Here’s a piece of writing I did over 10 years ago when I house sat for a month. Would rise with the light and write until dark, day after day. What a special experience to teach me much much more about what I thought I already knew! I love questions as a catalyst to write.
An unfinished dialog about Contact Improvisation-
> I was wondering the trend of the way you used to communicate with partner through your body. How many of you are keeping “central contact” most of the time? Or you are mostly using the weight shifting to guide the movement.
> Kuo-Chieh Ting
> Dear Kuo-Chieh,
>Thank you very much for expressing your curiosity. For me, both are essential, simultaneously, to communicate in the dance- although i am not sure exactly what you mean by ‘central contact’. It much more efficient to explore this body-to-body than in words. Right now I am in Taiwan teaching C.I. Sometimes I visit Austin. If I do again I will let you know. There is an excellent community of dancers there if you happen that way. Where are you from? Thank you again and happy dancing!! carolyn
>Thanks for your reply. I am originally from Taiwan although I spent quite a long time in American. What I meant “central contact” is a way that people keep closed contact around their waist all the time. Their bodies just follow the moving of the central contact, and they relax their limbs. To me, the contact center serves like a hub of wheels. I guess the advantage of this approach is to let people move efficiently without much drive from their limbs, because the waist is the center of weight in human body.
But if we want one unified methodology to guide our movements, I doubt that’s a good way for experienced partners who seek more freedom of creating shapes. It seems that the requirement of keeping central contact limits the possibility of contacting limbs only. To me, using the sensing of weight shifting to guide the progressing of movement is more useful. It works well with the dancers who like to attempt crazier movements/shapes by maintaining unusual position of counter balance. However, most of the dancer who has a therapist background commented that we were muscling in the C.I. I happened to have had some background of martial art before I learned ballet and modern. We were trained using tense muscle to maintain some shape of defense. I was wondering if there is something could be bad? or just because people from pure dance background are not used to hard movements? I read the book “Sharing the Dance” by Cynthia Novack. Lots of pictures of Steve Paxton and Nancy Stark Smith look not soft at all. I do believe a good C.I. should be smooth in the progressing of movement, but I am not sure whether they should be soft all the time. How’s your thoughts to this issue?
It’s taken awhile to get back to you. It got long.
Thanks again for your questions! They got me started on something long overdue-
the desire to articulate my experience in this simple, intricate form.
It’s important and challenging to describe C.I. in words.
Important to communicate however we can what this form is doing to us.
The nature of words makes it challenging.
They are abstract and exclusive. C.I. is concrete and inclusive.
English is hard because it tends to be polar and dualistic. It reflects how we’ve chosen to live based in ‘or’. This or that, good or bad. C.I. embodies the ‘and’. It’s made me notice how I think and use language, curious to watch for the ‘or’s and switch them to ‘and’s. More often than not the result is preferable. Something confined relaxes.
C.I. is being in a process evolving. Orally, words can continue to change as we do. The ‘written’ word is more difficult. Once committed to paper, it becomes stuck in time, out of context, completely detached from the experience it refers to. Yet, writing has become a significant way we’ve chosen to share our experience. I want to be able to articulate what it is I’m feeling in order to better communicate with others. The writing process makes me consider my feelings and intentions carefully. In this situation, I want to be clear, that anything I say about C.I., is purely an attempt to share something of my research in the form. In no way, do I mean to name what the form is.
My sole intent is to present some insights I’ve gleaned from practicing the form, for the purpose of creating dialog about it. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 503-402-1716.
So I’ll omit the endless qualifiers and get on with it.
First, I am not so sure that we want a “unified methodology to guide our movements”. My understanding is that in the early years of birthing this form, there were lengthy, heated discussions on whether or not to standardize it. It was decided not to.
It was left open, with one operative- to take care of yourself, first.
I am drawn to the openness of the form. Forms are created to serve a purpose.
When open, forms can change according to our changing needs. When closed, they can become self perpetuating and cease to serve, even become oppressive. Theoretically, anyone can develop their own understanding of C.I. and share it with others. That creates a rich pot of possibilities and plenty of room to keep evolving. C.I. is still a very young form. Developmentally, it is in a time of experimentation and discovery. It’s been fascinating to travel and dance with many many people, to note what is common and what is distinct in their practices.
