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Contact Improvisation

as a hobby

Contact Improvisation is an open-ended exploration of the kinaesthetic possibilities of bodies moving through contact. Sometimes wild and athletic, sometimes quiet and meditative, it is a form open to all bodies and enquiring minds.

From Ray Chung workshop announcement, London, 2009

Contact improvisation is a form of dance that involves exploring movement with another person. It can improve your balance, coordination, flexibility, and creativity. To start practicing contact improvisation, you can watch YouTube videos, do exercises at home, and join classes or events in your area.

Helpful content to start contact improvisation as a hobby

We aim to provide accurate information, but errors might be found. Always exercise judgment and discretion.

Videos

Short visual inspiration.

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YouTube | what is contact improvisation?
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YouTube | We Rise and Fall Together | Contact Improv | Nathan Dryden | TEDxSaltLakeCity
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YouTube | Embraced – Contact Improvisation
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YouTube | Contact improvisation Tamara Maksimenko and Sergei Semichev

Podcasts

Play an episode while exploring the page.

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Spotify | The Origins and Value of Contact Improvisation in the Words of Steve Paxton
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Spotify | Ep 2: Contact Improvisation and Deepening 1% Every Year with Martin Keogh
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Spotify | Episode 19 – with Hamzah Mas talking Contact Improvisation

Contact improvisation was first presented as a series of performances conceived and directed by American choreographer Steve Paxton in June 1972 at the John Weber Gallery in New York City.

Terms

Basic lingo for orientation.

  • Point of contact: The place where two bodies touch and exchange information.
  • Rolling point of contact: A point of contact that moves along the surface of the body, creating a continuous flow of sensation and movement.
  • Shared weight: The distribution of weight between two or more bodies in contact, creating a sense of mutual support and balance.
  • Counterbalance: A dynamic state of equilibrium between two or more bodies in contact, where each body leans away from the other(s) and uses the shared weight as a fulcrum.
  • Lift: A movement where one body elevates another body using the shared weight and momentum, without muscular effort or strain.
  • Jam: An open gathering where people come together to practice contact improvisation, with or without music, in a leaderless and unstructured environment. Jams can vary in size, duration, and frequency, depending on the local community and the availability of space. Jams are usually welcoming to newcomers and experienced practitioners alike.

How to start contact improvisation as a hobby

First moves for getting acquainted and breaking the ice.

  • Watch YouTube videos about contact improvisation.
  • To get familiar with the concept of moving freely in an unstructured way, you can follow exercises and lessons at home.
  • If you don’t have a partner, you can use the floor and furniture for contact.
  • Consider using knee pads to allow yourself to move more freely.
  • Once you feel ready, look for contact improvisation classes and events near you.

Books

Get read(y).

Contact improvisation can work as a tool of exploring the natural capabilities and possibilities of the human body, and let participants feel equal in the interaction.

How-tos

Step-by-step tutorials.

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YouTube Playlist | Contact Impro – exercises & techniques
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YouTube | Contact Improvisation – A couple of basic exercises

Articles

Further reading.

Websites

Go-tos for information.

Contact improvisation can break down the conventional boundaries between self and other, and create spaces for action and meaning-making.

Movies

Nothing like a film for inspiration.

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YouTube | Contact Improvisation – Documentary

FAQS

Get a clue.

What is contact improvisation?

Contact Improvisation is an evolving system of movement initiated in 1972 by American choreographer Steve Paxton. The improvised dance form is based on the communication between two moving bodies that are in physical contact and their combined relationship to the physical laws that govern their motion—gravity, momentum, inertia. The body, in order to open to these sensations, learns to release excess muscular tension and abandon a certain quality of willfulness to experience the natural flow of movement. Practice includes rolling, falling, being upside down, following a physical point of contact, supporting and giving weight to a partner.

