Contact Improvisation is an explorative improvisational dance form where physical contact, weight transfer, bodily presence and collaboration are in focus. 

Basic RGB

The form developed out of a performance Steve Paxton (1939-) held at Oberlin College, USA, in 1972, which was called “Magnesium”. Paxton’s had a background in gymnastics, modern and classical dance training. He later explored yoga, Tai Chi Chuan and Aïkido and worked in the experimental art field as a member of Merce Cunningham Dance Company (1962-64), Robert Dunn’s inspired collaborative Judson Dance Theatre (1962-64) and Yvonne Rainer’s initiated collaborative Grand Union (1970-76). Cunningham and John Cage’s Chance Operations, Rauschenberg’s interest in “the gap between art and life”, the collaborative, improvisational, non-judgemental work methods in the Judson group and Grand Union and the principles of weight transfer in the Martial Arts might all have contributed to Paxton’s artistic approach.

His interest in democratic structures, involvement of the spectators, and investigation of movements in a biomechanical frame have formed the base of CI as a social, not copyrighted, no-hierarchical, explorative playground for movement and interaction.

Nancy Stark Smith (1952-) was a student in Steve Paxton’s guest artist class at Oberlin College in 1972 and was present at the Magnesium performance. A few months later she was part of the group that Paxton worked with for the first performances of Contact in NYC in June 1972. She has since then played an important role in the continuous development and spreading of CI as a teacher and performer, and as a founder of the CI based magazine Contact Quarterly.

CI relates to the influence the gravitational forces has on the movement language of the body and to how weight can be transferred through our bodies to the ground in the most efficient way energy wise.

There are no rules of CI except the shared responsibility for avoiding injuries and awareness of personal limits and other issues that may come up in physical improvisational settings such as CI. The Movement Vocabulary of CI is as a consequence of this not a set form, but relies on the principles of efficient energy saving moving, using the power of momentum in weight transfers generated by spirals, rolls and falls. In CI fellow dancer’s bodies contributes as supportive moving surfaces in the creation of these movements.