2/12/2015: Nancy Stark Smith’s Underscore

Today’s session was the last of our ongoing assessments. I was initially very apprehensive as I was very unsure of what may happen within the session, I never usually get as nervous as I felt today. I think the reason for this could be because contact improvisation is not particularly one of my strengths and I found adapting my body to this style of dance very challenging.

We began the session showing our choreographed improvisation duets in order to be assessed. We have been working on our duets for a few weeks to show as part of the assessment. Again, I found myself very nervous about choreographing an improvised duet. I think that this was because I did not know what to expect but after researching and collaborating different ideas with Becca we both started to slowly feel more comfortable to achieve the objectives. I found that the hardest part of creating the duets was finding an interesting start however once we started to improvise and create movements which we though worked well the process became easier. We experimented to find different explorations and sensations within the body and used different kinespsheres to help influence movement. After contacting with Becca over the last few weeks I feel that my body has begun to slowly develop ways of trust and finding efficient ways to contact during improvisations. I enjoyed working with Becca as our movement quality is very similar so incorporating movements into the choreography was relatively easy. However we both found that making smooth transitions in and out of lifts very difficult. Initiating ways of moving efficiently on and off the floor began to create habitual patterns which we didn’t want to happen. Also, changing the dynamics throughout was becoming habitual to our specific dance backgrounds. The feedback which we received from Kirsty (our tutor) was extremely helpful. We put all of our feedback into practice and incorporated and developed efficient ways of smoother transitions. I felt very pleased after we performed the duets. All of our transitions happened smoother than we expected and we worked together to create the best demonstration and understanding of the objectives. We were both happy with the outcome of the performance of our duets. We both discussed our improvement from starting the duets a few weeks ago. Although overall I was happy with my performance I felt that I could have made all of my movements more fluid to show continuity. I also feel that I could have distinctly used the initiation of my breath to influence movements and to create ease.

The Nancy Stark Smith score was very confusing and difficult for me to understand as I have never even discussed or looked at a score before. After researching and learning the different parts to the score it all began to start making sense. Once we discussed the different definitions and terminology I began to understand how this can influence improvisation in a contact jam. It is an efficient way to create a jam situation with the influences from the score. In our research lab groups we had 3 connections which we had to discuss and develop, these were;

  • Touch
  • Contrast
  • Confluence

The last part of the assessment was being led through the score to create a jam. I thoroughly enjoyed the new experience of working with a score however I sometimes felt very restricted and lost with my internal and external movements. I only established a connection with a few people in the jam, I think this happened because it was dependant on who I made a strong connection with right at the beginning. These are the people which I felt the most confident contacting with throughout the jam. I started to create habitual patterns especially when we were directed to use either the upper or lower kinesphere. As a class we all generally seem the most comfortable improvising using the lower kinesphere and I always naturally find myself stuck on the floor. Although I find it challenging to change my dynamics in the lower kinesphere rather than my upper kinesphere. When we were being directed through different sections of the underscore, I found it particularly hard to differentiate between the different instructions. This might be because of what my body naturally wanted to do. The movement began to become very bitty as the jam developed. It re assured me during the feedback during the sharing at the end of the session that we all would find our movement very bitty as we don’t experience jam situations on a weekly basis for a long period of time. When I had a strong connection with someone and we were applying one of the connections such as; attraction whilst someone was trying to initiate repulsion with me was very difficult to engage with the partner to differentiate between the two.

I am very impressed with my own development and knowledge of what I have learnt throughout the module. The progress I feel that I have achieved is not only in the body physically but with the connections which I have established with my peers. At first, I found it very difficult to contact with the people in my class as I felt uncomfortable as I was new and hadn’t met any of them before. The improvement in my contact improvisation has essentially helped build my confidence and influenced the development of my skills. I have thoroughly enjoyed the module and feel accomplished with the level of my self-achievement. I have discovered the limits and boundaries of my body and will take away the practice which I have learnt and hopefully carry on developing my skills to push myself further.

18/11/15 Week 8 – Contact Research Labs

Blog Week 8 ‘Contact research labs- structuring, investigating, performing and reflecting’

The main focus of today’s session was the presentation of our research labs; it was a continued followed up on our previous work which we have developed within our groups. I thoroughly enjoyed discovering new findings which will contribute to the development of the work which we produce in contact improvisation.

