Encyclopedia of Dance: Contact Improvisation


Contact improvisation is an opportunity to feel the mood of a partner. Deep penetration into each other’s feelings allows you to create real masterpieces on stage

Contact improvisation is a type of choreography in which dance figures are built relative to the point of contact with a partner. This is one of the forms of free dance style, which belongs to the avant-garde types of choreographic art.

The history of the emergence and development of contact improvisation

The choreographer and dance researcher Steve Paxton and the gymnast and dancer Nancy Stark Smith played a prominent role in the emergence and development of contact improvisation. Steve Paxton’s achievements in the field of classical dance and modern dance allowed him in 1972, together with eleven colleagues, to present to the audience a new conceptual program Magnesium. She laid the foundation for a new dance style. The first spectators of contact improvisation were students and teachers at Oberlin College. This was followed by a performance in New York.

In 1975, Steve Paxton, Nita Little, Kurt Siddal and Nancy Stark Smith formed the first contact improv group. Nancy Stark Smith has made a lot of efforts to make the new dance trend known in the world. Now she is one of the most significant figures in her field and edits the Contact Quarterly magazine. Thanks to the spread of the dance around the world, its modern form is different from the one created by Steve Paxton. The development of the direction is not completed — practicing dancers introduce new principles for creating choreographic compositions, improve and supplement technical techniques.

In Russia and Ukraine, contact improvisation became widespread in the 90s of the last century. Many large cities have their own schools of this dance, jams and trainings are regularly held. In 2009, Russia hosted 4 international festivals of contact improvisation and performance.

What is contact improvisation?

You can dance contact improvisation as a performance, or as a social dance, with different partners, as well as with the participation of the audience as partners. Contact improvisation in the form of social dance takes place in the form of jams — dance evenings. The dance jam in Toronto takes place every week and is considered the most «adult». In 2011, he turned 35 years old.

Contact improvisation most often takes place in the form of a duet, but several people can also take part in the dance. The solo dance form is no exception, for example, with a chair. Floor, walls, foreign objects can also replace a partner. There is a saying among CI teachers: «Paul is your first and most devoted partner.»

In the process of learning contact improvisation, dancers master the Feldenkrais method, body-mind centering techniques, yoga elements.

contact improvisation

Kinds dance

One type of contact improvisation that has become widespread is the hustle dance. It can be danced to any music, with any partner, in any setting. The main principle is improvisation and interaction with a partner. Rock and roll also contains elements of contact improvisation.

Peculiarities dance

In order to master this style of dance, special physical data or special training are not needed. The main thing in the dance is the emotional feelings of the partners, their ability to interact with each other. Between partners in the process of dancing there is a non-verbal conversation with body language and gestures. Contact improvisation requires a sensitive attitude to each other, knowledge of not only physical features, but also the nuances of mood and their manifestation. In improvisation, it is especially important to feel the feelings of a partner, because none of them knows in advance what this or that movement will lead to.

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