What is Contact Improvisation ?

CI workshop with Genevieve Cron

One of Many Definitions from the Vermont Community

Contact improvisation (CI) is a dance technique in which points of physical contact provide the starting point for exploration through movement improvisationContact Improvisation is dance/sport/art form involving an open-ended exploration of movement by listening with our bodies through a moving point of contact.

Steve Paxton’s Classic Definition

Contact Improvisation is an evolving system of movement initiated in 1972 by American choreographer Steve Paxton. The improvised dance form is based on the communication between two moving bodies that are in physical contact and their combined relationship to the physical laws that govern their motion—gravity, momentum, inertia. The body, in order to open to these sensations, learns to release excess muscular tension and abandon a certain quality of willfulness to experience the natural flow of movement. Practice includes rolling, falling, being upside down, following a physical point of contact, supporting and giving weight to a partner.

Contact improvisations are spontaneous physical dialogues that range from stillness to highly energetic exchanges. Alertness is developed in order to work in an energetic state of physical disorientation, trusting in one’s basic survival instincts. It is a free play with balance, self-correcting the wrong moves and reinforcing the right ones, bringing forth a physical/emotional truth about a shared moment of movement that leaves the participants informed, centered, and enlivened.

—early definition by Steve Paxton and others, 1970s.

A Short Description

Contact Improvisation is a form of dance which incorporates elements from sporting movement and gymnastics, yoga, martial arts, philosophies of socio-sexual equality, and modern theatre practices of physical ensemble playing. Its invention is credited to American dancer and choreographer Steve Paxton in 1972, although contact improvisation’s lineage can be traced to his work with Merce Cunningham and the Judson Dance Theatre in the early 1960s.

Contact improvisation stems from the idea that each body is unique. Dance is spontaneously created by the impulsive interaction of two different bodies, regardless of preconditioned reflexes and accepted notions of size, weight and strength.

Dance partners sustain physical contact and rely upon mutual trust and support. It is process, not product, which counts in contact improvisation dance; aesthetically-pleasing results are shunned in favour of an inward-looking spiritual integration of mind and body. As such, it is no surprise that its appeal has spread beyond professional dancers and choreographers.

Contact Improvisation in Cape Town

Book for upcoming workshops with visiting teachers:

  • Sylvie Robert   16 & 17 December 2017
  • Genevieve Cron    February 2018


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