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.
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