In my group for the research lab there is; Yasmin, Anna and Lizzy. The questions which we chose to explore were: ‘How does dynamics effect a jam situation?’ and ‘How can transitions initiate and influence improvisation with another person?’ We chose these questions particularly because we felt that the research produced from today’s session would be beneficial in contact improvisation or a contact jam. We executed these tasks especially to discover how dynamics can influence movements, become aware and break any habitual patterns and experiment with new explorations and new sensations. Due to having only approximately 30 minutes the tasks which we set would need to be efficient and straight forward to fit into the time limit. As learnt from the previous session the more complicated the exercises are the, the benefit wouldn’t be useful for our research labs.

The first question we chose to explore was; ‘How dynamics effect a jam situation?’


-With a partner experiment with the initiation of breath, once finding the connection develop into an improvisation.

-Once the connection and contact is established start to slowly increase the speed to 50 %

-Slow the movement down (minimum internal movement)

-Include both speeds and ranges of dynamics and differentiate between the two as many times as you possibly can.


  • As the performer when did you notice habitual patterns starting to occur?


  • As the observer when did you notice habitual patterns starting to occur?
  • As the performer when did you feel that you had the best connection with a partner?


  • Do you think that what we’ve discovered would benefit you in a jam?


  • How did performing second influence your movement after observing?



My peers generally observed that when the speed of movement increased there was no time to pre-empt what movements you would perform during the improvisation. Not initially thinking to make the body automatically create movements which are habitual. However this was very interesting as when I observed this task habitual patterns starting to occur during the beginning of the improvisation when a stable connection was being established. I think that the reason for this potentially might be because of the slowness of the movement as the movement capacity was only minimal and could even be internal. The movement seemed to be influenced by the connection of their partner; the stronger the connection the stronger range of movement and dynamics. The strength of the connection also had a huge impact on the amount of contact used, taking time to feel each other’s movement can help you feed off each other to create a stronger, continuous improvisation. The task particularly helped my peers as they now know ways of initiating the level of speed and dynamics to develop the range of movement of an increased speed. The confidence improved by the end of the task as on a whole my peers felt more comfortable performing improvising at a faster speed; it especially helped when they were differentiating between the two different qualities. I defiantly found out from observing and also receiving feedback that finding new sensations and dynamics can help influence movements which will be beneficial in a jam situation. The feedback we received was very generous and helped us develop answers to the questions in our research labs.

The second question which we thought would be beneficial to us as a group was ‘How can transitions initiate and influence improvisation with another person.’ We hoped to discover how different transitions can initiate a more efficient way of improvising.


  • 2 people enter the space exploring as many different ways of possible.
  • Improvise with the person with you in the space for a short period of time leading to finding a way out in a non – habitual way
  • Individually travelling through space improvise becoming aware of movements which do not include; walking or running. (The idea being to explore new and interesting ways of entering and exiting the space.)


  • Do you feel more confident now you’ve experimented with different transitions?


  • After exploring with different transitions do you think this will help you during a jam situation?


  • Did it help find new and interesting ways of contact?



The feedback we received was very positive as the problem of entering and exiting space is holding us back, especially in our contact jams. The outcome of the tasks helped prove that there are different ways of creating transitions which do break any habitual patterns created. From observing this particular task I notice how uncomfortable people can be as it is quite daunting especially when all eyes are on you. We thought that this specific task would a good way to help our peers build their confidence so that it becomes comfortable to perform transitions which will benefit them during contact improvisations. I also observed that the running motion was used to enter and exit the space, I’m not sure whether this is a self-conscious thing or if they just wanted the action to happen as quickly as possible. The general response to this was the majority of people found that they became nervous as they couldn’t predict their movement choice before entering the space. This could have been the fear of having no knowledge of what actions the person chosen to share the space with was going to perform.

My peers enjoyed the task as it was a subtle way of building up an improvisation as they would usually pre-empt movement. They noticed that the movement they created was non-habitual and it was a better way to enter and the exit the space. Exiting generally being the problem. The exact answer we were hoping to discover from our topic was that; yes transitioning between movements in interesting ways does initiate improvisation.


I particularly enjoyed group 4’s research lab today, perhaps because it is something we have never challenged ourselves to do before. The task was to get into a circle with someone entering the space, the next person to enter the space would change the dynamics to influence movement. This task enabled us with the power to initiate movement; responding to different dynamics trying to break any habitual patterns created. I felt the improvisation internally for the first time and discovered my capability of improvising alone. Something which I have always feared. It was a way of pushing our boundaries by taking on someone else’s dynamic helping with the connection of feeding off someone else. I found it very interesting how the improvisation worked considering the surrounding environment and the people around us.

