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DC Contact Improv

by Ken Manheimer last modified Jan 14, 2019 08:29 AM
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The place for info about Washington, DC metro area Contact Improv jams and other community resources. Check here for up-to-date jam status, info about joining the dc-ci mailing list, other local events, and more.



This where we maintain current info about the Washington, DC Sunday contact improv jam and related activities.  Check the Current Status section, just below, to confirm the schedule for upcoming jams, and subscribe to the DC-CI mailing list (here's how) to be notified about any developments via email.

The Sunday Jam Current Status

The Sunday jam continues to meet every Sunday in 2019. When there are any time or location exceptions, we'll note them in advance, here:

Our jams and Underscores happen every Sunday at St. Marks Episcopal church. Our regular jams are every Sunday after the first Sunday of each month, from 2:00 pm to 4:30 pm, with a closing circle at 4:05. On the first Sunday of each month we share an Underscore (see below), starting at 1:30 instead of 2:00, and ending at the same time as the regular sessions, 4:30 pm.

St. Marks is at 301 A St SE, Washington, DC 20003 (Google Maps), which is around ½ mile walk from the Eastern Market metro station (Google Maps) and 1 mile from the Union Station metro. Note that the address is South East - there's a different church at 3rd and A, NE. Also, another group convenes there at 4:30, so we need to be done and clear by then.

The jam happens on Sundays, at the 2nd-floor dance studio of St. Mark's Episcopal church, on Capitol Hill.

The first Sunday of each month is a little different from other Sundays. We conduct a more closely coordinated score, called the Underscore. For the Underscore sessions it's important that people previously unfamiliar with it attend the orientation talk, just after 1:30. In general, the score depends on everyone arriving and ready by 2:00 for the opening circle. For more details, see the section about our Underscore practice, below.

While the first Sunday Underscore is a good opportunity to get acquainted with the jam, anyone interested in practicing CI, or just seeking a glimpse of it in practice, is welcome to all sessions. You don't need previous experience to join us, just willingness to explore.

(For jam visitors: the Sunday jam happens very reliably. For reference, it didn't happen on two Sundays in 2016. One was for a blizzard, when Metrorail was closed, and the other on Christmas day, when the church needed the space. We changed the above status message in advance for both. I think we haven't missed a single Sunday in 2017 or 2018.)

The Sunday Jam

When Sunday afternoons, 2:00-4:30 pm

St. Mark's Episcopal Church 2nd floor dance studio

around ½ mile walk from the Eastern Market metro station (Google Maps)

and 1 mile from the Union Station metro.

Address 301 A St SE, Washington, DC 20003 (Google Maps)
Price $10 donation - covers the cost of the space

The DC Jam community: (Subscription instructions below)

Ken tends the jam and maintains this online stuff. Use the contact link on the upper left of any page to reach him via email or phone

All participating must agree to our liability release/waiver
- we'll have copies to sign there, but printing one to bring with you helps.


CI is  based on mutual cooperation rather than control, and depends on
respecting one another's boundaries to work well.

  • CI is based on mutual cooperation rather than control, and depends on Respecting Boundaries to work well. We strongly recommend getting acquainted with the principles described on that page.
Immediately crucial status info, like pending schedule or venue changes, is noted in the Current Status section, above.
Subscribe to the dc-ci mailing list (subscription instructions, below) to be notified about jam status changes and local CI-related and progressive dance activities.

The Sunday jam is an open event, welcoming everyone. It has been happening almost every weekend since around 1985, and typically includes people across a broad range of experience, from zero to a lot. It's not a class, but usually includes people happy to explore at whatever level, discuss questions, and, if asked, provide guidance. If you're willing to explore in order to find your way, the jam is a great opportunity to practice and enjoy contact improvisation.

As part of the insurance coverage, every Sunday jam participant must sign a liability release/waiver. We have some ready to sign at the Jam. If you haven't signed it already, and can print one and bring it with you, that helps with jam maintenance.

On the first Sunday of most months we do an improv structure, called the Underscore, for better group attunement. We originally adopted the practice to help newcomers find their way in. We've discovered that it does that and much more, enjoyed by those new to the practice and those with much experience. It's a great lead-in, helping your exploration process be as easy and stress-free as you want. (See below for more details about the Underscore.)

See also DC Jam History and some DC jam moments [YouTube].

The DC Jam's (Nearly) Monthly Underscore

The DC jam practices an ensemble improv recipe, called the Underscore, during the jam on the first Sunday of each month. We started the practice (December, 2003) as an experiment. The aim was to make the jam more accessible to everyone by providing some Jam-oriented structure. It stuck, big time. It does provide useful newcomer orientation. In addition, many - new and experienced - find that it helps to foster a great jam - with benefits carrying over to our non-Underscore jam days.

The Underscore's mutuality is fostered by people making the journey together.  It seems that the more that those participating are on time and filled in, the better it works, so please do what you can to be prompt. But come and enjoy, in any case.

The Underscore is an improv recipe developed by Nancy Stark Smith, and evolving in practice lead by her and many others. It includes a carefully described trajectory and focus on the diversity of connections. The structure cultivates connecting with oneself and with others, neither to the exclusion of the other. Having a room full of people tuned into it promotes an ease of involvement and discovery in moving with others. It's a great opportunity for exploring contact improv and group movement improv from a very body-based approach, whether or not you're experienced with jamming.

