Class recap: Contact Improvisation: Weight-Sharing & L.A. Style! (1/3)

Recap of 2-hour class at City Life Wellness in Brooklyn, NY, on Thursday, April 5, 2012. This is a combination of my pre-class notes and my recollections and is a little rough — comments and clarifications from students are appreciated. Hopefully I will be able to clean this up a little more at some point.

Intro, talking (circle)

  • name, experience, body, name
    • name
    • contact class experience: first contact class, between 1st and 10th class, more than 10th class
    • state of your body
      • injuries, tendernesses, etc.
    • name
  • Basic information
    • L.A. Style is kind of a marketing creation
      • I’ll basically teach CI the way I was taught in LA– which appears to be different from in NYC and many places east of the Rockies
      • it might actually be West Coast style, but I haven’t spent enough time up and down the West Coast
      • plus some tips and tricks from LA & other teachers and my own ideas — which is really more Richard style
    • there are many styles of contact — this is only one
      • not really a defined, codified form
      • everything I’m teaching is to give you more options — there is no right way, and how you dance now is just fine
        • wonderful, even
      • you are already a contact dancer, regardless of what you learn in this class
    • take care of yourself
      • step out if you need to
      • adapt the exercises if you need to
    • don’t worry about remembering any of this — I’ll post it all online
    • more talking in a few minutes, and more talking at the end

Warm-up

  • Make yourself comfortable on the floor somewhere. Give yourself some space.
  • we’ll just wait
    • relax into the floor
    • let your other worries go away — they’ll come back
    • just be here
    • you can nap if you want
    • we’ll just wait here
    • Enjoy the sensation of not having to worry about what happens
      next
  • [pause]
  • think of the floor as comfortable
    • as a bed, as supporting you
    • let the floor take your tension away from you
    • as a friend
      • try naming the floor [this is a Martin Keogh technique]
  • relaxation, scanning through the body
    • starting with the feet
    • ankles, lower leg, upper leg
    • especially hips, butt
    • lower back, abdomen
    • upper back, shoulder, chest, pectorals
    • upper arms
    • lower arms
    • wrists, fingers, thumbs
    • neck
    • head
      • occipital ridge
      • temples
      • face
      • jaw
      • tongue
  • give your weight over to the floor — let it support you
  • [pause]
  • Some more information — you don’t have to remember any of this
    • sometimes I’ll be giving instructions that aren’t very clear
      • either because I’m purposefully not being clear
      • or because it’s really hard to say what I’m trying to say
      • don’t worry too much if it doesn’t make sense
        • don’t worry too much about getting it “right”
    • sometimes things come up in this practice — sometimes it can be very emotional,  or fear-inducing
      • that’s okay and normal — if you let me know I can help
    • contact improvisation is not about perfection — it’s about experimentation
      • embrace the awkward
  • Focus on your breath
  • [pause]
  • Rolling side-to-side, moving in and out of the floor, to standing [this is my adaptation of an exercise I first learned in a class from Julia Rae Antonick, whom I think got it from Nancy Stark Smith]
    • start gently waking yourself up
    • maybe wriggling your hands or toes
    • maybe moving your head a little
    • maybe wriggling your hips a little
    • but still gently, lazy
    • [pause]
    • and at some point, do a big yawn, and a big stretch
      • and as you finish the stretch, find yourself rolling over
        to one side
    • repeat but go all the way over to the other side
      • be lazy about this
      • try to let your limbs flop
      • and use no more energy than necessary
    • now start to roll side-to-side
      • lazy, slow
    • now a little faster
      • like you’re rocking yourself
        • rocking yourself to sleep
        • or rocking yourself awake
    • now push up a little on the side, letting yourself come up on the ends a little
      • reluctantly — still loving the floor
        • and lazily
        • and heavy
    • and start letting yourself go higher, to low crouches and knees
    • to getting your feet under you
    • 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!
    • and now try different ways of going in and out of the floor
      • maybe sometimes to the front, or side
      • sometimes more vertical, sometimes more horizontal
    • 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
      • but subtly, so they don’t notice
    • and come to standing
  • Walking
    • starting walking around the room
    • notice the room
    • notice the details in the room
    • try looking  up at the ceiling
    • notice the people in the room, make eye contact
    • notice how you feel about them, what you’re thinking about each
      • whom you’re drawn to, and whom you’re not
      • and let that go
    • now as you make eye contact, pretend that you have a dirty, dirty secret with each of them
      • and let that go
    • walk between any two people [this is Simone Forti’s “Scramble”]
      • pick up your pace; if it was a 5 go to a 6
      • keep coming out so that we don’t jam up the center of the room
      • increasing up to 9
  • Push-ups — modified if necessary, from knees
    • only 10 — no more, no less

Weight-sharing pt. 1 — “the float”