I’ve come to consider the open format and the missive, to care for myself, profound. It’s puts me in charge of my experience, insists I be responsible (often kicking and screaming) to the fears, prejudices, defenses, insecurities, etc. that I’ve accumulated, that obscure joy.
And yes, I’ve yearned for more unification with others in the form.
Many times I’ve been at a loss to find a connection with someone. Frustrated, confused, wondering what the hell it is they think we’re doing! But, slowly over the years, C.I. has taught me to open to the process of trusting in and exploring our differences. It is altering how I perceive unification. I’m hungry to know more about our differences of perception and what they can teach us about humanness, our ultimate unification.
I’d like C.I. ‘swap meets’ to come into vogue. Meetings to swap, show/tell/exchange our unique perspectives, methodologies, skills, rants, raves…. stir up that pot. See what we’ve got, celebrate what we can teach/learn. Play hard, deep in our curiosity. With practice, investigative exchange could become our unifying methodology.
The more we share the more we have in common.
C.I. is the improvisation of sharing who we are. There are no rules.
Only the responsibility to being and the curiosity to be together.
The primary way I’ve observed C.I. shared is in classes and jams.
Classes tend to be hierarchical rather than egalitarian.
They are useful to pass on information from teacher to students.
They are useful to create one experience of unification. Students follow, the teacher leads, unification is achieved through agreement. Classes do not tend to be equal exchange formats. Typically, they are designed with tasks to perform. They do not generally teach ‘how’, to explore and integrate material, to follow one’s own thread of interest and be in an investigative process with others.
Jams are a venue for open dancing, but not commonly a place people use to articulate and exchange their inner/outermost perceptions of what is going on.
I’ve had it explained that, initially in the form, people opted to minimize their use of words in order to embody experience. That makes sense and may have set a precedent to keep it non verbal.
For years, I was very shy at jams, so spent alot of time observing what was going on. I’d watch ’issues’ arise, such as talking, safety, use of music, sexuality etc., and see alot of time spent, as a group, making decisions regarding issues. I thought it good to hear people’s points of view, but wondered why agreement was necessary? We come together to improvise, to exercise our ability to express and negotiate, spontaneously! Discussing that, would seem more pertinent and efficient, than struggling to come up with rules, that not everyone really wants and that cannot be carried over to the next jam. C.I. is inherently about personal responsibility and direct, mutual, in-the-moment creation. I’ve wondered why there is not more curiosity expressed about our immediate experience, more fascination questioning how we are being effected.
Wondering aside, I know that by it’s openness the form is teaching me to open.
It is opening me to a completely other framework of relating, intimately, to myself and others, for the purpose of mutual well-being. In the kindness and power of that possibility, I find my shyness dissolving, slowly enabling me to participate more, gradually grow the dream of a C.I. Research Center to deepen in the dance of who we are, together.
Structurally, I share your sense of how one’s center serves as the hub of a wheel, supporting the periphery. I’ve become most interested in this piece.
It took awhile. I remember a time when the concept of ‘center’ was very illusive. Frustrating to the point of laughing out loud, at the relief I felt driving down the street one day and passing a business called Rent-a-Center.
I used to think of the ground as the first partner in C.I. Now I’m realizing that the first partner is my center, the core of me, that which connects the parts of me. Then comes how I relate my core to the floor. How I align myself in gravity, sequence the parts of me supported by my center, to meet and use the support of the floor.
In the early years of practice I realized I was trashing my body.
I had to find out why, so I could keep dancing.
I began to work with the two of the most obvious body systems, bones and muscles.
I figured bones were meant to bear weight and the muscles function was to realize impulse. I was requiring my muscles to do too much work supporting weight. Instead, I could align my bones for that purpose.
As I continue working with this, I’m becoming aware of how essential it is to have an engaged, awake center to support the whole process. Like a ‘grand central station’ to route and coordinate the impulses arising and dispersing, traveling between me and my periphery, between me and you.
