Okay, as far as I know, I’m the only one who calls it “The Circuit.” But every year in the northeastern part of North America, many contact dancers from New England and Quebec follow a well-worn, well-established path through about 10 festivals and weekend jams, like migrating herds crossing the Serengeti, or birds flocking with the seasons. If you follow The Circuit, you start to see the some of the same folks in different places. At the Boston May Jam, you might ask, “will you be at July 4th? or Dance Camp?” At the Montreal Jam, as you wave goodbye, you might shout out “see you at New Year’s!” Some old-timers have been following The Circuit for years, and can tell you stories about when famous so-and-so was a young, skinny thing who couldn’t tell surfing from sloughing, and is now all grown up (well, not really, but that general idea). Among those on The Circuit are many very experienced, very talented movers.
I’d thought I’d document and describe this phenomenon, as I don’t know anything equivalent in North America. I don’t think many people do ALL of these events, or even most (I’ve attended less than half of them), but over time you start to see many of the same faces. Yet despite some common attendance, each jam still has its own flavor and draws from a slightly different crowd.
Here’s what I know about what I (but no one else) like to call The Circuit:
1) Earthdance New Year’s — late December/early January. For those that don’t know, Earthdance is a retreat center in Western Massachusetts that is perhaps the spiritual home (though not the birthplace) of contact improvisation. The New Year’s Jam is a 5-ish-day overnight jam and Earthdance’s largest contact jam of the year. I find it wonderful and overwhelming. There may not be a more amazing concentration of contact dancers from around the world besides the Contactfestival Freiburg Teacher’s Meeting or one of the ECITEs, but there tends to be a lot going on — saunaing, different social & class offerings, walks in the woods, relationshipping, sitting and writing about the year — so that there’s not as much focus on dancing I would like, particularly outside the morning jams. And it’s fairly expensive — I believe the most expensive contact jam on this list (excluding Dance Camp). Still, I can’t think of a better way to ring in the New Year than with a ritual created new each year by each New Year’s Jam, and celebrated with other contact dancers, and I plan to go this December for a third straight year.
2) Boston Winter Festival — February. This wasn’t done in 2012 (instead there was a Kirstie Simson workshop), but this is a weekend event with classes taught by several different teachers plus jamming. This and other Boston events can be found on the Contact Improv Boston Web site.
3) Earthdance Spring Equinox Jam — March equinox (c. 3rd week of March). The second of the four large Earthdance jams.
4) Burlington International Contact Jam — late March/early April.
5) Boston May Jam — late May, often Memorial Day Weekend. A jam where you can really dance — lots of open jam time. In 2011 this ran Friday evening to Sunday afternoon, with a Saturday night music jam.
6) Earthdance July 4 Jam — Over July 4 Weekend.
7) DNE Dance Camp — middle of August. A sprawling, 11-day affair combining many different activities, with classes during the day and open jams at night. It is a camp, out in the woods of New Hampshire. Contact improvisation has a large place, with lots of contact improv dancers attending and lots of contact classes. Dance Camp 2012.
8) Boston Fall Jam — mid-October (2012). This has moved around a little bit, but in 2012 was in mid-October, specifically Oct. 12-14. Typically a weekend jam with a teacher/faciliator leading activities part of the time.
9) Earthdance Falling Leaves Jam — late October. This is typically titled “Harvesting Diversity,” and I have no idea what that has ever meant for the jam. It is another of Earthdance’s big weekend jams.
10) Montreal Jam — early December. This has recently been a two-day jam, Saturday and Sunday, with a Saturday evening performance (a little like a talent show).
A few more jams that are not quite part of the Circuit, but draw some of the same dancers:
a) East Coast Spring Jam — second week of April. The two East Coast Jams take place in West Virginia, about an hour-and-a-half outside of DC. I understand these are pretty small affairs of about 40 people, and quite intimate and community-oriented.
b) Ontario Regional Jam — May. Typically in Toronto or thereabouts.
c) East Coast Fall Jam — Oct. 17-21, 2012.