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