeing results to achieve a stronger upper body. If the pelvis is weightless and the stomach is engaged with the legs initiating the movement; it should become easier. These exercises are also used in release technique. The idea of release is finding the most efficient ways of moving, minimising tension in the body and creating freedom. Lepkoff states ‘’Release work attempts to bring consciousness to bear on the subtle process of how we bring ourselves into motion.’’  (Lepkoff, 1999) Mary Fulkerson’s view of release technique was that ‘’in order to change habitual movement patterns one needed to address the functioning of the whole organism, the mind as well as the body’’ (Lepkoff, 1999) In contact Improvisation breaking habitual patterns is very important and these specific movements which we have been practising including rolling, walking, crawling and falling all contribute towards helping break those habitual patterns with innovative movements.

The session then developed into the presentations of the Research Labs. I thoroughly enjoyed watching these questions and tasks been presented; Although I was unable to participate I felt that I was included in the session and I learnt a lot, It was exciting to see how each group had developed their research questions into creative tasks experimenting with different movements. Everybody was very positive and generous which helped everybody feel confident with presenting their work. A few groups explored about eye contact within contact improvisation. Whilst observing I began to realise how having the eyes closed broke any habitual patterns as they were constantly moving not having time to think of predictable movements which were safe. Although having the eyes closed broke any habitual patterns, it was harder to respond to each other and it took longer to find a solid connection. During the feedback the majority of people felt rushed as they wanted to carry on exploring as they felt safe with particular bodies. However research suggested it is also possible to exhaust a connection. Lots of groups also explored contact with the eyes open but the general response was that it was preferred to improvise with the eyes closed.

I was engaged with Charlotte’s group from the start of their 30 minute session. I think the reason for this was because they explored questions and exercises which were unfamiliar to us so it was exciting to watch. One of their research topics was knowing the limits! The idea was to try and find parts of the body which were more vulnerable and to experiment for how long you can hold pressure for. This task was all about the sense of touch on the body. Lepkoff states ‘’my own fascination in dancing contact Improvisation was the discovery that through my physical senses I can gather information directly from my environment; that using my own powers of observation I can shift my perspective, have new perceptions and free myself from my own conventional/ habitual ways of seeing.’’ (Lepkoff, 2010) I think that this means how contactors see how important senses are other than sight to recognise and prevent any habitual patterns being created. The outcome of this specifics groups research from feedback was that the larger the surface area of the body the stronger the touch and that the joints will be less likely to be the strongest area of touch as they could give way the easiest.

I found that delivering a 30 minute research lab with my group was very worthwhile, I discovered lots of new experiences with positive feedback to help develop and support our research questions. I enjoyed exploring the tasks which we set to help develop and answer lots of things which intrigued us during our research labs. Although I am quite a confident person and feel comfortable presenting work in front of others; I felt quite nervous. If I was to have the opportunity to complete these presentations again my confidence would have grown as the outcome of the session was very positive. I found that listening to different people’s individual experiences and approach to the exercises was very interesting. The questions which we chose to develop in our research labs were:

Why do people find it so difficult to keep eye contact?

The exercises which we experimented with were:

  • Looking at each other directly in the eye imagining different scenarios every time.
  • Walking around freely in the space, when you connect with someone through eye contact smile.
  • Keeping eye contact mirror your partners exact movement
  • Either stepping forward or backwards whilst using the strength of the eye contact connection to initiate the movement.

The feedback from this particular part of the research was that it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Eye contact can be very intimate which is much harder in a close proximity, the majority of people find eye contact very intimidating and we wanted to find out why? The general response which we got was that most people are conscious of how they look whether they look silly or not. It was discussed that if one person starts laughing self-consciously it would distract other people without intention. My peers found that it is much easier to initiate movement whilst giving direct eye contact as it is more predictable of where the person is going to lead to. However as much as eye contact is said to be intimidating most people found that it wasn’t as awkward diving direct eye contact whilst incorporating movement into an exercise.

Why do people find it so hard to trust?

  • Form 2 circles with somebody in the middle transferring their weight in any direction (forwards, backwards or side wards) the people on the outer edge of the circle have to receive all of their weight.
  • Form 2 lines linking the arms together in a stable position to enable a brave person to run and jump with everybody in the line catching them. (The idea being it is as safe as possible)

The feedback from the second half of the session was also very positive. The exercises we set were exciting and everybody loved trying something new. In general most people felt nervous, also quite responsible about taking someone’s body weight, however the more relaxed and comfortable the person is the easier it is to carry their weight. The majority of the class trusted everybody in the room and it was agreed with most people that trust is developed through practice and repetition. Although in contact improvisation most elements can be spontaneous so repetition isn’t really relevant to help people trust. It was discovered that if you just go for it without over analysing how to do something the outcome will be better and it will feel a lot more comfortable. The tasks were enjoyed with everybody wanting to carry on and explore the tasks in more depth.