I study efficiency of movement. What is the least effort required in any circumstance? Learning efficiency has dramatically effected my ability to sustain extended dancing and prevent injury. That does not mean that I always dance effortlessly. Sometimes,
I thoroughly enjoy and need to exert my muscles, work them hard. Knowing what is efficient helps me to know whether I am ‘muscling’ for the satisfaction or from habit.
From awareness of my personal dance with gravity, I move into physical contact with another. When I touch someone else, I become onebody with them. This has become my 2nd operative in C.I. First, I care for myself. Second, as I make contact, I care for my partner as though they were an extension of my own body. I use the touch to feel where they are, how they are connecting our ‘point of contact’ to their center and the floor. I use the touch to communicate my center and where I meet the floor. If we are both involved in this process it creates a circuit of support that allows two people to move as onebody, using each other’s centers and limbs as though they were their own.
In standing, a way to experience this is by making center-to-center contact .
Then the circuit of support, floor>core>core>floor, is relatively simple.
Maybe this is a reason you’ve noticed people tending to dance concentrated at their middles. It is also a position that accesses the ‘butt lift’, a relatively easy way to ‘fly’ and alot of people want that thrill.
In working the center>center contact people can learn to find and use balance, particularly if they play with engaging their center and extending in all directions from center. If only the lower bodies are engaged they miss out on the potential of counter-balance in their own body.
Creating a circuit of support, through connecting say, at the hands, is more involved, floor>core>hand>hand>core>floor. The further away the contact point is from the floor and each’s center, the more integration necessary to create and maintain ease in a counter-balanced structure. Ease is created by committing to use the point of contact, to receive the support of each other’s structure and access unified alignment in gravity.
C.I. is spherical, as we allow ourselves to reach in all directions.
It is optimum to develop a spacious awareness and surface intelligence that is able to sense and respond in any direction. The potential becomes exponential as I extend my awareness and physicality in all directions. I did not grow up with gymnastics training. On my own it has been a slow process becoming comfortable upside down and backwards. When I dance with someone who uses the place of contact to create support I can go amazing places, effortlessly.
And so in life, using our connection for mutual support makes much more possible.
Really using the touch, the point of contact, is key.
I tell people,“Use me, use me up! Take advantage of me! Here and now, before I’ve gone. I am your toy of the moment, play with me. Use me to explore your interest, find your pleasure. Trust me to do the same with you. It takes the distraction of guesswork out of our equation. Show me what you’re willing to offer and what you’re not. That will make it clear what I may use of you.” When we practice ‘trust’ in these terms we get on with creating ourselves and who we are together. When we’re guessing, we’re spending our time in guesswork, rather the work of discovery. We can learn to live in curiosity instead of projection. Curiosity is a more direct route to who we are.
When we find ourselves wondering how your partner is doing, we can ask them!. Being direct is efficient. Yet immediacy is not always easy. We’ve been conditioned to spend our energy trying to figure each other out, which leads to making choices based on assumptions and confusion when those assumptions are incorrect. To be curious and ask what is true for another is more efficient and respectful. more immediate, more intimate. C.I. offers the opportunity to change the way we relate. To do so we need to be conscious and curious. Each of us using the point of contact to receive pleasure insures that neither has to worry about whether the other is O.K. This is one of the ways we learn to‘trust’ in the dance. We trust our partner to move or speak if something is uncomfortable. Trust also means learning to trust ourselves, by cultivating an alertness to what is constantly changing.
When we feel what is needed in our own bodies and use the connection to find satisfaction, the dance can serve as a form of mutual bodywork. Bodies moving together, using the place of contact to negotiate how they configure, offers traction, torsion, suspension, compression, friction, point work (remember those hip bones?) etc., many of the elements of traditional bodywork. The way it differs from the usual modes of bodywork is that there is no specific giver, receiver. Instead, both are working on themselves simultaneously, using the landscape of each other’s body to receive pleasure in their own. Two for the price of one and it doesn’t cost anything.
>>> I want to speak for a moment about the word pleasure. I find some people object to it’s hedonistic and sexual overtones. I like these suggestions. We’re missing out on alot if we don’t use the form to exercise our pleasure. Learning to please ourselves is seldom encouraged. More often we get rewarded for our ability to please others. Becoming familiar with what pleases us, helps us let go of our pain by giving us something to replace it with. Where do we prefer to dwell? Opening to pleasure pleases, makes us pleasing to be with.
