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.
photo by Moti Zemelman
of Ken Manheimer & Elisa Bonnet
Contact Improvisation is an honoring of every moment. There is a sweet surrendering that happens when our bodies stay faithful to what is happening now, and now... and NOW! One learns to recognize and differentiate subtle impulses in our movement choices and our partner's choices. We begin to decipher the cues that we give and receive which tell us when to lead or follow, when to go up, when to go down, where to touch, how to lift, when to slow down, and when to be still. In this form one learns to stay in integrity with each choice, never forcing, never rushing. When Body, Mind, and Spirit are united in their instinctive wisdom one finds ones-self at home in every moment expressing ones true nature. - Moti Zemelman
Here are some other definitions:
From the Ukrainian CI website:
Being mainly an art, and not a commercial trend, this kind of modern dance art attracts people all over the world by its deepness, simplicity and sincerity. Being not limited by cultural and national features, it arouses interest and brings together open-minded and open-hearted people which tend to be free and happy in their life activity, social development and dance.
Universal and versatile character of Contact Improvisation, its simplicity and positive health impact attract not only artists, but everyone who likes dance, movement and communication with other people. Dance for pleasure, dance for health, dance full of art, of improvisation, of happiness and spontaneous play with space… These are just some of the words which define the essential of CI, its necessity and usefulness in any civilized and open society.
Definition of Contact Improvisation from Wikipedia
Contact Improvisation (CI) is a dance technique in which points of physical contact provide the starting point for movement improvisation and exploration. Contact Improvisation is a form of dance improvisation and is one of the best-known and most characteristic forms of postmodern dance. Full wikipedia definition and history here.
What is Contact Improvisation? by Jim Davis
Writing definitions of CI is an artform of its own, but not one I practice. This definition is here only for the sake of those who are surfing the Web and stumbled onto this page. Those of you already doing CI may as well go back. I've never seen a definition of Contact that I really liked. For some people, it's a post-modern folk dance. For others, it's a process for finding new choreographic ideas. Some people perform it, others do it as a practise or discipline. Some people look at it and see gymnastics, or wrestling, or swing dance. What are the "mere facts" about it? It's usually done as a duet (but sometimes solo or in larger groups), it's usually in silence; and it's improvised. Dancers are as likely to be on the floor as standing, and sometimes they're flying on someone else's shoulders.
What is Contact Improvisation? by Ernie Adams
Contact Improvisation is a moving massage. It is a dance that fine tunes your senses and wakes up your ability to listen and respond to what is happening in the moment. If you could do Aikido, surf, wrestle and dance at the same time, you would have an idea of what Contact Improvisation feels like. What makes Contact different from other dance is that partners are often moving in and out of physical contact while rolling, spiraling, springing and falling. They find ways to "enjoy the ride" and improvise while mutually supporting and following each others movements. The dancing is unpredictable and inspired by the physical and energetic contact the partners share.
From The Dictionary of Dance
A style and technique based on improvisation, in which the dancers support and utilize each other's body weight while in motion; attributed to dance artist Steve Paxton working in the United States, beginning in the 1970's; normally performed as a duet and without music, the emphasis is on touching, falling, lifting, leaning, sliding, counter-balancing, and supporting the weight of another person. Characteristics of sharing, cooperation, egalitarianism, and informality define the social atmosphere amongst performers and with the audience.