If I was to experiment with these specific research questions again in the future; I would focus on maybe only one relevant exercise so that the outcome would be more detailed and a lot more material would be explored within the short time period of time we had. From today’s session I am impressed with how everybody supported each other and gave positive feedback to help with each group’s research. Although it was a different experience observing a session, I found it very worthwhile and learnt somethings which wouldn’t be possible if I was participating. I am looking forward to seeing how each group develop their research labs.

Works Cited

Lepkoff, D., 1999. What is Release Technique?. [Online] Available at: http://www.daniellepkoff.com/Writings/What%20is%20Release.php

Lepkoff, D., January 2010. Contact Improvisation: A Question?. [Online] Available at: http://www.daniellepkoff.com/Writings/CI%20A%20question.php

Formative Assessment

 

Every week I gain a greater understanding of Contact Improvisation. The more we explore different tasks and exercises the more it makes sense. Even though I still find Contact Improvisation difficult I already feel a huge improvement; not only in improvising but my knowledge of different ways to improvise. I find that not knowing what to expect from experimenting with new task helps and throwing yourself into the flow of movements always works better for me. Doubting myself is something which is always going hold me back but each session I am going to focus on building more confidence. I need to remember that slow progress is better than no progress.

 

Finding a sense of stillness is something I find particularly challenging as I always have the urge to fidget; I noticed this in particular at the start of today’s session. We had to find stillness, sensing our surroundings, sounds and how we felt internally; all of which are very important in contact improvisation. Being aware of your surroundings is essential during contact improvisation as your body is leading you around the space. I felt very anxious during this exercise as I was unaware of what my body was doing as it felt uncomfortable and uneasy; I also found it difficult to sense where I was. Having the eyes shut made me loose perception of how I felt internally and my surroundings. I felt lost. Byron Brown believes that ‘With the eyes closed and putting our body image out of mind, we build a very different picture of presence.’(Brown, P 75) My body was is in a daze and trying to find a stable connection through the body to find balance was harder than I presumed. Having my eyes shut throughout the task helped find out how I internally felt. It really brought focus to different parts of my body reacting in various ways to finding stillness.

 

Shifting weight is something which is relied upon during contact improvisation as putting your full weight onto someone can be a huge responsibility. Sensing where the partners weight is initiates weight bearing with other people in the space; I found it interesting how dancers from different styles and background sense weight in movement differently. In contact improvisation it is very easy to experiment and explore different placements of weight. However in different techniques such as ballet a dancer’s weight will generally be well centred with engagement directly from the core. Ballet is such a disciplined technique and dancers are continuously making sure placement is as accurate as possible. With a partner we practiced weight bearing which is definatly more different than it looks. Using the space across the room we explored different floor movements which would help to initiate an incline or decline during contact improvisation. This task was extremely important as the transitions in between movements can be dangerous if it is not done properly and I wouldn’t want to be held responsible for injuring someone. Transitions are also important to travel in and out of space. For next session I am going to work on building my strength in my upper body to perfect the transitions. With a partner we had to start and stop continuously moving with a specific point of contact; not including the arms. The movement had to be fluid and constantly connecting. I found this the most challenging task we have done yet. It was very difficult to keep the same point of contact, especially in the lower kinesphere. It was also very hard to find balance and not decline to the floor. I didn’t think my attempt was too bad for a first go but I hope to develop this for future sessions. This exercise then developed into A or B stopping whilst the other bearing weight so at least one foot levitated off the floor, developing onto using different levels focusing on a point of contact. Anticipating when my partner was going to stop was harder than expected as the position they stopped in could be hard to keep the same point of contact. I felt that the movements became very habitual and lost creativity. In the reading ‘Is contact a small dance’ Byron Brown states that ‘Perhaps more important, is it a dead end for creativity particularly in the performance vein’ (Brown,P72) I found that without having much experience experimenting with contact improvisation I struggled to break habitual patterns and that my work lacked creativity and sometimes came to a dead end. However after watching previous works of improvisers with experience, I disagree and the creativity is continuous and looks very impressive. This exercise was good to try out the new movements to help with transitions to incline or decline. My first attempt was very incompetent however as I practiced and got into the flow with the same partner it was becoming easier and beginning to work effectively. In the reading ‘Sensing Weight in movement’ the four ballet dancers state ‘a movement had to feel right’ (Ravn, 2012, P24) I think this can apply within a range of different techniques however I don’t think it does apply to Contact Improvisation. Personally, I feel that to make my movement fluid and not habitual the movement would have to be organic. Working with different partners was a different experience. If I was to do this differently I would try be more creative with the ways I kept my contact point and how I shifted my weight onto my partner. Overall I found this very difficult however it is definatly something I am willing to pursue to help me with aspects of contact improvisation.

