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CI Exercise: Angel and Traveler

by Ken Manheimer last modified Apr 09, 2012 10:27 AM
A contact improvisation exercise in attunement.

Deep cooperation happens with attunement. Attunement can happen in many ways. This exercise gives you time - to attune to yourself, and to your partner, through gradual journeys between the ground and standing.

The exercise involves two roles, and angel and a traveler, which partners take on in turns. Eventually the turns blend into each other, but it's valuable to do the exercise keeping the roles as clear and distinct as you can, until it's time to let them go.

Filling in the gaps can mean trying different approaches when you encounter blocks. Sometimes progress is fostered by backing off - perhaps raising one part of your body to simplify lowering another, etc.  An opportunity to experiment, explore...

The traveler's task is to make a very slow transition from standing to the ground and back, looking for the easiest, smallest increments at every step, and continuously concentrating to fill in the movement gaps along the way. Consistent with that focus, for example, when they get to the ground they should take a moment to really sink in, to thoroughly arrive, before heading back up.

One surprising challenge in the traveler's role is to not be diverted by what the angel is doing. It's an elusive and useful skill.

The angel's aim is to provide almost unnoticeable support to the traveller, adding touches at places that the traveller could, potentially, lean into, to ease their journey. The angel is trying to see how they can be involved in and support the traveller in their trajectory, without changing it.

For the traveler's first round-trip, from standing to the ground and back, the angel just watches, looking for ways that they could provide minimal support, if they were to take action.

Then the partners switch roles, with the traveler taking the angel role to watch, and look for ways that they might minimally support their partner, who is doing a very gradual round trip, from standing to the ground and back.

Then the partners switch, again, for the second round.

This time, the angel uses their hands, to provide touches in places that the traveler potentially could use as support for their journey - easing their trip to the ground, or getting buoyancy heading back up. The aim is for the actual weight exchange to be almost indiscernable - kind of like moral support, and no more. It's important for the angel to try to keep from blocking where the traveler is going. Less is more - it's ok if the angel barely finds one point to provide actual (minimal) support, particularly at the start. The sense of this can take some time to grow.

Here's a valuable question for the angel: "How can I blend my path with that of the traveler?". This helps get a feel for the traveler's situation, in the moment. Doing a lot is not the aim - it's ok for the angel to do little, if it means more attention to getting attuned and clear, effective choices in their involvement.

In subsequent rounds, the angel concentrates on increasingly using other parts of their bodies. Essentially, they're looking for opportunities to fit themselves into the trajectory of the traveller without disrupting it.

In the next round, the angel and traveller alternate along the way, going a little bit and then pausing to switch from supporter and supported. It's valuable for them to initially be clear, by their actions, about their alternation points. If they're unsure, talk a bit, reestablish who's doing what. Repeating the journey, they can let the roles blur, and share more weight, gradually shifting into dancing.

The above description is elaborate to try to impart to the full intent. The leader doesn't need to describe all this to the participants, but rather orient them on the essentials, so they can discover what works.

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