Exercise: Rising and Descending Together
Explore using slight counterbalance to traverse levels together.
("Sloughing" is adopted from an idiom for a snake shedding its old skin.)
1. Sloughing on a wall
We start getting a feel for sloughing by using a wall for support. Light counterbalance into a wall can make sinking to the ground easier than not having the wall at all. More than a little pressure on the wall actually increases the difficulty.
Start by leaning into the wall just a little, depending lightly enough that you can roll around while maintaining slight pressure. Once you have a feel for maneuvering while maintaining slight counterbalance then gradually explore sinking into the ground.
- Keeping yourself close to the wall will keep the counterbalance light. Think of melting into your feet. Moving your feet away from the wall will make it much more difficult the closer to the ground your upper body gets!
- You can gain a surprising degree of stability, ease, and mobility by using the wall for slight support on your journey to the ground.
- The last little bit of sinking can be particularly revealing. Don't skip it!
Give sloughing into the wall enough time to get a feel for it. It's invaluable for the subsequent steps.
2. Sloughing on a partner
After demonstrating this section with a volunteer, have the group circulate to find partner. Partners in each pair will take turns in each role.
- One partner provides stationary support instead of the wall, remaining standing and relatively still but not rigid. They will provide continual slight counterbalance for the other partner.
- The other partner will slide down the stationary partner like they did on a wall, maintaining slight counterbalance while sinking into their own feet.
- Like it was with the wall and even more, it's essential for the sinking partner to keep their lean into their partner slight.
- The key for the sinking partner is to keep most of their weight on their feet and then other parts of their body (knees, butt, torso) as they reach the ground.
- The stationary partner doesn't move with the points of contact, but they do adjust to provide slight-counterbalance support into their partner as they descend. It's important for the stationary partner to resist the temptation to become a rigid support. By providing a steady counterbalance the stationary partner can be actively and adaptively supportive while remaining fairly steady.
- Maintaining slight counterbalance can provide the sinking partner with a surprising amount of maneuverability. There is a lot to discover!
- As with sloughing on a wall, don't skip the last little bit of sinking. It can further reveal how to organize yourself to maneuver easily.
Again, allow time to get a good feel for maintaining slight counterbalance through sloughing. It's the foundation for the next step.
3. Descending and rising together.
- Partners maintain slight counterbalance while both sink gradually together and then continue back up to return to standing.
- Take it gradually! That gives time for both of you to discover how to organize yourselves to maintain slight support for one another as you sink and rise.
- Going slowly can be challenging but it enables you to gradually explore and discover ways to organize and reorganize yourself to make it easy.
- Curiosity along the way is how you learn.
- As above, the last little bit getting to the floor can be revealing.
- It can require some reorganizing from both of you to get started on the journey back to standing.
- Exploring all of this will reveal easier ways, and you will get a feel for doing contact improv.
As usual, it's revealing to try this with different partners. When the group has had time to get a feel for descending and rising together with a new partner suggest that they allow for more direction changes along the way, finding which direction to head according to what fits in each moment. That's basically contact improv.
- See the Angel and Traveler exercise for a more deliberate unpacking of the challenge to find opportunities to offer support in this same progression.
- It's useful to extend this exercise with the introduction of dancing into partnerships and parting from partnerships by dancing. This would be a fine basis for introducing circulating in the group as part of a jam.
Sloughing and rising and descending together have been part of CI teaching for as long as I've been studying. I wasn't told who originated the versions I learned, and I suspect that they weren't the first or only ones to come up with the ideas. Many people have shared the brilliant idea of using a wall to develop things like rolling point of contact and sloughing. I don't recall being taught the specific progression from sloughing to rising and descending together. It sure is useful, though, and I expect that I didn't come up with it myself.