Not everyone should do Contact Improvisation. Not everyone is ready for it. Think about it. Think about what’s at stake. You have to give up your ego. Your sense of control. Your attachment to outcomes. Your social status. Your pride. Your adherence to verticality. Your seclusion. And there’s no guarantee about what any of these might transform into. To choose to do contact is to step out into the unknown with each and every dance.
The first time I saw CI, it seemed so normal, so absolutely reasonable, that it never occurred to me to actually want to try doing it. “Of course,” I thought. “That’s how people should always be with each other.” It wasn’t until later, when I had a crush on someone and followed that person to a CI workshop that I took that step into the unknown.
Why do I continue to practice CI 20 years later? Simple. The ways that I dance — how I use my body, my awarenesses, and my knowledge — are exactly the ways in which I want to live my life. I could probably say the same thing about improvisation in general. After all, the general practice of improvisation already contains a grounded sense of self, spontaneous responsiveness, connection to others, non-attachment to outcomes. But the simple fact of physical contact changes everything, affecting all levels — physical, emotional, sensory, imaginal, kinesthetic, etc. Touch immediately multiplies my engagement in the improvisation by a hundred. And it provides an additional layer of teachings around weight, support, and relationship that improvisation without contact lacks.
In addition, if we are in a practice of cultivating self-awareness for self-transformation, then involving the energy of another human being is one of the fastest routes to change. Working in contact with someone else gives us immediate and living feedback in a way that can be startlingly precise and exquisitely humbling.
When I teach, I strive to cultivate in my students fluency in the Open State of improvisation, body connectivity for efficient and integrated movement, awareness of structural landmarks, released flow, attention to detail, living boundaries, and a sense of how CI connects to their lives.
I continue to find this practice of CI not only fun, but deeply satisfying. When I want to connect with the universe from an expanded sense of self, where I know my tissue might be squished or lifted or flung, where I might possibly have one of those outrageous dances that I’ll remember forever and wonder how I ever survived, then I head to the jam. And I go because I like being affectionate, acrobatic, dangerous, gentle, funny, crazy, and cunning with my friends (and total strangers too).
So don’t do contact, unless you’re ready to lose what’s most important and maybe get something even better in return.