Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Dance: a Contact Improvisation Workshop

So, this past Saturday, I went to a Contact Improvisation dance workshop led by performer/teacher/dance company director, Maurice Fraga of Ekilibre Dance Company.  It was held at the beautiful Dharma yoga studio.  

Below is a pic of our group moving with one another.  That's me on the far left.  

The 2 hour workshop was beyond my expectations, imagination and, at times, comfort level.  

One word to sum it all up- Interesting!

Had I googled Contact Improvisation dance beforehand, I would have known what to expect, but hey I didn't.  Check out these amazing videos of contact improv. 


It intrigues me to watch, especially the pair with the guy out of his wheelchair.  
I bet this would be great therapy! 

So, here's how it went down.   

1st, we warmed up on the floor by ourselves, moving in any way that felt right to us.  No guidance; we each did whatever we wanted.  Lots of stretching happened.  Then, we specifically paid attention to movements of rolling around the floor.  Think cat rolls and even somersaults.  Then, we practiced pushing, scooting and pulling our bodies across the floor.  Next, we worked on standing foot movements.  How does it feel to push off the floor from your toes?  Kind of like leaping from the ground upwards.  What?  Yeah something kind of like that.

Next, we were partnered with someone in the class.  We sat back to back with our partner on the floor and began allowing our backs to move one another back and forth and side to side while keeping constant contact.  

 Everything was set to downtempo music. 

Then, we incorporated it all!  Moving with our partner; back to back, leg to leg, arm to arm, pushing, pulling, rolling, jumping and all while remaining contact with our partner.  Sometimes I moved my partner and sometimes she moved me.  It was all very interestingI had never danced in a way like this before, with a partner, without direction and shifting leads.  Honestly, it made me uncomfortable a bit, especially when we performed the movements in front of the group to discuss afterwards.   

Why did it make me uncomfortable?  3 things.  One, I was in someone else's personal space that was not my romantic partner- moving and touching her body and she moving and touching mine.  It doesn't really seem like big a deal, and it's actually not.  It's just different.  Two, I wondered what she was thinking.  Were we moving in a way that felt right to her?  Am I leading too much?  Not enough?  What does she think we should be doing?  And three, I wondered how it looked to others; did our movements look cohesive or fluid?  Did it make sense?  Did it evoke a positive feeling when watching?  Were we good dancers or movers? 

Funny how these thoughts had floated in and out of my brain.  Another thing I found intriguing was how different the 3 groups' movements were from one another.  My partner and I had the lightest touch with lots of actions of lengthening and moving arms and legs.  Oh, and twirling.  I love twirling!  Another group had more moderate contact with more back to back movements and rolling on the ground.  The other group (Maurice was partnered here) had the most contact with each of them pushing, pulling, rolling over, leaping over, diving over, laying on, and pushing off one another.  They used all parts of their bodies and seemed the most confident in their movements.  Quite interesting how we were all so different! 

The final exercise was to move within the group while remaining contact in some way at some time with any or all the others.  It was definitely, there's that word again, interesting.  We often ended up in a roll-y pile in the center touching everybody with moments of breaking away and off, over, under and beside another.  I wish I could have watched it!  I bet it looked like an awkward jellyfish twisting in on itself.  

Somewhat like but not at all like the large group here.  

Maurice did take photos, and I'm curious to see them!  

I guess I was expecting more of a free-form, flowy type of dance class with only the occasional bit of contact with others.  Something more similar to the 5 Rhythms style of dance seen below.  Instead, it was a partner-driven class with lots of movement on the floor.  Actually, I'd dare to say it wasn't a dance class at all.  It was a class about movement.  And, a style of performance art.     

In the end, I felt this workshop did exactly what it aimed to do.  Get us out of our comfort zone.  Explore space and sometimes lack-there-of.  Disregard preconceived ideas of what things should be.  Move in a way that feels honest and right to each individual.  Let the moment, and often someone else move you.  And, just be!

Yeah... after sitting with the experience a few days, it feels kind of cathartic.  I'm going to apply this experience to my everyday life.  No judgments.  Only honest movements for each moment and remembering that each moment is new.  

Mission accomplished Maurice.  THANK YOU!!!  I look forward to the next workshop in March.   

PS- on a side note, this would be a great couples communication and trust building exercise.   

#Arts #dance #contact improvisation #winchester #yoga #just be #the arts #interesting

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