And as far as I’m concerned, C.I. could be called ‘safe sex’, the safest sex of all.
In both the intent is to commune through touch and movement, to realize satisfaction through sensitivity and spontaneity. Ideally in both we take responsibility for what gives us pleasure and what does not. C.I. makes the joy and power of physical intimacy available to all, not just those that have committed to a ‘relationship’.
Initially it can be confusing. Take awhile to appreciate the difference between these two ways of relating that have so much in common. Occasionally I notice people want to make rules to create boundaries to keep us safe. Safe from sexuality by excluding certain types of touch, such as tender stroking, by avoiding certain areas of the body. I’ve also seen rules created to protect us from physical injury. Typically the directives are to avoid knees, ankles, neck, head etc., not to grab and hold your partner.
I prefer awareness to rules. Rules limit and restrict. Awareness makes us aware and responsive, creates freedom to explore and grow. The more I travel the more I become aware of the growing tendency in America to replace awareness with rules to create safety. A scary and inefficient one is ruling out all touch to protect us from the few instances of touch that harm. Scary because touch can communicate so much that words cannot, inefficient because a rule protects only if everyone is agreeing to it. Better to teach awareness of personal boundaries and the ability to say no.
I prefer to offer and use my entire body in the dance, make it all available to exchange sensation and support. I appreciate the heightened awareness that comes with negotiating delicate territories. I want the chance to practice how to receive what’s right for me and reject what’s not. I don’t want someone else usurping that opportunity by guessing or assuming what it is I like.<<<
Actively using the contact point for support that produces an interrelated structure. By using the connection to create a circuit and read the structure of our onebody, we gain access to the momentum potential of weight shifting. What we do with this information, is up to the mood of our moment. We can relax and take the ride, we can resist, we can do nothing. The choice is ours, as long as, some of some of our awareness commits to constantly tracking, through the touch, how our structure is changing and rearranging. We use what we know to not know what we will know next.
At first, it seems alot to ask of our awareness, to track continuously, what the onebody is doing and the truth of how we want to participate in that. As with anything else,
it becomes easier with practice. And as with any practice, the experience unfolds and deepens over time. C.I. is not about learning cues or signals. It is easy to assume this and miss out on a much richer exchange.
C.I. is not a task. It is a state. It is the state of improvisation, an all inclusive state of attention and responsiveness to the moment. Tasks can be used as tools to gather information about the facets and possibilities of our state of ‘being, together’. They should not be mistaken for the form itself. Often people are intent on learning to ‘do contact’. That intent can obscure their ability to learn to ‘be, in contact’. Exercises explore options. Exploring and expanding options frees the range of our expression. In the dance itself, choices are guided by what is personally pleasurable and interesting in the moment. The form is both being responsible for their own pleasure and tracking how those choices interact at the connection. It is fun to discover new things and want to instigate them in a dance. That is great to do if we stay aware of how our partner is responding to the invitation and are ready to drop our intention for the sake of what is occurring.
Developing a spaciousness of attention in C.I. is the cohesiveness.
Learning to relax is a crucial ingredient. Relaxation frees up energy. Freed from being invested in the activity of doing is space to notice how much else is going on. It can often be interpreted as collapse instead of valued as quiet alertness. Room gets created to witness the thoughts, feelings and emotions that surround and underlie our movement choices. Space is made to check in and see what is serving us and what is not. Relaxing the ‘shoulds’ we impose creates room to observe the complexity of what is. Relaxing offers the chance to be with our innocence, our vulnerability. Vulnerability is our willingness to be in the moment not knowing.
Not knowing gives space for what we know not yet.
Non-doing is often seen as laziness, inhibition, lack of interest.
Taking the time to inhibit our doing lets us view what goes on behind the scenes, gives us insight on what fuels our impulse to move. The more we know about ourselves the more choices we have to change or remain the same. Not doing gives us the experience of feeling complete and enough, simply as we are. This is huge considering that we live in a system that bases our worth on how much we do, what we can endlessly produce and achieve.
