Monday, February 13, 2012

the political implications of contact improvisation dance

Producer's Note: Today we begin the first of what we hope will be many posts by people involved in the production of our film, behind and in front of the cameras.  Our aim is to provoke your thoughts and engage your participation.  Today, Carol Douglass who has the  unorthodox title of Production Visionary for our film production shares her thoughts about the political implications of contact improv. We invite you to comment, on this page and on the Facebook page on whether these ideas ring true for you,  and whether and how your  own experience on the dance floor bears them out or contradicts them. We're looking forward to the conversation.

Sanford Lewis, Producer
An Intimate Dance: A feature documentary on contact improvisation


the political implications of contact improvisation dance
by Carol Douglass, Production Visionary
An Intimate Dance: A feature documentary on contact improvisation

There is no hiding inside the bubble of “personal space” when rolling over the vulnerable belly of a perfect stranger. Conditioned as we are by the dominant culture, intimidation and fear can arise early in an individual’s exposure to the dance form of contact improvisation. This gives an opportunity to face our fear of closeness. But isn’t closeness a basic human need? Historically seen as a need that ensured our survival as a species. I think that’s just as true today, possibly even more true.

I’m moving with someone I have never met. As they lean their weight into me, I feel their body warmth, hear their breath, look into their eyes… I see the pattern in their irises.  I can smell sweat, theirs and mine. I feel the texture of muscles, clothing and skin. I experience the pressure of our mutual weight in the course of our movement. I am getting to know this person without words.

I’m getting to know how they feel, literally. We might share a laugh when something goofy happens spontaneously or just because the dance feels so darn good. At some point, our common humanity becomes a felt sense. Soon after that, a feeling of uncomplicated love begins to arise. After enough dances with different partners, the feeling opens and encompasses all the people who are in the room.

Falling in love with an entire room of people carries with it a deep sense of safety.  This “falling in love” with everyone is a common experience with contact dancers. I have heard many people talk of this phenomenon. Boundaries become more elastic…Body tissues that hold rigidity and fear melt into relief and relaxation. The body opens more, feels more. The mind and heart follow the body’s lead. The group becomes a tribe, even if just for the length of the evening.

How does this experience affect a culture that is deeply compartmentalized and fragmented? Where the balance of power is held by the paralysis induced by people’s belief that they are protected by their separation from each other. The culture that we accept as real has made us all outcasts from ‘the human tribe’. Disempowered and endangered by our aloneness. 

Contact gives us a place to feel the protection of our natural connection, physically.  Puts the present cultural norm in sharp contrast to an accessible, sustainable alternative. When people listen deeply to themselves and each other, relationships arise from that ground. That is power.

We test our findings in CI and become increasingly confident in its applications as we imbibe small doses over time. The opportunity to accept or reject any experience is built into the principles of contact.

I am not suggesting that this movement form will suddenly revolutionize society. I am suggesting that it invites us to reclaim the innate intelligence that protects us, as individuals and as a group from oppression. We become empowered to make choices that work for us rather than accepting what someone else decides is good for us. Contact gives the opportunity to both reject what doesn’t feel good to us, to feel protected by mutuality and to feel safe in surrender. It can change opinions and, eventually, obviate the need for them. It is technology for the transformation of experience.

In a contact dance, certainty will soften to curiosity, fear will surrender to trust, armor will melt and a newly awakened heart will find it has a place in the world.

 # # #

1 comment:

  1. great true thoughts straight from contact heart/mind, thank You for sharing!