Contact Improvisation

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.

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