Relaxation is seldom honored for how much it can provide, so it’s easy to dismiss as an option. Sometimes the eagerness to ‘dance’ obscures it. Dance is traditionally concerned with accomplishing movements, with only an occasional pause thrown in. Some find the intimacy of physically being together in the quiet of stillness quite uncomfortable. Somewhere I ran into the statement that said-‘The most radical thing we can do is touch each other.’ What we’re doing is radical, therefore it deserves taking the time to observe how it is effecting us. Sometimes a fear of losing control gets triggered by the letting go. We forget that control can reside in our ability to choose, to change as we choose and keep on choosing. We can trap ourselves by thinking that some moment is ‘the moment’, more important than the next. Exercising our control to use each and every moment to recreate ourselves frees the evolution of who we will become.
Relaxing allows the weight of our body to settle fully into our partner. That enables them to experience our weight fully and play with how they can choose to interact with it. When we relax, we practice what it is to give ourselves and allow ourselves the experience of being received, Doing nothing we can focus on what it feels like to be moved by our partner. These are fundamentals that teach us to negotiate weight in the dance.
It is useful to know that we can relax when we are tired. Relaxing doesn’t mean we have left the dance or are bored. It simply means that we are choosing to relax. We can relax and remain fully engaged in the dance. It is one end of the spectrum of choices for inter-relating. Another extreme is rigidity. That, too, is a fun option to explore.
It allows the partner to find support in a stable structure and play with moving the whole body as a unit.
Again, underlying attention that stays with what is happening at the touch keeps us current with what is being offered, as it changes. It is the glue, the continuity that allows us to explore the spectrum of our movement potential.
A few years ago, my understanding of C.I. shifted dramatically.
In a particular class there were questions about how to follow the partner, know what they wanted. It suddenly occurred to me that that is not the crux of what the form is.
In essence both people learn to follow themselves and use the point of contact to communicate that information and feel each other’s momentary reality (‘listen’ is a word commonly used here. I prefer ‘feel’ as it speaks more directly to what we are doing). Bringing our disparate selves to meet and merge is the gold mind of this form, a place to play, discover and create our inter-relatedness.
Today, I’d answer the question of ‘how do i follow my partner?’ with,
First be clear that what you want to do is follow. Then apply that clarity of intention
to your attention at the touch and follow them. See what happens. Share with your partner. Explore it together and see what you can discover about following.
To the question of ‘how do i know what they want?, I’d reply that your job is to feel what they are offering at the point of contact and play with how you ‘want’ to relate to it. They are responsible for their desire to have you know what they want. They are responsible to find a means to communicate that to you, physically and verbally.
It is your responsibility to ask them if you are curious, physically and verbally.
Approaching the form this way emphasizes curiosity and negotiation, each assuming full responsibility for their own circumstance and exploration of what it means to co-exist, co-create in the moment.
We learn to become comfortable with surprise as we practice the simultaneity of our uniqueness and union. The word ‘and’ is crucial. It represents balance.
We navigate surprise by attending to balance. Continuous awareness of how the choices we make effect the structure of our combined bodies is the playground for
our unique characteristics to relate and create. Separate realities sharing onebody, being the story of who we are, as we are.
A phenomenon I notice in this AND paradigm, is that autonomy and union feed off each other. The more the one, the more the other.The more I am able to be with myself, the more I can connect with another. This state relaxes and energizes me. It is a way of being that manifests with ease and joy. It is new to me.
Gradually I’m able to see my whole previous orientation as something I’ve taken for granted. The nature and effect of my conditioning is being exposed. I can understand that feeling anxious, lonely, depressed, is a natural by-product of a system that achieves unity through agreement and deals with differences through winning/ losing, avoidance and blame. It’s like I’ve fallen through Alice’s rabbit hole into quite another reality, slipped through a crack in the veneer of what I’ve been conditioned to believe, into a very different construct for relating.
Initially, I was perplexed by how to integrate the world, as it is agreed upon, with this other system that makes so much more sense. Once again, it is a chance to apply the ‘and’, an opportunity to expand my awareness to include yet more. To be aware of both realities as information, without having to make one wrong, the other right. Again, noticing the importance of relaxing with what is, instead of straining to concretize meaning. Spaciousness allows me to be with both and discover what wants to happen.