— Early definition by Steve Paxton and others, 1970s, from CQ Vol. 5:1, Fall 1979
What are the benefits of contact improvisation?
  • Enhancing creativity, as you learn to generate new movement ideas and respond to your partner’s impulses.
  • Improving awareness, as you become more attentive to their own body, your partner’s body, and the environment.
  • Developing communication, as they learn to express yourself and listen to others through movement and touch.
  • Increasing your well-being, as you experience joy, connection, and satisfaction through contact improvisation.
Does contact improvisation use music?

Contact improvisation can be practiced with or without music.

On one hand, music can create a mood, inspire movement, provide structure, and enhance enjoyment.

On the other hand, music can interfere with communication, limit expression, overshadow movement, and reduce attention.

What do I need to start contact improvisation?

No special equipment or clothing is required to start contact improvisation. You need a comfortable outfit that allows you to move freely. Wearing a long shirt and a pair of knee pads is recommended. You can practice barefoot, or wearing socks that fit you well and aren’t too slippery.

How do I find a partner for contact improvisation?

You can find a partner for contact improvisation by joining a class, workshop, or jam near you, where you can meet other people who practice contact improvisation.

You can also ask a friend, a family member, or anyone willing to try contact improvisation with you.

You do not need to have a fixed partner for contact improvisation, as part of the practice is to explore different partners and dynamics.

What should I expect from my first contact improvisation class?

Your first contact improvisation class might vary depending on the teacher, the level, and the format of the class. However, you can generally expect some of the following elements:

  • A warm-up session, where you will prepare your body and mind for contact improvisation. You might do some exercises to loosen up, stretch, breathe, and tune in to your sensations and feelings.
  • An introduction to the basic principles and techniques of contact improvisation, such as point of contact, rolling point of contact, shared weight, counterbalance, and lift. You might practice these concepts with a partner or a group, and receive feedback and guidance from the teacher.
  • A jam session, where you will have the opportunity to explore contact improvisation freely and creatively. You might switch partners, try different movements, and experiment with different dynamics. You might also observe and learn from other participants, and enjoy the music and the atmosphere.
  • A closing session, where you will reflect on your experience, share your thoughts and feelings, and thank your partners and the teacher. You might also receive some tips and suggestions for further practice and improvement.

You don’t need to feel intimidated by the first class, because contact improvisation is a very welcoming and free practice, and the community is friendly and supportive.

Can I start practicing contact improvisation by myself at home?

Yes, you can start practicing contact improvisation by yourself at home. You can watch YouTube videos and start getting familiar with the concept of moving freely while contacting the floor and maybe different objects and furniture.

How do contact improvisation classes, workshops, and jams differ?
  • Classes: Structured sessions where a teacher or a facilitator guides the participants through exercises, games, and tasks to learn and practice the skills and concepts of contact improvisation. Classes can vary in level, duration, and focus, depending on the teacher and the group.
  • Workshops: Intensive sessions where a teacher or a facilitator leads the participants through a specific theme or topic related to contact improvisation. Workshops can last from a few hours to several days, and can involve theory, practice, feedback, and reflection.
  • Jams: Open gatherings where people have the opportunity to explore contact improvisation freely and creatively, with or without music, in a leaderless and unstructured environment. Jams can vary in size, duration, and frequency, depending on the local community and the availability of space. Jams are usually welcoming to newcomers and experienced practitioners alike.

While all types of gatherings usually welcome beginners, it is a good idea to contact the organizers beforehand.

Apps

Smart assistance.

Contact improvisation is based on the communication between two moving bodies that are in physical contact and their combined relationship to the physical laws that govern their motion—gravity, momentum, inertia, and friction. They do not strive to achieve results, but rather, to meet the constantly changing physical reality with appropriate placement and energy.

Products

Essentials to have.

Courses

Get smart.

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YouTube Playlist | contact improvisation lessons

Near You

Get together.

Contact improvisation plays with the artistry of falling off balance, counterbalance, finding the shelves of the body, learning the mechanics of the body in order to handle someone else’s weight or be lifted, breathing techniques, and can involve the art of getting to know your partner past the physical point through the physicality.

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Tips

Additional advice for beginners.