 

Responsibility and trust is a very important aspect of contact improvisation; some people fear trust exercises more than others.

 

Why do some people trust more than others?

 

What is there to fear?

 

We carried out a range of trust exercises starting with going backwards to initiate a fall. I found that I naturally trusted my peers so I was willing to give this exercise a go. It was a nice feeling falling back with a group of people there to catch you and take you down smoothly and safely to the floor. Whilst observing the rest of my peers I noticed that we all seemed to trust one another but we were all very conscious of if there was going to be enough people to lower the body to the floor. I found that this exercise was easier if you didn’t think about it too much and relaxed into it as it is much easier for people to take your weight. Relaxing is something which I find particularly hard not because I am scared and don’t trust my peers but because I find it hard to let go. This is something which I feel has improved from the start of the module but I eventually want to let go and develop as the sessions progress. In two groups we lifted someone into the air and did a slow walk to then lower them down. To grasp the idea of the transitions been smooth was very challenging for me; I also found that my group struggled to do this. It took us more than a few attempts to get a slow, continuous, fluid movement. There were lots of us to lift one body so to find a suitable point of contact to lift was hard to initially judge. I really enjoyed the sensation of being lifted into the air but I found that I needed to relax my upper body a bit more so it would be easier for my group to carry my weight. I have noticed from various exercises that I find that I carry lots of tension in my head and upper body. I found that it was quite surprising how when lifting someone the weight was even evenly distributed so it felt very light and weightless whilst being held in the air.

 

We began to discuss our research labs and created a spider diagram of thoughts, suggestions and questions from our experience of contact improvisation. Within our group we had lots of questions which we were intrigued to get an answer for. Lots of our thoughts and questions had developed from personal experience and the answer could be different depending on the person. I think that the research lab will be very effective and is something which I have being looking forward to from the start of the module. I think that understanding the answers to the questions which we have researched will help towards our physical movement during contact improvisation.

 

 

Above is a picture of our work from the session and the start of the development of our research labs.

 

For next session we are going to pick two questions from our research to develop into a 30 minute experiment using the rest of our peers. We are going to discuss our research and hopefully find an answer to our questions by exploring through a range of different tasks.

 

 

Works Cited

 

Ravn, S., 2012. ‘Sensing weight in movement’ Journal of Dance and Somatic Practices. Vol. 2 Issue 1. ed. s.l.:s.n

 

Brown, B. ‘Is Contact a Small Dance?’ Contact Improvisation Sourcebook I. Vol 6

 

 

 

Week 3: Releasing the head and activating the eyes: Allowing the weight of the head and focus of the eyes to assist easy changes of direction and level.

 

Every week I always find myself apprehensive about the contact improvisation module. I put this down to not knowing what to expect and the fear of the term ‘improvisation’. However once I leave the session I feel like I have achieved something positive and always reflect on the outcome of knowledge which I have learnt.

 

We began today’s session by analysing two improvised pieces of work. The first one was ‘Magnesium’ by Steve Paxton (1972). It was filmed in black and white as it is from back in the day in the 70’s. The movement was dynamic and also very up tempo and fast; there was no stillness throughout with the dancers constantly moving. The moment was very physical without loosing contact with each other making the movement look very fluid and easy to the eye. The idea of the over and under dancer was incorporated within the movement by being thrown about using all levels, dynamics and using the body as an object. I particularly liked the ending of the piece where the dancers are stood in a moment of stillness in different directions. The ending contrasts the entire piece due to the movement being performed at a very fast tempo and the sudden stillness is quite calming. I thought that the piece was very raw in terms of the style and movement which is used; it also is a complete contrast to work performed nowadays. According to Steve Paxton the idea of the piece ‘is to discover, through spontaneous movement in contact (typically duets) with other, human movement (and human behaviour in general.) (Turner, 2010, 123) I think this quote is the exact interpretation of the piece which I got from watching it.

