What is Contact Improvisation?
With no set movement vocabularly, contact improvisation can be difficult to define. Every dancer, every pairing of dancers, every jam group has its own unique qualities. So instead of a single definition, here are the words of several contact improv dancers reflecting on the form.
"Contact Improvisation is a dance form where two partners maintain contact of body surfaces - the shelves and ledges of the back, front, sides, hips, shoulders, and head. The giving and sharing of weight is essential to Contact, which often involves partners lifting and rolling over each other. In Contact Improvisation you entrust your full weight to another but are always ready to fall, to roll to the floor; the bottom line is that you have responsibility for your own weight and safety. The beauty of Contact is in the effortless conversation of two connected bodies in motion - more than anything else, it is about listening." -- Louise Runyon, Atlanta Contacter
"Contact Improvisation is about acquainting, adapting, balancing, centering, connecting, curving, dancing, draping, embracing, exchanging, falling, folding, gliding, hurdling, joining, launching, leveraging, lifting, listening, merging, orbiting, oozing, pivoting, rising, risking, rolling, shifting, slipping, spinning, spiraling, supporting, tossing, tumbling, undefining, venturing, waiting, watching and yielding - not necessarily in that order." -- Robin Feld, Contact Quarterly, 1980-81 (p. 65)
"Contact Improvisation has been called an artsport, with the effect of a moving meditation as the dance lives in the moment, and lets go, moving on to the next possibility." -- Helen Clarke, Contact Quarterly, 1989 (p. 173)
"Whenever possible, the dancers use skeletal support and timing, rather than muscular effort." -- Peter Bingham, Contact Quarterly, 1989 (p. 173)
"To befriend the forces of gravity and momentum is to dance with a sense of humor and constant humility, is to discover one's being self, is to discover true communion." -- Danny Lepkoff, Contact Quarterly, 1976-77 (p. 9)
"Contact Improvisation is an art of paying attention to shifts in direction, velocity, momentum and the quality of touch that come about in the meetings of bodies with different minds and separate histories. It is an open conversation conveyed in choices of what is done moment to moment, call and responses, rejoinders and retorts. Most often silently. For lack of a category, it is often spoken of as dance but it's actually a hybrid category of experience. There is the public visibility of dancing and the private earthy care of loving. Sense of community is a fundamental element of the form." -- Tom Giebink
Contact Improv Dancers in Action