When I do Contact Improvisation it is as if my partner and I have climbed on a surfboard traveling on a wave. To do this well, we both need to be in humble service of the energies of the wave and each other’s movements. It requires heightened “listening” and co-attunement. If I started twisting my body and moving my arms in an expressive way just because I felt like it, I would likely fall off the surfboard into the water tumbling my partner down as I go. I still have personal expression on this surfboard, but I need to fit it in within my service to the wave, to the other person I am riding the wave with, and to the laws of physics that govern this co-relationship.
Dancing with the Straw-person
The "straw-person" is a manipulation technique that is usually called the strawman but I decided to go with a nongendered version. A person creates a fake enemy and whips up a frenzy of fear and worry and then steps in as the rescuer. It is designed as a way to obtain power over a group. It is a standard cult technique and it has also been used to justify wars. I know this situation well because it occurred in my community in the past...
My Entire Body Shook: A Woman Leading a Dance Jam Speaks
TRIGGER WARNING: refers to aggression and sexual violence towards women Contact Improvisation Leaders. I have had a man yell outside the door of my jam for 30 minutes because I denied them entrance because they were breathing heavily and dry-humping woman while dancing. I went home that night, walking alone to the subway, scared I would be attacked. When I reached the safety of my home the trembling began and my entire body shook and shook...
Part Three In the “Dancing in the Land of Spiritual Bypassing” Series: Sally’s Story
“Lolita” is defined by Webster’s dictionary as a “precociously seductive girl.” The name and its meaning originate from Nabokov’s novel Lolita – a jarring tale of the sexual victimization of a child by the narrator. I empathize with Lolita in this article as I was often the youngest woman at contact events and found myself repeatedly sexualized. I also frequently noticed my voice dismissed as I was a new dancer. Furthermore, when I was young, I had a condition called ‘precocious puberty’ that caused premature development in my body and initiated my long, complex battle with PTSD. “The biggest crime in Nabokov’s ‘Lolita’ is imposing your own dream upon someone else’s reality. Humbert Humbert is blind. He doesn’t see Lolita’s reality. He doesn’t see that Lolita should leave. He only sees Lolita as an extension of his own obsession. This is what a totalitarian state does.” -Azar Nafisi
Part Two In the “Dancing in the Land of Spiritual Bypassing” Series: Kate’s Story
A year ago I was a newcomer to contact improvisation (CI) who had been attending jams for about two months. But then I had a negative experience that caused me to end my involvement in the improvisation community. I had a one-time sexual encounter with someone who is a CI dancer and a local community leader. I gave feedback to the person telling him I was upset about what had happened...
Part One In The “Dancing in the Land of Spiritual Bypassing” Series: Dorit’s Story
I sit in my garden with my eyes closed and meditate. I chant,“There are no weeds. There are no weeds”. Yet there are weeds! And if I pretend they are not there, I will not be adequately set up to deal with them. And if I do not see the weeds, I am more likely to blame the vegetables for growing poorly. I sit in a studio with a hundred other people. I am looking out large windows at a mountain view, and find comfort nestled in this mountain valley. It is the start of a retreat, and the participants all sit in a circle awaiting the opening instructions. I feel brave or perhaps naïve or a mix of both. I say this because I have returned to this retreat where I was sexually assaulted a year previously. The retreat organizers dealt with the assault in an appropriate manner and made many changes to their event to increase safety. But still, I am feeling unsure how being here will work out for me...
“I’m sorry my actions triggered you”: Apologies that deflect responsibility.
Author: Kathleen ReaPublished October, 2021This past week I was on the receiving end of several apologies. Many were solid effective apologies, however, in the mix were some that were renditions of the “I am sorry my actions triggered you” apology. To these people, I sent a reframe: “Your apology is focused on me, and I... Continue Reading →
Steps for Preventing Sexual Assault at Relational Movement Based Events
Author: Kathleen ReaPublished October, 2021I was inspired to write this post after reading a tongue-in-cheek list of how to prevent sexual assaults, which instead of the usual focus on the potential victim, had a list of points focused on the person who may feel predatory urges. This list sarcastically mocks the assault prevention tips that... Continue Reading →
Today is a big step for me... I finally decided to put this on paper. I still feel pain in my heart, and my body shivers when I think about these events. I have gathered up all my courage and I will start to write one article (story) at a time about my experiences in the Contact Improvisation (CI) world--as a woman, as a Person of Color, as a beginner--dealing with cis-male power and authority, consent, boundaries, and oppression. This is my story...
