6 Reasons why Contact Improvisation creates

Baptiste Sejourne
Oct 21, 2016 · 6 min read

more confidence and trust in life.

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Contact improvisation is a dance style in which points of physical contact provide the starting point for exploration through movement improvisation. The improvised dance form can be practiced by two or more people who attempt to keep a physical point of contact between their bodies while moving freely within the space. Expressed either standing and moving or on the floor using the ground as the foundation that is holding them. The dancing may be slow or fast and can often involve rolling and weight-sharing. The beauty of this dance practice is that is it spontaneous, unpredictable and requires a letting go and trust in the unfolding of the present moment and the mystery that is to be revealed. It is a moving meditation, mindfulness practice as well as offering the ability to connect to people in a way that automatically dissolves separation and boundaries from the mind that people are “strangers” and transforms this concept into two bodies meeting to develop a vehicle of movement.

As two contact improvisation dancers and facilitators, we began to notice how contact improvisation is not only a form of dance but a personal practice of mindfulness, trust and surrender that can benefit our life outside of the dance floor. The development of the abilities cultivated through the dance can be transferred outside to benefit our daily life and relationships.

1-Letting go of the need for an expectation ( let go of control)

In life, we tend to have the need to consciously or unconsciously plan and control rather than trust in the unfolding mystery of the present moment. This is usually fear based.

We plan our day, week, life and relationships, holding strong expectations of how we would like things to be, how we would like ourself, people and situations to be.

When our idea doesn’t turn out and life has a different plan for us we tend to have contraction, disappointment and even anger or sadness. This is usually the cause of a lot of our suffering…

Contact improvisation allows us to experience what it is like to let go of the need to control and flow with what is offered to you in the present moment. Once we invite surrender, trust and allowance of the present moment into our experience, rather than attempting to control the situation, it offers us the ability to experience first hand, how beautiful the unfolding of the dance ( or life) can be and we usually have the most deep and beautiful experience that we never expected..

2- Learning to listen

In relationships we function under our usual patterns of behavior. When we meet another person and come into a more intimate relationship with them, we find that we have to work with their patterns of behavior in daily life, the way they communicate, hold and express themself. More often than not, they are different to yours and sometimes their are similarities.

What starts to happen in relationships is we tend to want to mold the other into the way we want them to be, that suits us and vise versa ( again this is mostly an unconscious process of relating). We begin to not listen to their needs and desires and focus more on what we want. Empathy and attunement to our partners is something we tend to lack effort in cultivating or lose once we get used to being in each-others presence as we sometimes begin taking one another for granted.

In Contact improv, we may meet someone who has a different way of moving then us (watery vs fiery, slow vs dynamic). When two different energies meet, we can not ask the other person to stop moving in the way they are, we can’t asked them to stop being them. Rather, we learn how to adapt, attune and flow with this different energy and thus creating a beautiful harmony and dance between two possible opposites that meet in the middle.

A relationship is created where both parties come into resonance and begin listening to one another’s authentic expressions and mold into a union of movement and flow together. A possibility to dissolve into oneness

3-Trust in yourself and others

In contact, you are responsible for your own safety. We must learn not to become dependant on another person to look after us. It is a co-creation where both parties take responsibility for them-self. You can not blame someone else if you hurt yourself. We must learn to cultivate the ability to catch our-self when we fall. For example, taking responsibility for your decision to move onto someone’s back or underneath them while at the same time knowing, at any given moment they can change their movement, speed, direction or even leave without any indication. Contact improv has it’s roots in Aikido, a practice where the student learn how to fall and how to protect themselves. A beautiful parallel to this practice in our daily life is to be aware of the codependency we may have in our relationship towards our partners/family to hold and protect us when we fall rather then cultivating our own ability to be vulnerable and at the same time have the strength and capacity to catch our-self when we fall. Practicing CI can offer an experience of how to be in relationship with someone while at the same time holding autonomy.

How to trust

As soon as you are in your mind you’re going to be thinking “how am I doing? where should I move?” at this time people can not easily surrender to you and you can not surrender to them. We need to be in our body to make the communication between yourself and the other easier.

Breathing into the body and focusing on different body parts brings the awareness from our head into the body. A constant practice of this will guide you into trusting the flow of your body and someone else rather than being in control by the fixation of the mind.

4-Guiding and surrender

In the dance you will usually find yourself in a position of guiding or surrendering to your partner. This is something that is not premeditated. However it is good to notice our personal tendency to either be passive or controlling and how that will create the circumstances for the dance to unfold.

Eventually, in contact and in life, we want to become equanimous (balanced), where we can either surrender or guide at any given time.

Contact offers a beautiful and safe space for you to explore your opposite tendency. Either your passivity and receptivity or control and guidance. It is best to practice the opposite of what your tendency is in life.

(contemplate whether you are more controlling or more passive in life and if you don’t know, we are sure you’ll discover this in contact).

It is beautiful to explore women guiding men and men allow the women to take the lead. Which is usually the opposite in many dance forms.

5-Creating brotherhood and sisterhood/ healing your relationship with same sex

A cliché about dance in general is that we have to dance with the opposite sex.

Conact breaks down the barriers of gender roles and their interaction in close contact with another (man with man, woman with woman). When it comes to two men dancing together you can experience a playful, dynamic and physical interaction together and you may be surprised by how much complicity you can build during the dance by trusting him, playing with his weight guiding and also surrendering into the dance together.

For women dancing with women, a beautiful, soft as well as dynamic and creative flow of expression and intimacy can come through the dance.

6-Being more connected to your body.

As human beings we are generally very trapped and identified with our mind and thoughts. There is a huge disconnection to our body, the feeling sensations, movement of emotions and intuitive response in our being due to this attachment to the mind. Leading to suppression of many aspects of our being.

Conact offers a pathway into embodiment.. inhabiting our body, acting from present moment awareness. This is necessary in order to enter into flow and surrender.

The use of the breath and guiding our awareness from the head/mind into the body can automatically put you into the body. This also creates awareness and presence leading you into mindfulness and attentiveness to what is being offered to you in the unfolding of the dance. Cultivating a strong mindfulness and embodiment practice can alleviate the suffering we endure from our fixation with the mind in our daily life. Creating more peace and harmony both individually and within our relationships.

Overall Contact improvisation creates a platform for men and women to build trust in them-self and others as well as cultivating profound principles of surrender and letting go into the present moment. Moving from a human-doing into a human-being.

Written with love and devotion by

Baptiste Sejourne and Maanee Chrystal Joy

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