The challenge of the research labs has influenced my outlook on contact improvisation and developed my boundaries which will influence my contact work. I didn’t expect the outcome of the research lab to be this successful. I am going to incorporate my knowledge and findings of today’s session and incorporate them into my contact improvisation and the contact jams.

11/11/2015: Week 7 ‘’Integration: Going up and coming down’’

Due to thoroughly enjoying myself in the previous session, I felt that this experience of exploring new ideas enabled me to let go and start to feel comfortable in Contact Improvisation. I was excited for the outcome of today.

We began the session by comparing two different demonstrations of contact improvisation; ‘The play of weight’ (2009) and ‘Contact Improvisation’. We compared and discussed the dominance of the over and under dance. Both pieces were performed by and male and a female. However throughout ‘The play of weight’ the male remains the most dominant as the under dancer as it is natural and also habitual as it is suitable for the contrasting height difference. The male being the under dancer has the majority of responsibility throughout. Within the piece ‘Contact Improvisation’ there is an equal play of weight transfer consistently throughout sharing the role of the most dominant. It is obvious to the audience which dancer is the most dominant not highlighting any particular significance to the gender identity.

As a class we all generally struggle to improvise individually. Personally, I think this is due to habitual patterns being present as the initial feeling of improvising alone can be quite daunting. The movement ideas which I usually play with can often create habitual patterns which I find myself struggling to come out of; I usually break into the specific dance technique which I have trained and studied throughout my dancing life. I think that this could possibly be a comfort thing for me. The task which we set was to explore movement travelling across the room as an individual, incorporating movements such as; spirals, rolls, floor work and making sure that the floor absorbs our bodies. I really enjoyed experimenting with different ways of moving as I felt like I had the opportunity to let my body go creating a natural relaxed improvisation. This definitely helped me think about ways of improvising alone, especially how to include this within our improve jam’s. I am going to apply all of these key component’s to hopefully help break any habitual patterns which I create during improvising.

Why is improvising alone so difficult?

After watching some demonstrations of the ‘Surf and roll’ and the ‘aikido partner roll’. We had the opportunity to explore these ways of contacting with a partner.’ The surf and roll ‘was very difficult to initiate and I felt a sense of awkwardness throughout my body. My body also felt controlled by my partner, finding it challenging to anticipate where the movement was going to take us. Contact should be sustained through the centre of the body at all times using the sensation of touch through the torso. I think that this will help to visualise in my head the sensation whilst moving. It should also improve each time this is practiced. I also felt that I was becoming frustrated as every partner I tried this with my movement was starting to feel isolated and in some ways stuck. However I felt that the ‘aikido partner roll’ was more successful and straight forward for me to achieve. The singular roll has been addressed in previous sessions so putting it together with a partner was a simple task. The idea of moving through a lift in order to keep the movement flowing is very important because if we keep continuous movement within our improvisation our bodies will remain safe. I found that helping each other to transfer weight whilst rolling enabled the process to become more efficient. ‘’ Learning where and how ones contact partner sense and carries their center of gravity is essential to the development of trust and physical rapport.’’ (Ptashek, 1988, P160) Trust is very important to be able to be to contact responsibly and safely.

We then did a small improvisation exercise to find ways of smoothly transitioning movement from the ‘surf and roll’ to the ‘aikido partner roll’.

Why do some people work better together more than others?

We started off laid in a position with both torso’s connecting listening to the initiation of breath. We linked this with Steve Paxton’s ‘Small dance’. I found that this exercise was very challenging which pushed our bodies, exceeding boundaries which are not familiar to us.

Changing partners, we stood back to back finding momentum to find the sea saw effect. Scooping under to find momentum that will take you up. Finding anchor points are essential whilst contacting; taking the bodies off the floor finding surfaces such as the shoulders or hips as they can initiate different contact points.

I discovered that using these lifts if executed correctly could be used in our improve jams. The only thing I would be concerned about is how to exit and enter safely throughout a jam. Our bodies should be taken off the floor with less active muscular tension. ‘’The muscular and neuromuscular are being filled with sensations becoming a direct source for communication between still or moving partners.’’ (Ptashek, 1988, P162)

Overall, I think that the outcome of today’s session was very inspiring as I feel that I am slowly progressing in the right direction of contact improvisation. I feel that my confidence is beginning to develop which is helping my work become more efficient. I am going to target my weaknesses in each of the remaining sessions to focus on achieving the best possible outcome for the end of the module.