The AND principle, of balance, is central to the form. Balance balances us, creates trust. Trust enables risk. Balance creates safety. Balance is our interplay. Much of C.I. is taught through exercises that designate roles of leading/following, giving/receiving etc. This can be useful to study elements of the dance, if first aware that in the actual process all elements are inseparable. The counter-balance is a great illustration of the paradox of C.I.- that the more support one is willing to receive the more support they offer their partner. Giving and receiving cannot exist separately.
I can only give you support if I am willing to receive you. To receive support from me, you must me give your weight. I can only give what you agree to receive. I can only receive what you are willing to give. And so on.
If a gift is given and not received, is it really given?
Here is an excerpt from a poem in the book Non-Violent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg. He describes a communication form that parallels C.I.
quite well. C.I. is also a communication form.
I never feel more given to
than when you take from me.
To receive with grace
may be the greatest giving.
No way to separate.
When you give to me
I give you my receiving.
When you take from me
I feel so given to.
The same with leading and following. To lead well I must follow whether you are with me or I lose you and then I am no longer leading. Only in language can we isolate these concepts. Exercises that involve roles are most valuable when we remember that what we’re really studying is the dynamic inter-relatedness of the elements we choose to explore. As we commit to balancing, we can study giving and receiving as different aspects of the same event. We can use the balance to study the choices we are both making. We can notice tendencies and habits, play with expanding our options. Creating and maintaining balance demands feeling what is going on continuously.
I’m aware that I’ve been floating between physics and philosophy.
I cannot not do that in this form. The body is the source. Both physics and philosophy come from the body experience. They are both commenting on the same thing, the experience of living in a body. Words translate our experience. They dissect, categorize and remind us of wholeness. Though a by-product of experience, words can assume a life of their own. We can take them for granted, believe them to be true and forget their source. Forget to return to our experience to see if the words still fit who we have become. Words help me identify and specify what I feel. Writing serves me well. I use it to evolve. Each word represents a piece of the puzzle. I get to consider each and how it fits with the others. I use them to search for the meaning of what it is I want to say. Which ones where, will constrict, which will free, the tale of my being journeying to itself, arriving to meet the others along the way. Politics, religion, science, psychology, health, economics, on and on, all speaking from and in behalf of well-being. Harmonic dissonance is dissonance in harmony. Of course! Why not?
too good to be true?
just the matter
of reminding my attention
no small matter
my patterned cells
having their way with me
going on without me
unless it is
i am willing
to show up
i love the words too much
want to believe them
in lieu of my breath
to speak my being
where i am
before i’ve left
to tell me where
i am going
I’ve learned that moments are what we have. I live in a culture that values them for what can be got. I want to learn to spend my time with what I have. I’ve spent too many moments getting all the stuff, calling it getting on with the living. It’s not. I’ve gotten enough of what I’ve not been looking for. Spent too many moments treading hard to keep afloat in all the information. I want to experience just breathing. Moments only occur in the present. The body anchors us in the present. Sensation is the happening of life, the is as it is. Sensation has no words to interpret, explain. No past and future to remember or imagine. It is simply that magic instant of what was transforming into what will be. The transition that transforms here to there. The moment, the transition alone holds the potential to choose who we are. It is the point of power, to change or remain the same. It is the point of ‘contact’. Anything else is commentary.
As I say this, I’m understanding more about why I consider the transitions so important in C.I. They make the dance what it is. By focusing on transitions we are more concerned with the how of negotiation, than what of creation. Much of what I encounter in C.I. seems more concerned with the what. I often see or feel habitual intention to create particular lifts, follow certain pathways. This, in lieu of, staying with the immediate connection transforming, curious about the lift that wants to show itself. I love the surprises and the intimacy that occur when together we play with the moment, teasing, massaging, nuancing it. Committing to maintaining our connection through the transitions puts us in touch with the truth of the moments sequencing and what they have to teach us.
I had training as a modern dancer. C.I. opens up a fantastic realm of “crazier movement/shapes” by offering me the support of a partner. With access to their structure I can reach, balance and suspend in all new ways, ways that would be impossible without the support. I love the way we can use touch to telegraph our centers and the ground beneath us, the way it gives us direct access to each others bodies. The movements themselves can be whatever the individual’s expression desires, smooth or jerky, as long as they’re supported by our underlying continuous tracking of how we’re using the touch to connect both bodies to the ground.
