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Contact Improvisation Fundamental Orientation

by Ken Manheimer last modified Jul 10, 2023 11:03 AM
CI is organized differently than many practices, and mixed messages

Why I Write About CI

I love a kind of physical cooperation that can happen in practicing CI, and the extraordinary opportunities the practice offers for developing the skills to cultivate this opportunity. I don't want to do without it. I want partners, and in general want everyone who might enjoy the practice to have the opportunity to do so.

Why I'm Writing This Essay

CI organized is differently than most practices, and there are mixed messages about what you're supposed to do:

The dilemma: the principles we practitioners voice is in tension with the more simple-to-get-our-heads-around practice that we often wind up doing

  • The principles - what people say they're doing:
    • Non-directive, sensing based mutual following of the points of contact.
  • Versus the expedients - more easy-to-identify "things to do", on which people tend to focus:
    • Variants of "I lift you then you lift me", or "give me your center", or "don't use your hands so much", and other prescriptive - but often covert - instructions.
  • The reality is that all these elements - the principles and the expedients - are legitimate, useful parts of the practice. But the expedients best emerge from following the principles. Putting the expedients first is like giving a person a fish for dinner, while learning built in the principles is like teaching a person to fish.
    • When the expedients eclipse the principles, the clarifying motives in the point of contact (and, in my framing, sharing of balance) are lost.
  • In retrospect, I've bumped into this dilemma many times in my own experience, as I've practiced with many people over the years. The need to clarify it has become essential as I've tried to identify crucial elements useful in helping people become acquainted with the practice - become oriented.
  • Some recent feedback from a newcomer who experienced this dilemma at our jam, and generously and insightfully brought the dilemma into focus. This has helped me to clarify a progression in a bunch of elementary exercises that helps to bridge the gap, putting the elements of the dilemma into relationship with each other and maybe turning it into a collaboration rather than a dilemma.
  • The progression is not complete - but it does constitute what I see as one potential foundation on which further questions can be answered, with the pieces I've got organized into a cohesive progression
  • I'm developing an introduction to contact improvisation practice in Learning Contact Improvisation.
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