Contact Improvisation Workshop

Attention adventurous performers,

Saturday May 6, from 2 to 4, Newnan School of Dance will offer a workshop introducing Contact Improvisation to interested dancers and actors and citizens (and as of this writing, it’s free). Annette Tomassi will teach it.

What is contact improvisation?

It was invented in the late sixties by Steve Paxton and Nancy Stark Smith, dancers connected, at that time, with the Judson Street/Grand Union group in NYC-(one of Twyla’s early stomping grounds, too). –Paxton trained as a gymnast and a Merce Cunningham company member. Nutshell definition: the active and passive giving and taking of weight with Newton’s Universe having the last word.

I like to combine it with text and vocal sequence work as a way of discovering new performance possibilities. It’s a safe way to get the performing body involved in expression with other performing bodies. Just physics. No dance experience required. Anyone can explore the basic principles. Just let me know if you want to show. Wear clothes you can move in. Barefoot, of course. This will not be a total immersion, mind you, just a taste, just enough to get somewhere.

I became interested in Contact Improvisation out of necessity. I had to figure out a way for GHP theatre students to give each other permission to share bodies in their vocal sequence work. Having only up to then worked this way with graduate student actors in their twenties and thirties who were more than ready for anything, I found that the whole adolescent-hormonal-hyper-self-conscious resistance was really grinding creative exploration to a halt, even with gifted teenaged actors.

Contact Improvisation opens a nice neutral ground for the reluctant, and the introductory period allows for everyone to get their giggles accomplished first thing so they can swiftly move on to interesting work. The teens began to work with one another physically (and vocally) in ways as lyrical, musical and surreal as I had come to expect working with older, more daring performers. It was a lucky hunch that paid off.

6 thoughts on “Contact Improvisation Workshop

  1. That was fascinating to watch. I had several thoughts:
    1. At least as they played it in the video, it’s not for the physically weak.
    2. Again, as they played it in the video, it’s not for those with personal space issues.
    3. I’m going to go take a cold shower now.

  2. To paraphrase dear Oscar, I think it takes extremely low moral standards to be so easily stimulated.

    That’s my story and I’m sticking with it. (I did not type “sticking to it.”)

  3. In all seriousness, it was cool to watch, but to be effective, the actors would have to be either uninhibited or comfortable with one another. As for the shower, what I watched communicated a lot of different emotions, and at least one of them was something sensual. I also saw things like fear, estrangement, frustration, and anger. I can’t help but wonder what a psychology oriented person could learn about and individual from patterns that reoccured in the way they participated in this particular art form. I suppose the same could be said of any form of improv.


  4. The film gives a pretty accurate account. The urban flav techno beat background invites you, of course, put it in a “freak” frame (yeeeeauh). But anyone who has done “physical” work knows its the last thing your thinking about. Working just with the Vocal Sequence and then inviting actors to “encounter the other” using it, you do get to this, but it can take time. The CI structure moves things along quickly.

    In other words, you take the CI and add voice and text to it, ultimately.

    Very interesting work can result from it. Good for Commedia, too.

  5. ive done some CI work here at school, but we based it on the principles of Anne Bogart’s “viewpoints”. It is amazing becausse you will find yourself moved emotionally by the physical movements. It reminds me of Jersey Grotowski work. Marc, have you shown them Acropolis yet?

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