This constant thread of awareness is what creates ‘smooth’ and seamless movement.
My on-going inquiry is, what is the most efficient means to teach this?
Again, challenging. There are many residuals of our educational system to consider. There is the expectation to be taught the ‘right’ way to do something. C.I. emphasizes personal responsibility and we’ve learned to do what we’re told. In C. I. there are no right or wrong movements, only movements that soothe our souls and excite our spirits. How to teach that trusting those movements is enough to take us where we need to go. How to invisibly lead so others can follow themselves and teach each other what they know.
The form requires communication and we’ve learned to compete.
Communication is a means to connect. We can use it to find our connection, share who we are, invent how we are together. Sometimes I fantasize all of us coming together just to find out who we are. Leading by naming what we want to learn. Following what we know, offering it to others. Techniques, configurations, sequences are all products of our investigation and communication. To forget that and take them for the form itself prevents a constantly unfolding process, one which continues to teach us as we remain open and curious.
A number of years ago I happened on the blindfold. It has become an important and effective tool to teach me and others to embody the form. At some point I realized that though I’d gleaned many useful ideas from my teachers, it was the blindfold that taught me how to dance. Removing sight concentrated my awareness in the touch, deepened my ability to feel myself and my partner. I came to understand how much sight is connected to my mental processes of analyzing, comparing, judging, making up stories about events. C.I. is the event itself. I now carry a blindfold with me and use it when I find my mind dominating my experience. Sometimes at jams I watch my mind decide who I want and don’t want to dance with. Covering my eyes helps me drop this noise in my head and open to anyone I encounter.
The more I use the blindfold the more I discover about myself. It is different than closing my eyes. Without the option to open my eyes, that area of my body relaxes, freeing me to notice more of my experience. Using a blindfold removes the safety of seeing where we are. It demands that we develop our other senses as a source of information and security. Interestingly enough I see far less injury when people are blindfolded than when they are not. I think that is due to the heightened attention, the lack of making assumptions.
Using a blindfold has also taught me that my body knows far more than I had ever given it credit for. One time I decided to perform blindfolded. Much to my surprise
I walked off the edge of the stage, about a four foot drop onto gravel.
A foot met the ground first, followed by my body rolling and returning me to a standing. I was absolutely fine. I know that I would not have accomplished that as gracefully had I been sighted. It was amazing and exhilarating to watch my body know exactly what to do. In retrospect, I’ve been able to understand the contributing factors in this incident, not one I would want to repeat, but grateful it occurred. The experience opened up a whole new level of respect and intrigue for what my body has to teach, if I shut up and listen. In doing so, another thing I’ve learned is that I can do most of my hiking barefoot. I discovered one day that my feet hurt far far less if my eyes and mind weren’t constantly telling them where to go. For the first time I could enjoy the pleasure of walking barefoot and taking in the scenery at the same time! Now I only wear shoes if it’s cold or pokey.
One way I find useful to teach people to become aware of and integrate all their points of contact is to have them move on irregular surfaces without their sight. A cluster of boulders is excellent for this. Not wanting to fall, they commit to bodily knowing where and how they are connected to the rocks. They get to play with how they initiate and sequence movement. They get to luxuriate in the pleasure of draping and molding themselves to the sensuous warm curves of the earth’s body.
everything is everything
everything is only itself
until that is realized
neither is either
the more we know ourselves
the more the whole is illuminated
without our presence
we leave holes in the whole
by experiencing the whole
we identify ourselves within it
and our connection to it
the one informs the other
the warmth and tangibility
of another’s body
helps us know our own
Contact Improvisation is
Conscious Invitation is
Caring Interaction is
Cooperative Interdependence is
Celebratory Interbeing is healing my shyness, inviting me out to play.
It’s not a person, place or thing. It’s me. It’s you. In a process.
No more, no less. Just is what we want to make of it.
May we become our own ‘complete home entertainment centers’
and take advantage of our greatest resource: each other!
Want to dance?