Grazing and "Solo Contact Improvisation"

Cultivating movement from attention to small movements provides a way to tune in and participate that enables you to balance internal and external focus, bringing yourself to connections and to moving on your own.


You don't have to be dancing with someone else to participate in a jam.

Grazing involves briefly sampling interactions with various people while continuing to explore solo movement in between. It is a specific part of Nancy Stark Smith's Underscore, and has been part of CI jams since well before Nancy developed the Underscore. Getting a feel for those in-between moments, so that you are receptive to other's activity and available for entering partnership when you choose, opens a whole world of enjoyable movement possibilities, in addition to rather than instead of moving in partnership. It contributes to a more lively jam for you and everyone, with less restriction to duets and generally more circulating in the group.

Here are some ways to cultivate grazing that are informed by and that inform contact improvisation practice (What Contact Improv Does) and that begin to sketch what "solo contact improvisation" might mean.

Following Small Inspirations

Steve Paxton famously said that "tension masks sensation". Sensing is key to tuning in, finding moving inspiration in every direction. Here's a grazing warm-up based around this principle: Warm-up: Following Small Inspirations into Grazing.

Cultivating Readiness in the Edge of (Im)balance

I love the way that challenge and engagement in CI can foster physical alertness and readiness to dance. I'm curious how to cultivate this activation in solo moving, not as a substitute for finding this activation in partnering, but to enjoy moving on my own in a way that is receptive to and helps prepare for partnering.  Here's a way I've found to approach this, based on cultivating movement from the small dance: Warm-up: Growing The Small Dance Into Grazing.


[I'm working on a description of my approach. It starts with repeating falls in which I first release as fully as I safely can into the fall and gradually divert the falls so I can continue them into fluid movement in all directions - following the small changes along the way. Here is a video of a presentation I did of this practice for a dance showcase sponsored by Nancy Havlik "Out From Under" at Dance Institute of Washington on April 23, 2022. Videographer: Denaise Seals.]