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