Melting Into The Floor

I started out the evening last night a bit nervous and unsure of myself, and ended the evening rolling all over people, giving and getting a compression massage, and covered in bruises. Which was delightful.

I've been saying, over and over again, that I was going to go and get back into dance...take a class...especially explore some contact improv (which Gnap performers have been working with more and more. I've had justifiable reasons for dallying in that goal; scheduling is a bitch, sitters are expensive, I'm already tired at the end of the night. A few reasons were just plain insecurity talking (loudly).

I'm pleased to say I gently told the loud yapping insecure voice to shut the fuck up and off I went to a class at Clearspring Studio, which is an absolutely beautiful studio in South Austin.

Contact Improv, from the wiki, " (CI) is a dance technique in which points of physical contact provide the starting point for exploration through movement improvisation. Contact Improvisation is a form of dance improvisation and is one of the best-known and most characteristic forms of postmodern dance."

Like nearly all dance forms, it looks beautiful and effortless. It is not at all effortless, but there is an absolutely wonderful inner flow that occurs during practice. I've had some exposure to it over the years. I took many years of modern dance and lots of theater classes incorporated CI techniques. Gnap has been playing around with bits and pieces of it, but I've never had an official class in the matter.

The class was just great. The instructor, Brandon, gave wonderful direction, was supportive but let you figure things out on your own, and was obviously extremely good at CI. There seemed to be a wide variety of experience in the room, from absolute beginner to dancers with refined technique. Brandon and a partner gave a beautiful example of floor work at the end.

We warmed up similarly to an improv warm up. Each person offered their name with a gesture and the group would repeat it (though the difference here was the the energy of the group was more quiet, grounded and gave a great deal of legato space. Lots of improv warm ups are bouncy, loud and, while still connected, more...staccato). We did our own physical warm ups and then the instructor led us through some different ways to roll across the floor. Sometimes the hips led, sometimes the arm, sometimes the knee. We moved into standing work, moving through space both horizontally and vertically using our body as spiral. We eventually paired up and one partner would follow the lead of the first dancer, and use their hands gently on the body of the lead.

Eventually we changed partners and did a rolling exercise, body on body. Each body had to listen to the other. As your body balanced on the back of your partners, you allowed yourself to fall or slide or melt into the floor and change position.It was exhilarating and a very densely connected, but also freeing feeling. Hard to describe, really, but it was familiar and wonderful.

Two things that struck me during the class;

1) Bodies. Such an odd experience to be in a room full of strangers and then feel so close to them afterward. Touch is so powerful. I always say I'm not "woowoo" or spiritual, but I think, really? I am. Not Metaphysical. But Physical. Maybe that's all the spirit there is, but damn it is a powerful thing. I love the body. I love being in the body. I love reading with the body and using my body to communicate. And it's damn fine to be in that kind of circle. I think that the more I touch someone, the more fond or protective I feel of them instinctively. Not saying that fondness is rational, but I notice that the more I touch, the more trust is built and I wonder how our culture would be different (kinder? gentler?) if more touch was the norm.

2) We played this kick ass game that had everyone panting and laughing at the end. Person A held their hand about a foot from Person B's face. B stared at the hand, and followed it where ever it went. Up down, to the floor, to the wall, in circles. The goal was to keep the space consistent. Watching the two partners show the exercise at the beginning was wild. It was as if there was this magnet force between the hand and the face and Person B just trailed along like ...well she looked like a school of fish if that makes sense, or a flock of birds, all turning and moving in sync.

Playing it was hilariously fun. The hand in front of me became extraordinarily important.

Anyway, all in all, some damn good stuff and I'm really looking forward to learning more and helping to incorporate more into our shows, or even a show with a story genesis in CI.

Here are some videos with great examples of CI.


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