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Fundamental Contact Improvisation Skills

by Ken Manheimer last modified Apr 27, 2018 09:11 PM
Learning to coordinate connected to someone else is as multi-faceted as learning to coordinate with yourself. What skills are useful?
Simply following the contact points
It's hard to resist the urge to try to "make stuff happen". Instead, receptivity - tending to what is happening, big and small, and following that - requires alertness and poses interesting challenges. It generally forms the basis of a good partnership.
  • The Finger Dance can convey how mutual following can yield interesting activity, if you and your partner can resist the temptation to lead
Sharing Balance
Investing your center of gravity so that you share it with your partner - initially, enough so that you're sharing your balance with them but not so much that you're stuck - provides your side of a connection which the two of you can follow. It depends, of course, on them mutually investing their center, and the two of you actively negotiating the investments with your bodies. That "negotiation" is a big part of the dynamic.
Relating With The Floor
The floor is a constant partner, perpetually supportive and also unforgiving. In a way it provides an ideal opportunity to learn to be gentle, since any abuse you give it will inevitably be born by you.
Learning to meet the floor obliquely is invaluable for most kinds of falling.
Becoming familiar with mobilizing across the floor in different ways is invaluable for articulating with human partners, as well.
Sharing Weight and Sharing Rides
As you learn to navigate moving with a partner through shared balance you can gradually play with the amount and distribution of weight that you mutually invest in the contact points. You can play with one partner and the other supporting more or less of the weight, as suits the current situation, up to and including supporting their partner's full weight.
  • Structural Supports and Finding Rides inform sharing of weight.
Sharing Receptivity
"Following the contact points" means devoting attention to the connection between you and your partner, and tending to what is practical for you as well as respecting what is practical for them, at each moment. ! Maintaining receptivity to oneself without precluding attention to your partner is a continual and fascinating challenge, as likewise is being receptive to your partner while also continuing to notice and tend to one's own situation.
This skill - of continuing attention to both oneself and one's partner - is continually challenged and developed in cooperation through following the mutual point of contact.
At different moments you might find yourself tending more towards attention to your partner or yourself. This is natural. You might find that you overall tend more towards on or the other. That is the human condition. You have an opportunity to practice balancing the two, and through practice developing capacity for doing both, together.
Respecting Boundaries
Sharing an exploration of coordination with a partner in CI involves using your entire body and bringing someone into your personal space. You must continually notice where your own limits are, physical and inter-personal, and be clear about them with yourself and your partner. At the same time you need to be alert for and do your utmost to respect signals from your partner about their boundaries. When unsure, it's good to presume that you are _not_ invited to push boundaries, and allow your partner and yourself to gradually offer invitations - for weight, speed, closeness, whatever - so each of you can gradually choose the frontiers of your own which you wish to open.
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