Works Cited

Curtis, B. & Ptashek, A., 1988. Exposed to Gravity. Contact Quarterly Contact Improvisation Sourcebook I. Vol. 13. ed. s.l.:s.n.

4/11/2015 Week 6: ”Going Up!”

Week 6: ‘’Going up’’

My first thoughts for this specific part of the module which we covered in today’s session ‘’Going up!’’ was daunting and in some ways quite frightening. However, I was also quite excited. The importance of trust is essential to being responsible and keeping the experience of ‘’Going up’’ as safe as possible.

Why do some people find it hard to trust?

Every individual has different boundaries and trusting others can be difficult. Different people have their own insecurities; whether it is due to bad experiences of contact work in the past or just being scared of being lifted or dropped whilst going up into the air. Personally, I don’t have any reason to not trust so I find it easier to let myself go and to throw myself into it.

We began the session by exploring points of contact through the sensation of touch; which then developed into contacting together keeping a point of contact. I thought that this was very uncomfortable and bitty, nothing seemed to be fluid and show continuity. I struggled finding points of contact which initiated the movement. However as much as me and Anna both found this difficult as we have had a break from contacting whilst it was reading week, our tutor said that we looked quite comfortable and it seemed to work.

We went onto finding a partner, one in table top position whilst the other laid back to back full weight bearing onto their partner. Initially, finding the correct position on the back was quite difficult and felt uncomfortable. I think that this was because I was conscious of putting my full weight onto Sophie although I trusted her. She reassured me that we were both fine and I needed to shift my weight into the correct position. Once I had found the ideal position the balance was developed to shift the weight onto the hands and let gravity take your legs and body over the partners back to standing. I struggled on my first few attempts with the concept of going backwards. I think I was anxious which stopped me from letting go. My first attempt held me back as I lost control of my abdominals and fell straight onto my head. Although there should be no muscular tension as all of the muscles should be fully released, the abdominal muscles should still be engaged. The idea of letting gravity take the body over helped me when I put this into practice. Gravity is very important, particularly when going up. Woodhull states that ‘’the two forces (weight and support). Aiming past one another, create torque that turns the body. Whenever the center of gravity is not over the point of contact, the body tends to turn and fall on the side where the center of gravity is.’’ (Woodhull, 78-79, P44) This quote helps me get the sensation of letting gravity take me as it helps me visualize the image of how the movement should look. Eventually I got the correct way of this specific way of contacting and hope to develop this further by creating smoother transitions in and out of movement. Woodhull also says that’ ’in contact improvisations we purposely change the center of gravity in order to move.’’ (Woodhull, 78-79, P47) To be able to visualize and sense smoother transitions when we move, the center of gravity must change. I find it fascinating how the body automatically shifts the center of gravity when we are moving.

The most difficult task of today’s session was the ‘pencil jump.’ I found this very challenging as I could not anticipate the momentum of the jumper whilst bouncing to initiate the hold in the air. I couldn’t quite grasp this. Even though I struggled I did enjoy trying something new and I am willing to continue to practice so I have this for the next session. I need to play with the idea of going down to go up to help practice the anticipation of the momentum. The higher you jump the easier it will be for your partner to catch you. I began to get frustrated as it was so hard to judge the momentum to enable a hold in the air. Woodhull explains that ‘’one application of the center of gravity concept to a fast moving body is quite useful, though when the body is in air.’’ (Woodhull, 78-79, P48) The physics are very important in relation to skills in contact improvisation. As Woodhull also states that ‘’minimum velocity means minimum momentum (momentum = mass x velocity.) so that’s the time it is easiest for someone else to receive your body with least impact.’’ (Woodhull, 78-79, P48)

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my new experience of experimenting with different ways of going up. It required lots of concentration to keep myself and my peer’s safe whilst exploring ways of being taken off the floor. I enjoyed having the opportunity to work with different people as I found it a new experience working with each partner.

Why does the experience change when you work with different people?

There was some people I thought that I worked very well with and I felt comfortable so I was able to let myself go and put maximum effort into creating the best outcome. However I feared working with my peers who were a lot smaller than me as I worried that they wouldn’t be able to take my full body weight. To improve for the next session I am going to continue to develop my upper body strength and focus on strengthening my stomach muscles to help me gain the best possible outcome from the module.

Works Cited

Woodhull, A 1978-1979‘Contact Quarterly’s Contact Improvisation Sourcebook: Center of Gravity Vol 4 ed Northampton: Contact Editions

Research labs,structure,investigating,performing & reflecting

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