Moving from Bystander to Action: Responding to Manipulative Behaviors
Ella has been doing Contact Improvisation for a few years. At a recent jam she had a dance with a more experienced and well known contact-improviser, Stan. In that dance, he manipulated her body into different shapes and lifts. She had danced with him before and the same thing had happened. She wanted to dance with him because he was fun to dance with, but she wished there could be a more equitable sharing of decision-making and lead/follow. She decided to have a chat with him and let him know...
20 Years of Coming to Terms: Shifting from Disempowerment to Systemic Thinking
Twenty Years of Coming to Terms: Shifting from Disempowerment to Activism and Systemic Thinking
Twenty years ago, I attended my very first Contact Improvisation workshop. My teacher, Karl Frost, skillfully twirled and swooped me around his body, and I felt a sense of connection and freedom I did not know was possible. The sky opened and a choir of angels sang, and in that moment of life-changing epiphany, I decided to dedicate the rest of my life to Contact Improvisation. And that is exactly what I have done. But something else happened that day that will forever be intertwined with my Contact Improvisation epiphany. The other feeling was not an epiphany at all… it was the opposite. I participated in something that I didn’t want to do, but only figured it out partway through.
Navigating Sex in Contact Improvisation for those in Positions of Power
I wrote this article for members of the contact improvisation community who have positions of power within their community. Their power can derive from being a teacher or organiser, which is a pretty clear leadership role. But sometimes, even if someone hasn't chosen a direct leadership role, they still may have power and influence as a result of the dominant culture giving them power due to certain defining characteristics. For example, a tall, athletic, good-looking young man who does really fancy lifts will often be given "rock star" status, whether he chooses it or not (or is even aware of it). Or a friendly older person who has been going to the jam forever may be seen as a "guru" or "caretaker of the space", even if they are not a teacher.
Let’s say you are in a position of power and there is someone at a jam or class that you are attracted to. In this post-#metoo era how should you proceed?
Myths to Break Down: Moving Toward Ethical Communication & Ethical Sexuality in Contact Improvisation
Here is an article by Sarah Gottlieb that was published on Contact Improvisation Blog (contactimprovblog.com) Myths to Break Down: Moving Toward Ethical Communication and Ethical Sexuality in Contact Improvisation #1: It makes people uncomfortable to talk about boundary setting and sexuality right before dancing together. There is an idea that talking about boundaries, sexuality, or... Continue Reading →
New to Contact Improv? A letter to a Newcomer to Contact Improvisation
Author Bryn Bamber Published April 2018 This is an email I wrote to a friend that was considering going to a contact improv class in Toronto for the first time and wanted to share it here because I think it’s relevant to anyone who's thinking about starting contact improv! Dear Aspiring Contact Improver, I wish... Continue Reading →
Stages of Consent Culture Chart for Dance Communities by Megan Emerson
This chart is from the Portland Country Dance Community but it is so applicable to all social dance communities including contacImprovisationon that the Consent Blog is posting it.
The Newcomer Experience in Contact Dance Improvisation
It is Frank’s first-time dancing with Rose. Rose is a newcomer to contact dance improvisation, while Frank is an experienced dancer and has been attending jams for many years. He easily takes Rose into aerial lifts, and the dance is proceeding in a sensual direction. Frank is thinking, “Oh, yeah!”. He finds Rose beautiful and wonders if she might like to hang out after the jam. What do you think Frank should do?
As a contact dance improvisation facilitator, I am pro consensual high-flying lifts and pro consensual contact dances that explore different themes, such as intimacy and sensuality. In life outside dance, I am pro-consensual sex. These are all great and wonderful things. If Frank agrees with me, and his goal is to do these things with enthusiasic consent, then it is essential....
A Compendium of CI Jam Guidelines from around the world
Thank you to Benjamin Pierce for creating a google doc where the Contact Dance Improvisation worldwide community can gather resources. A Compendium of CI Jam Guidelines from around the world This collection of links to guidelines and related resources for contact improvisation jams is “open for comments” -- i.e., you can edit directly, and your changes will... Continue Reading →
A Guide to Calling-In
The is from the Consent Crew and gives guidance in how to call in as a way to deal with consent accidents or abuses. via A Practical Guide to Calling In
“That lady”: A woman puts up a boundary in the contact improv world
It’s a typical Wednesday night in Toronto. In a third-floor ballroom, some forty people have come to dance together. A bow lifts and settles on cello strings and one can see the bodies absorb the first awaited note. A couple in the corner are intertwined in a rolling dance in which it is hard to figure out whose body is whose. A high-flying trio graciously makes its way around them. The bodies in this space are engaged in a type of group sensory “listening” that uses all the senses to gauge space and direction of momentum. There are all types of dancers here, from those that dance professionally to those that do it for fun. The ages span nineteen-year-olds to seventy+, and include diverse body types. ....