Class recap: 1.5-hour pre-jam class, Sun., 2011/01/16, at Verve Dance Studio, Buffalo, NY

Dear Buffalo,

Here is a recap/outline/partial transcription of the class I taught on Sunday. Please let me know if anything is unclear, or if you remember anything differently, and I’ll be happy to clarify or correct.

Thanks to Nancy Hughes for inviting me to come, as well as assisting with class demonstrations.

Opening circle

  • name, why you’re here and what you hope to learn (anything in particular?), name
  • injuries, name
  • information
    • take care of yourself
      • step out if you need to
      • adapt exercises if you need to
    • there are many styles of contact improvisation — I’m only teaching one
      • what might be called LA – Boston style
        • [which, by the way, I think is typified by a heavier amount of weight through the rolling point, true weight-sharing. Eckhard Müller described it to me as “releasing your weight through the other person’s structure into the ground.” Many other communities in North America and elsewhere don’t dance with this awareness as often.]

Warm-up phase

  • Lying-down
    • start on the floor — find a place that is comfortable
    • you can nap if you want
    • (pause)
    • relax your muscles that might be carrying tension
      • hips, shoulder (trapezius), abdomen, jaw
    • give your weight over to the floor — let it support you
    • love the floor, like a lover or affectionate friend
      • [This based on a Martin Keogh technique]
    • (pause)
    • more information
      • you don’t have to remember any of this:
        • sometimes I’ll be giving you ambiguous instructions; just try it, don’t worry too much if it doesn’t make sense and don’t worry about doing it “right”
          • language is tricky; sometimes I’m saying things purposely vaguely, sometimes it’s hard to put into words
        • sometimes I’ll tell you why we’re doing things, sometimes not; you can ask me later if it’s not clear
        • sometimes things come up emotionally in this practice; that’s okay and normal
        • embrace the awkward
  • Rolling side-to-side, moving in and out of the floor, to standing
    • [This is based on an exercise that I learned from Julia Rae Antonick of Chicago;, Martin Keogh and Nancy Stark Smith I think do something similar]
    • start waking yourself up
      • maybe rubbing your feet or hands together
      • maybe rubbing your hands on your body
      • maybe stretching — but you’re starting to wake up
    • stretch — waking up stretches
      • now make a big stretch
      • maybe with a yawn! or a noise!
      • and as you stretch, find yourself rolling over to the side — on to your side, or back or front
      • and then settling in again, maybe with a little wiggle
    • repeat
    • roll side-to-side
      • long, slow rocks, side-to-side — like you’re rocking yourself asleep
      • then like you’re rocking yourself awake — so a little faster, and smaller
    • then stretch-and-yawn again
      • with shorter times between movements
    • going in and out of the floor
      • and now push yourself up a little, lazily, and then let yourself sink back down
        • reluctantly — still loving the floor
      • and start letting yourself go higher, to low crouches and knees
      • to getting your feet under you
      • to being on your feet, but your head still hanging down
      • to standing, and still going in and out of the floor
        • and as you go back into the floor, greet the floor like a lover, or your bed — you love the floor!
        • on one of these times going up and down, imagine that you’re incredibly graceful, a dainty flower
        • and on the next time, make fun of the last time
        • try to steal some ideas on getting in and out of the floor from someone else
          • discreetly sneak a peek at someone else
          • and copy something that they’re doing
            • maybe a particular technique
            • or a gesture
            • but subtly, so they don’t notice
      • and come to standing still
  • Walking
    • starting walking around the room
    • notice the room
    • notice the detail in the room
      • if you’ve been here before, try to pick out something you haven’t noticed before
    • notice the pillars
    • make a few sounds if you like
    • notice the people in the room, say hi to them non-verbally
    • now as you make eye contact, pretend that you have a secret with each of them
    • pick up your pace; if it was a 1 go to a 2
    • and then a 3
    • walk between yourself and another person
      • [this is Simone Forti’s “Scramble” (of Los Angeles, CA)]
      • or someone else and a pillar
    • and now go into a light jog
  • Push-ups
    • only 10 — no more

Weight-sharing pt. 1 — “the float”

  • [much of this is heavily drawn from the teaching of Stefan Fabry of Los Angeles, CA]
  • talking about parabolas, gravity — tossing my hat up and down to demonstrate — slowest at the top, speeding up to the bottom
  • demonstrate progression
    • counter-balance holding hands — down and up
      • we demonstrate that we’re actually counter-balancing, such that if we let go, we’d each fall backwards — so we let go and fall backwards
    • switch hands from time to time
    • then through the “float point” to leaning into each other, meeting palm-to-palm
      • rest chest-to-chest
      • and back out
    • then a little dance
  • (people do the progression)
    • tips
      • sit down into the weight — bend the knees, crease at the hips
      • have the sensation of connecting to the other person through the weight — feel like reaching the bottom of a well, or touching the bottom of a pool
  • demo again — add more options
    • start moving in space — move feet
    • then add jumps! — switching places!
      • look around before you do this though — be careful of other people
  • (people do the progression)
    • do some of the other movements too (not just the jumps)
  • then in a crowd — switching off between different people
    • keep the sense of the float — love the float!
    • if you have to float a little longer until you find someone, that’s okay! — just pretend like you’re still floating, no problem
    • and then speed up a little — still keep the same gentleness and the float, just a little faster
  • take a walk — walk it out

