Contact improvisation in context
Contact improvisation is unique in the sense that it is at once a social dance, a performance form, a choreographic tool for dance making and a compositional tool for dance improvisation. Its invaluableness is therefore not just limited to the public sphere or the dance world alone, but effectively bridges the gap and blurs the boundary between the two.
Another unique feature of contact improvisation is its focus on process and experimentation as opposed to finished product. Even when there are spectators, the experimentation is what piques the curiosity of onlookers and invites a shared moment of discovery and attentiveness to the present moment. Therefore, besides the possibility of virtuosity and aesthetic beauty, the dance form invites the audience member to witness an act of creation. When employed in dance-making, contact improvisation is utilized in partnering work in ballet, modern, and contemporary dance, effectively increasing the palette of choreographic potential.
Contact improvisation is still a relatively nascent dance form within South East Asia, unlike its counterparts in East Asia and Australia, and Europe. It was inevitably only a matter of time before the flow of creative and cultural information would head towards South East Asia. Therefore, it makes sense to capitalize on the expertise afforded by these regions.
This is where Contact Festival Kuala Lumpur steps in. Now in its eighth year, the friendly small-scale international festival seeks to gather practitioners, teachers, dancers, students, and the public where participants can exchange knowledge and study with exeperienced teachers. Participants will be in residence at Rimbun Dahan, a residential arts complex located just outside the edge of the city. They will be spending seven days from morning till night in various activities to facilitate their own investigation into movement material and to find avenues for collaborating with others.
For a brief write-up on the first festival in the Contact Quarterly journal, click here.
A brief description of
Contact improvisation is a dance form where the physical contact between two people provides the starting point for movement exploration. This is done via active perception to subtle shifts in weight, balance, and momentum. Contact improvisation encourages the development of a creative mind, engenders spontaneity and expands ones physical abilities.
Contact improvisation classes aim to develop a better understanding of basic skills such as listening, rolling, spiraling, giving and supporting weight, sliding, lifting, and falling. These are taught in guided exercises working in solo, in pairs or as a group. Other anatomical or performance oriented exercises might also be explored, such as those dealing with alignment, imagery, composition, states, and scores.
A contact jam is an informal open space for dancers to practice the form. Dancers use the time and space to deepen their experiences, explore new things and find their own interpretation of the dance. There is freedom and self-responsibility to go onto the dance floor, to change partners or to just watch from the sides, respecting ones own needs and wishes. Sometimes there is music that supports the dance, at other times one only listens to their own movement, their partner and the space.