 

The second piece which we watched was Blake Nellis and Brando @Earthdance (2010). My immediate response to the piece was how different it was the ‘Magnesium’. The movement looked slightly more choreographed using the under and over dancer manipulating one another, the tempo was a lot slower whilst the movement was very fluid and showing continuity. Lifts were incorporated within the piece whilst anticipating each others movement enable them to create aesthetically pleasing images to the audience. The piece was very creative using different levels and the surrounding space. I could see that trusting each other was a very important aspect of the piece as both dancers were responsible for one another. I thoroughly enjoyed watching this piece and preferred it to the other contrasting piece. Contact Improvisation in the 70’s is very different to nowadays and it shows the development of how it has changed throughout the years.

 

We began a simple warm up of being laid down relaxed with the feeling of knowing our bodies; we used the foetal position to help get in and out of transitions. The idea was for the head to only have direct contact with the floor using the lower hemisphere of the body. I found this task quite difficult as I felt that my body and movement became very restricted; particularly showing habitual patterns throughout the task. I hope to break all my habitual patterns by the end of the module by exploring ways of moving without using comfortable, safe movements which I have been taught as a specific dance technique this is because the majority of us are from a disciplined dance technique background. Paxton says it ‘constraints in our movement and contact.’ (Turner, 2010, 124)Even though there is room for improvement I feel that since the beginning of the module I have improved this slightly and will continue to improve every session.

 

With a partner we named ourselves A & B. Partner A laid in a relaxed position on the floor whilst B simply touched our partner on their shoulders to give them the sensation of touch. Partner B eventually used the sensation of touch to carry all the weight of A’s head in their hands, I found that me and my partner both initially struggled to trust each other. Although the idea was scary at first we both started to let go and put all of the weight from our heads in the hands of our partner. I felt very vulnerable at first but as the exercise developed I completely trusted my partner even though Sophie had all of the responsibility of leading me in the right direction and carrying the weight of my head. Trust is a very important aspect in contact improvisation. I already feel that my trust has grown stronger from the first session; I think this is due to being more confident throughout. Confidence and persistence is key. Partner A then started to initiate movement and B followed having full responsibility of the head; I found both parts very relaxing and whilst observing it was interesting to see how the body was consciously moving without creating any habitual patterns.

 

Focusing directly on the sensation of touch we started by lying on the floor with a partner with only our heads touching; Keeping the head as the only contact point whilst moving became very difficult to anticipate my partner’s movement. We then had to change the point of touch, then onto changing partners. I found the task very difficult to start and the transitions between partners very hard to break into movement especially when I was in the group of 3 as finding the same point of contact was extremely challenging.

 

How do we enter and break into transitions?

 

How do we attach and detach from one another?

 

I found that I didn’t pre meditate my movement choice as the sensation of touch initiated my next movement without realising. My movement wasn’t as habitual as it has been in previous tasks as the point of contact was constantly changing and continuous without any moments of stillness. When using the bottom half of my body I found it very hard to balance. I enjoyed working around the space with different partners as with each person the experience was different. I could see who I worked well with and why? I could also see who the task didn’t work as well with. This was my favourite task from the sessions so far as I could clearly see my improvement but also see how I need to improve. Throughout the next few sessions I am going to use this task as motivation to what I can hopefully achieve by the end of the module. I must be more relaxed and trust my peers to ensure that my work continues to improve.

 

Simply walking around the space we began to give eye contact to who ever we passed in the room. At first we found this task funny, not because it is funny but because there is a sense of awkwardness. Giving direct eye contact is very intimidating as being so close to someone is to some extent intimate. It doesn’t feel natural for me to feel comfortable looking at someone directly in the eyes. Nowadays people fear the invasion of personal space, eye contact and also physical contact resulting in dancers feeling restricted and isolated during the practice of improvisation. Paxton describes this as being ‘afraid of proximity, and therefore respond to ‘’crowding’’ by avoiding contact’ (Turner, 2010, 124-125) Even though eye contact can be intimidating it is more comfortable being in contact with bodies. The last task was to be in table top position; transfer the weight onto our partner’s back using continuous movement keeping the spine in full contact with the back. I found this task was the easiest so far and enjoyed it. I think this is because it is something which I have experienced before therefore is much easier to perform. Everything comes eventually with persistence and practice.

 

I feel that this was a very productive session showing improvement in contact improvisation and knowledge of the module. I left the session feeling very motivated and willing to push myself to achieve the best outcome for me, I am impressed with my work ethic even though I find it challenging at times. I hope my improvement continues at the same level throughout the rest of the module.

