What is Contact Improvisation?

Michele Beaulieux presented “A Call for CI Citizens” at the Future of CI 3-Day International Online Conference April 23-25, 2021.

For those unfamiliar with Contact Improvisation, I provide quick definitions and references on this page.

What is Contact Improvisation?

Contact Improvisation is a dance form that dancers make up as they go along; dancers’ entire bodies can be in physical contact as they roll over and lean on each other. 

Put another way, contact Improvisation is an improvised dance form in which dancers in constant communication and physical contact let gravity, momentum, and inertia govern their motion. It often involves giving weight to or, on the flip side, supporting a partner.

What is a Contact Improvisation jam?

CI jams are improvisational gatherings facilitating informal movement dialogues and open-ended dancing. They have been characterized as free-form recreational dance-sport gatherings. At jams, people get together to practice the form.

When I speak about jams on this website, I’m referring to jams that are open to the public. These are gatherings of at least a dozen people who don’t necessarily know each other. As a result, people may be improvising with friends or people they never met before.

The physical intimacy and trust required to participate in jams is outside established social norms and requires the establishment of clear expectations in order to prevent violations and misunderstandings.

Resources for more information on Contact Improvisation

The dance and improvisation journal, Contact Quarterly, provides resources, including videos, and more extensive definitions and history about Contact Improvisation.

The crowd-sourced compendium of links, A Compendium of Contact Improvisation Jam Guidelines and related material from around the world, contains resources on creating a culture of consent in Contact Improvisation.

What about the other terms in this blog?

For the definitions I’m using for consent, sexual violence, consent culture, rape culture, violator, and victim-survivor as well as my reflections on the use of possessives and active voice when writing about sexual violence, please see Notes on Language in this Blog.

© 2020-2022 Michele Beaulieux … Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. That means you are free to share and adapt as long as you attribute Michele Beaulieux, don’t use for commercial purposes, and use this same license. And if you do share, I’d love to know! I continue to revise, so to avoid sharing an outdated version, I recommend linking to this page, where I provide the date of the current iteration: 5.14.2022

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