Our Underscores take place on the first Sunday of each month, with (usually) Ken providing an introductory description between 2:00 and 2:30, and then leading the path into the open score. We usually end the open score at 4:30, followed by the closing circle.

Ken rants about the underscore in Our CI Jam And The Underscore.

The DC-CI Mailing List

The dc-ci mailing list is a private list for current and former DC jammers. It's the central avenue for notifications about contact improv in the DC metropolitan area. Subscribe to receive emails about venue changes and special events. Conversation is held to jam and local dance topics, and it's a good way to be filled in on progressive dance and related arts in the area. See our mailing list guidelines page for details.

The list is self-service, with a subscription form in the middle of the dc-ci listinfo page. Membership is by moderator approval, but nobody is turned away if they're considerate and genuinely interested in CI.

For discussion about progressive DC dance not focused on Contact Improv, see the DanceDC yahoo group.

DC Contact Improv Web Log (Blog) is a web log for notes about DC contact improv events and experiences. DC jammers, contact ken for privileges to add entries. (He's still figuring out how to work the blog.)


Because it actively notifies subscribers (and some jammers aren't on Facebook), we use the mailing list for jam coordination logistics, like schedule and venue changes, and core group communication. The Facebook group is more for general DC CI, less focused on the Sunday jam. The blog is more for observations about things that have happened and musings.


Other Local Resources

Local event listings of related stuff:
  • DC Spirit Web lists activist / progressive arts and opportunities for the dc/metro area, including a dance section with links to this page and and other progressive dance activities.
  • Free in DC keeps a running listing of upcoming events of many sorts.
  • frequently hosts five rhythms and other ecstatic dance events.
  • Glen Echo Park is a sort of local Mecca for folk and social dance, including Contra, Ballroom, Salsa, Swing, and  more! See the Glen Echo Park Social Dances page for leads.
  • See for leads on CI events, including jams, around the world.
  • Anyone wanting to keep informed about the status of the DC jam, please see the dc-ci mailing list section, above. Follow the subscription instructions in order to keep track of venue changes, workshops, performances, and other local ci-related events.
  • Jammers are our main, best resource. Contact improv is a process of perpetual discovery, yet it is not just doing whatever. You can learn it in each dance, if you attend to what's going on, and you can also learn from asking questions. Feel free to ask for help, if you're feeling curious or lost.
  • What do people do at jams? Here's a stab at answering that question that might be helpful: What People Do At A Jam
  • The freedom in CI to explore and expand boundaries depends on careful respect for boundaries, not disregard! Please see Respecting Boundaries for essential guidelines that support everyone's opportunity to enjoy the practice.
  • For discussion about progressive local dance, in general, join the DanceDC Yahoo discussion group.
  • has an entry for the dc jams, as well as lots of other jams, and other ci-related resources.
  • This page and its subtopics have been supporting the jam since September 13, 2006

  • Online resources describing CI, eg the wikipedia contact improvisation entry.

  • I love what can happen when things click in a dance, and am fascinated with the process of getting there. I write about my perspective in About Contact Improvisation. I describe CI's distinctive challenges and rewards in Contact Improv as a Way of Moving.

  • The one item of specialized equipment used by many contact improvisers is "chinese knee pads", to cushion the knees while dancing. The preferred ones are available online from the contact quarterly.

    (I'm a rare exception that prefers to go without knee pads, except perhaps when doing long-term intensives, or when I have a banged knee - and then I prefer the stretchable neoprene knee supports available from neighborhood drug stores, like CVS "futuro" open-patella neoprene knee supports.)

Any other suggestions for this list? Use the "contact" link at the top of the page, or the comment form below, to notify me about it!


Sunday Jam History

See our DC Sunday Jam History page

Document Actions
Gaia says:
Oct 20, 2014 02:22 PM
Hi there! I've just moved to DC and am looking for Contact Improvisation classes. All I see posted are jams, but since I'm a beginner I would really like to take a few classes, before I join a jam. Do such classes exist in DC? I'd greatly appreciate your response. Many thanks, Gaia
Ken Manheimer says:
Oct 20, 2014 03:30 PM
Hi, Gaia. Sorry, there currently isn't anyone teaching CI locally! (There are a few of us who would really like to do so, but lack the time.) Ideally, it's possible to learn to do it just by exploring the premise - following (not leading) a point of contact with someone else, who is also following (not leading) it, and seeing what works and what does not. Essentially, that exploration is what we all have to do, as we develop our ability with it - but I can understand hesitation, and certainly lessons can help clarify what really fits, present how to do things like weight sharing, falling, address uncertainties about asserting personal boundaries, etc.

I try to address some of the challenge of learning CI in a few essays on this site, and imagine - but totally don't know - that they might help in finding your own way. You may have already seen them, but in case they might be useful, the main ones are Contact Improv as a Way of Moving:[…]/contact-improv-as-a-way-of-moving and Respecting Boundaries:[…]/respecting-boundaries .