I use Contact Improvisation (also called Contact Improv or CI) as a training platform for actors and theatre types because it makes physical many elements that I consider essential in both rehearsal and performance. These include:
- trust in and awareness of your partners
- trust in and awareness of your own body
- awareness and varied use of space
For those who aren’t familiar with Contact Improvisation, here’s one definition:
Contact Improvisation is a partner dance form based on the physical principles of touch, momentum, shared weight, and most quintessentially – following a shared point of contact. The form was founded in 1972 by Steve Paxton. Integrating his background as a modern dancer and his studies in the martial art form Aikido, Steve developed Contact Improv through explorations with his students and colleagues at the time. This dance practice explores the skills of falling, rolling, counterbalance, lifting using minimal effort, how to make ourselves light when being lifted, centering and breathing techniques, and responsiveness to our partners and surroundings.
Inviting people to touch each other in the context of CI can bring to the forefront lots of hangups, insecurities, and even prejudices: I can’t dance. I don’t want to touch or be touched by him/her. I’m not strong enough to take someone’s weight. I’m too heavy to give my weight to someone. Proceeding with the touch anyway allows us, without getting overly intellectual or judgmental, to move into those difficulties and to work with them experientially.
In terms of the theatre, CI has the potential to be an amazing ensemble-building tool, as well as providing a shared physical vocabulary that the movers create themselves. It is a fascinating lens through which to explore character and character relationships. And, it can instill in individuals and groups a sense of physical confidence and readiness for action that will continue to grow and mature as they practice.
I teach “CI for Theatre Artists” as a stand-alone workshop, as well as integrating the material into classes in acting, devising, and directing. If you are interested in finding out more, or if you’d like to book a class or workshop, you can use the Contact Me link here or on the right sidebar to send me a message.
Here’s a fabulous video of CI dancers Martin Keogh and Ray Chung showing everyone how it’s done!