  • [These are my own ideas mixed with many of Stefan Fabry’s ideas and exercises.]
  • talking about pendulums, gravity — slowest at the top, speeding up to the bottom
  • demo counter-balance progression — lean, down/back & up (1/4)
    • 1) counter-balance holding forearms [facing each other, leaning away from each other while clasping forearms]
      • we demonstrate that we’re actually counter-balancing, such that if we let go, we’d each fall backwards
      • switch hands from time to time
    • 2) down and up
      • not directly down & up — actually back and up
      • now sitting down into the weight-share
      • sense of parabolic motion
  • (students do this)
    • take a partner about the same size as you
    • tips, notes
      • no one is leading in particular
      • don’t bend your knees and crease at the hips without connecting through the arms
      • you can suggest something, but you can’t get too far ahead
      • sit down into the weight — bend the knees, crease at the hips
  • demo next step — through the float (2/4)
    • 3) then through the “float point” to leaning into each other, meeting palm-to-palm
      • and back out
  • (students do this)
  • demo next step — little dance (3/4)
    • 4) then a little dance — different hands, etc.
  • (students do this)
  • demo next step — adding jumps (4/4)
    • then add jumps! — switching places!
    • you have to go around the outside — not through each other
    • have the sensation of connecting to the other person through the weight— feel like your feet are touching the bottom of a pool
  • (students do this)
  • demo next step  — in a crowd, switching off between different people (5/5) — all previous motions are possibilities
    • 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
  • take a walk — walk it out

Weight-sharing pt.2 — falling

  • falling into someone, push off, go through float point, catch self [demo]
    • as you walk, put your hands up in front of you [palm facing out] — and meet palms with someone. Fall into them; then push off
      • this means you stop your feet a little bit away from the person, so you can fall into them
    • push off, then feel yourself going through the float point, and falling, then catching yourself
    • see if you can stay longer before you catch yourself
    • look behind yourself before you go backwards and make sure there’s space
  • [students do this]
  • now your own
    • try go to the tipping point and catch yourself
    • try both going over tipping point and taking a step
    • 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 making fun of people going to the floor gently
  • [These last two are based on exercises taught to me separately by Kirk Andrews and Scott Wells.]

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
  • do walking in and out
    • more lean — walk feet out
    • less lean — walk feet in
  • rolling against the wall [demo]
    • leaning against wall at shoulder, roll to other shoulder
    • and around back and front
    • you can reduce the weight by moving your feet in
      • but keep the weight into the wall — don’t reduce by taking pelvis away — pelvis towards the wall
  • [students do this. fix and make recommendations]
  • Mosh pit/scrum
    • five people stand in close with each other, forming a mosh pit or scrum
    • [demo]
      • one person at a time takes a turn rolling outside of five people huddled together, really giving her weight to the scrum/pit
      • if the mosh pit starts moving from the weight — it’s their fault! it’s five people!
      • really give weight — don’t take weight away while rolling over the shoulders
      • 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
  • Practicing rolling over shoulders against the wall
    • can practice this at home as well:
      • recite a number every second or so, calling the weight you’re giving to the wall 1-5, as you roll over shoulders, back, chest
      • try to keep it constant
      • then try to keep it constant over all different weight: 1, 3, 5 all the way through
  • Now just rolling together with a partner, around the shoulders
    • [demonstration]
    • find someone about the same height as you
    • again, if the weight is too much, walk it in, like the wall
    • (people do it)
    • Notes
      • can increase weight by walking feet out, decrease weight by walking feet in
      • guard against collapsing under weight, by having pelvis fall too far towards partner — ending up under/below the point of the contact. Instead, get feet out and keep tone in the torso

Getting in and out of the floor

  • [demo]
    • if you keep walking out all the way while back-to-back, you can go to the floor together
    • then push in to get back out
      • push push push — walk the legs in
      • can move legs out a little instead heels to to butt to put less strain on the knee, and can also push more with the hands
      • also can use the full surface of the back for stability
  • [people do]

Surfing

  • [A combination of how this was taught to me in my first contact class by Mary Herzog, and in my most recent contact class by Andrew Harwood.]
  • from sitting, spiraling down to belly
    • [demo]
      • follow outer hand
  • from sitting with a partner back to back
    • [demo]
      • one person (A) spirals down
      • the other person (B) follows, ending up on top
      • A follows the outer hand to roll, and B gets a ride on top. A rolls B out to B’s lower leg
      • A reverses. B pushes up a little on B’s hands in order to give a little more pressure between B’s lower legs and A’s torso to help get things going
    • tips
      • person on top
        • stay between hips and shoulder of A
        • get your hands above your head in case A goes fast, to protect your head
      • sound effects help
      • let the person on the bottom drive (i.e., determine how the roll goes)

End of class

  • More on LA style
    • shared center
    • plus some tricks from favorite teachers
      • Stefan Fabry, Jeffrey Nash, Mary Herzog, Shel Wagner Rasch
      • Martin Keogh, Karl Frost, Gretchen Spiro
    • question of “where can I get to that I can’t get to by myself?”
    • because of that, we think in terms of off-balance weight-sharing
      • whether V-frame (holding hands & leaning back) or A-frame (leaning into each other, feet away from each other)
  • I’ll post summaries of classes on my blog after each class
    • probably by Monday
  • next class — tentative plan
    • refinement of what we’ve done
    • low lifts — learning to feel your partner’s balance on you
    • tabletop work
    • idea of observed one-on-ones after class in extra optional “master class” session
  • I want you to learn as much as you can
    • talk to me at jams
  • Thoughts, impressions?
  • Names
  • logistics
    • pay before you leave
    • if some of you are dropping out after 2 classes — $24

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