 

Works Cited

 

Turner, R (2010) Steve Paxton’s ‘’Interior techniques’’: Contact Improvisation and Political Power. Vol. 54 Issue 3: Black and White Photographs

 

Week 2: The rolling point and the interchangeable role of the under and over dancer

 

After my first session of Contact Improvisation I felt quite overwhelmed however excited to learn something new, I went into the second session very positive hoping to gain more knowledge about the module. My thoughts throughout began very vague and sometimes quite lost when we first got asked to improvise on the spot. As the session developed I felt that I had a greater understanding of how to explore my body within space using different levels, points of contact and movement being initiated by pushing or pulling motion.

 

The warm up began by focusing on each part of the body, eyes closed laid in a relaxed position on the floor. Movement developed by exploring the space using the lower region of the body using a pushing and pulling motion, we eventually ended on our feet. In the previous session I said that I would focus more on only what I was doing rather than observing the action around me. I put this into practice in today’s session by only focusing on my specific movement, what I was doing and the theory behind it. Knowing what to expect helped my confidence and becoming in the moment throughout the task. Duncan Holt says ‘It is through the exploration of these aspects of dance practice that knowledge is generated’.(P217, Holt, 2011)

 

We then walked around the space with no eye contact with any other individual around the room, eventually we began to give direct eye contact with the person who passes us. Facial expressions are something which can be hard to control; some find it more difficult than others. Personally, I found this difficult as I sometimes get the erge to laugh. Keeping in control of my facial expressions throughout experimenting with tasks is something which I wish to work on throughout the process. We then touched a shoulder through passing and the body melted to the floor and lifted up to standing using the full body weight of the person pulling. To properly touch the person is significant in contact improvisation as it initiates what will happen next. ‘Touch, is more than making of a contact, it concerns qualitative variations in the degrees of attention’ ( 219, Holt, 2011)If I had the chance to develop this task further throughout the session I would use the element of touch and sensation to properly touch. I would also use the entire body to pull the person up from the floor. This is something which I hope to improve throughout ongoing sessions. I felt that touch brings the closeness of the class together and I am happy to be touched in the dance sessions as it helps connect with one another.

 

Indeed Montagu states that: ‘Touch is the parent of our eyes, ears, nose and mouth. It is the sense, which became differentiated into the others, a fact, that seems to be recognized in the age-old evaluation of touch as ‘the mother of the senses’.(P218, Holt, 2011)

 

After the warm up we experienced some more partner work. A laid relaxed on the floor whilst B was in a table top position over A, B then shifted there full weight onto the back of A. We stayed in this position for a while to sense the feeling of weight bearing; A then rolled over for B to roll back onto the floor. I found this experiment daunting as I was anxious to put my full weight onto my partner; I felt that this held me back due to being scared of weight bearing. This is something I need to develop and change for next week as It will make the task easier the more confidence I have. Once we practiced a few times I began to understand how using my whole body weight can make the task easier. We then sat back to back with our partner with our eyes shut beginning to slowly move around the back region not loosing contact with each other. Not loosing the connection is very important. Trust is also vital. Perception is extremely important within all of the tasks given, the reading ‘Touch: Experience of knowledge’ also emphasises perception. I found that when changing partners it was a completely different experience.

 

What is perception?

 

A then improvises whilst B observes, I found that I created some habitual patterns without realising which affected my movement quality and how I moved. My experience of improvises standing up was challenging; I felt the movement which I could do was limited. I now realise that I was wrong. A then began to improvise; B told us when to stop to find a point of contact. B could use A’s body to balance, transfer weight or even just touch, the idea of the task being to not perform the obvious and to break any habitual pattern. I found it easier when I manipulated my pattern into a more stable position so that I could experiment using different balances and points of touch. For the next session I am determined to develop how I use my partner as a point of contact, I will use my full body weight and different angles, positions and levels to create something out of the ordinary.

 

Using the space from different sides of the room we practiced and experimented walking with resistance. We then tried sitting in squat position back to back attempting to walk forwards and sideward’s. The last task of the session was to try weight bearing with a sideward’s lean onto attempting to walk in this position. Depending on your partner the difficulty of these specific tasks varied; I felt that the height of your partner affected each task. I found it easier to attempt if my partner was a similar height to me. Persistence is key for any of these challenging tasks. Practice can only help how the tasks can then be developed.

 

For next session I am going to carry on researching and developing my knowledge for the module contact improvisation. I will put some of my individual targets into practice throughout the process in order to achieve the best outcome which is possible for me. Gaining confidence is a huge aspect of what I think will help develop my experience and to improve my engagement with module.

Questions?

How do we break habitual patterns?

How does touch and sensation initiate movement?

 

Works Cited

 

Holt, D(2012) Touch: Experience and knowledge, Journal of Dance & Somatics Practices