Weight-sharing pt.2 — falling

  • falling practice:
    • [Much of this is derived from a class I took taught by Kirk Andrews, of Laguna Beach, California (USA), with also strong influences from Scott Wells of the SF Bay Area]
    • as you walk, put your hands up in front of you [palm facing out] — and meet palms with someone. Fall into them; rest chest-to-chest; then push off
      • and lift one leg up while you do it
    • add to that pushing off, then feeling yourself going through the float point, and falling, then catching yourself
      • see if you can stay longer in the float point
      • look behind yourself before you go backwards and make sure there’s space
      • drop the part where you rest chest-to-chest — that’s too complicated
    • falling over, catching yourself
      • now your own
      • try go to the tipping point and catch yourself
        • try both going over tipping point and taking a step, as well as coming back from the tipping point somehow
        • it might be helpful to close your eyes, but keep an awareness of people around you
    • more falling
      • as you go past the tipping point, run it out
      • and try falling to the floor
      • try taking a real long, dramatic, flailing run across the floor
      • try going into the ground dramatically as well as gently
      • try stealing some ideas from someone else

Rolling Point

  • with the wall
    • do a little fall against the wall
    • or walk your feet out
      • to get away from the wall, don’t do the pelvic thrust, pushing off with your head
      • instead, just walk it up — walk your feet towards the wall
    • so that you’re leaning against the wall
  • rolling against the wall
    • leaning against wall at shoulder, roll to other shoulder, around back and front
    • keep the weight into the wall
    • (people were rolling over each other when they collided or ran out of space, which was brilliant)
  • mosh pit/scrum
    • groups of five
    • one person at a time takes a turn rolling outside of the other four huddled together, really giving her weight to the pit
      • if the mosh pit starts moving from the weight — it’s their fault! it’s four people!
    • (one group tried it with two people going on the outside at once, and one rolling over the other when they met, which was cool)
  • Now just rolling together with a partner, around the shoulders
    • demonstration
      • as you go around the shoulder, you can either keep your arm down, going around the shoulder, or put it up, rolling through the armpit
    • (people do it)
      • find someone about the same height as you
      • again, if the weight is too much, walk it in, like the wall
  • demo of rolling point — letting the point move to other points of the body
    • CI is weight-sharing through a rolling point of contact
    • Oh yeah — feel the floor beneath your partner’s feet
      • [A lot of people say this, I think, but the person who really emphasizes this and taught it to me in Los Angeles is Jeffrey Nash.]
    • switch partners
    • (people do this exercise)

Closing circle

  • any thoughts to share?
  • if you want more instruction during the jam, please ask — I can get more into detail one-on-one
  • we’re out of time — but do you want to do another exercise?

Setting Boundaries: Come, Stay, Go

  • [This exercise was taught to me by Shel Wagner Rasch of Los Angeles, California.]
  • demonstration of progression
    • A (talker) and B (follower) stand face-to-face
    • 1) A listens to her gut, and then based on what she feels, says to B one of three things: “come,” “stay,” or “go”
      • B obeys.
    • 2) A now has the option of herself moving relative to B
    • 3) B occasionally disobeys A
    • 4) and now B is really listening to his gut in choosing to obey or disobey
  • find a partner — find someone with the same color clothes as you
  • (putting people through the progression)
  • and switch
  • discussion with partner
  • group discussion

2 comments for “Class recap: 1.5-hour pre-jam class, Sun., 2011/01/16, at Verve Dance Studio, Buffalo, NY

  1. Stephanie Nugent
    2011/01/27 at 19:31

    Hey Richard!

    Great to see you on line. We had the 20th anniversary of the Santa Monica Jam Jam about a month ago and you were remembered there:)

    Thanks for sharing your class notes. It is nice to read how others put words to practice. I also really appreciated the credits.

    Lots of Love to you and please tell Nancy hi for me! I am not sure if she remembers me or not. We met at a Joe Goode workshop (if it is the same Nancy)

    – Steph

  2. richard
    2011/01/27 at 22:55

    Thanks Stephanie! I decided to post my class notes online because 1) it’s been SO useful when I’ve read other class plans, but they’re so hard to find written down; and 2) I’ve seen people stop in the middle of classes to write things down or found myself desperately trying to remember something cool while in the middle of a class, or sat around a long time after classes trying to reconstruct what happened, and I wanted to spare students the distraction and effort of having to do it all themselves. It’s also a nice tool for me to plan my own classes and see a record of how I’ve taught things in the past. All two times so far.

    I’m glad you like the credits — I like acknowledging influences and tracing where things come from. Let me know if you notice any mistakes!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *