Why

Not because Contact Improvisation needs to change or that its pure physicality does not have merit. Nor because you should open your hormonal and emotional flood gates very time you enter into play or dance.

But because we feel that Contact Improvisation is as strong as it is divers. Its founders in declining to copyright or otherwise demarcate its borders emphasized the questioning nature that forms the basis of all CI. Much time and energy has focussed on exploring the physical interactions between bodies meeting in space. The recognition that the impact of these interactions not only on our tissues but on our mind and soul are valid and valuable lines of research is however still fragile. With the Touch&Play Festival we create a platform for those who have been engaged in this type of investigation to share their work with those who want to look sideways and learn to let their full nature into their dances, plays and lives.  We therefore have the great pleasure to invite you to join us for this three day journey exploring the less danced sides of Contact.

People think they are free because they lack the language to express their unfreedom.
Slavoj Zizeck (quoted by Keith Hennessey, Contact Quarterly Volume 34, number 1)

Historical motivation

The founder of Contact Improvisation, Steve Paxton, has been described as making dances about ordinary physical things and using depersonalized methods of teaching. Much of his work focuses on revealing the body as a physical machine. His background as Gymnast and Aikido practitioner can further explain his mode of thought when he created his work Magnesium. This piece, generally accepted as the first ever CI performance, questions what happens when two physical bodies meet in space. A few years later when the form had started to evolve he described the CI as follows: “the goal of each participant is to find the easiest pathways available to their mutually moving masses”. His interests at the time focussed on the technical and aesthetic aspects of these physically interacting body-objects and less on what these might be sensing, feeling and thinking while moving.

His famous quote (see home page) that when one is dancing chemistry one is no longer dancing contact further exemplifies what for him constituted CI and what did not. As the dance evolved a rich vocabulary was created to transmit and discuss the form between teachers and students and amongst its practitioners. The a priori exclusion of the chemical body as a valid research topic resulted in a discourse focusing mainly on physical concepts (e.g. rolling point, sloughing, counter balance, weight sharing, common axis, etc.). Few such concepts currently exist to describing the sensations and feelings that might be created by the closeness and touch of another human being.

CI has however, during its 38-year short existence, evolved greatly from its roots in post-modern dance research. Where in the early 70’s Paxton and others taught young professional dancers in the US today, most contact practitioners are not professionals and of all ages and nationalities. The form has transformed itself into a social phenomenon and created around it a global community of movers that come together all over the world to share their common body-language and -culture. Without a geographical location binding our community what brings us together are our shared values and beliefs. We have broken with our societies’ norms dictating physical contact between humans and have learned that it is not touch itself but rather the intention behind it that provides meaning for us and our partner.

For outsiders whose body-contact references are often limited to sex and violence CI can appear highly sexualized. From the inside however one quickly realises that most interactions in the form and community are no more sexual than those in our everyday lives. Societies’ norms still exist but, in our classes, jams and communities have shifted to give us broader interpersonal freedom. This larger play space entails a renewed responsibility for us to listen continuously to what for us and our partner constitutes desirable touch at that moment. Here however one is on one’s own. There is no CI teacher there to tell you if and how it is okay to stroke their cheek or what to do if your needs are not being met by the type of touch you are receiving. Most of us know situations where touch transcends physicality in us or our partner or where extra-corporeal elements of us start to move our body.

Few of us have however been taught how to deal with these moments let alone incorporate and play with them actively in our dances. Our community often implicitly accepts the exclusion of part of our human nature. Whether it comes from a fear of vulnerability in so much intimacy or a need to protect ourselves and our partners is unclear. What is clear is that shining a light on this less danced side of contact can benefit us both as individuals and as part of our organic contact family. The Touch&Play festival is here to create a safe and consensual time and space where under the guiding minds and souls of many different teachers you can be a lamp upon your whole self.

Read More:

  • Why now

    It has been more than 20yrs since in Paxton’s words we rewrote Newton’s laws of gravity to include the viewpoint of the apple and their effects on ourselves and our partners in a spiralling duet. The question however of how those laws might change when one is smiling, crying, excited, projecting, scared or merely thinking …
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  • Why us

    Because we are curious, because we like to touch and be touched and because we like to play and be played with. The creators and teachers at this festival are all individuals who have been actively investigating aspects of the Physical and Chemical nature of our existence and many have extensive experience with CI either …
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  • Why you

    Because we hope you are as curious as we are. The fact you are reading this must mean there is at least part of you that wants to find out more . This event focuses on individuals from the Contact community but is of course open to any person interested either in learning CI or …
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