A great start to CI in 2016

2016 begins with an exciting confluence of contact improvisation events in the northeastern part of North America that I can’t recall seeing in years. Alicia Grayson, Kirstie Simson, and Andrew Harwood are all coming to this part of the world to teach multi-day workshops. There are no less than three multi-day workshops for beginners, one in each month from January to March. CI Ground Research at Earthdance is facilitated by Rene Alvarez and Ronja Ver from California. And July is capped off with the first North American event of Touch & Play, the European-based organization exploring the edges of CI, including CI and sexuality. Here’s some of what is in my calendar and what I’m looking forward to:

  • Somewhere in January/February I’m planning to lead a three-session course in contact improvisation, starting from the basics through some low flight. I’ll update this post as I settle details.
  • W, 1/27 – Sun, 1/31: Buffalo’s Mission Improvable festival returns, after bit of an absence. This is one of the only CI “festivals” left in North America, with a mix of classes, jamming, and performance. (As opposed to multi-day “jams,” which may have all of these things, but with much less emphasis on classes and without a learning focus.) Alicia Grayson headlines, with additional classes by Vivek Patel.
  • F, 1/29 – Sun, 1/31: Bradley Ellis teaches a fundamentals workshop at the Peaceable Barn Studio in Redding, CT. It’s got like the nicest title ever: “We Make the Road by Walking: Contact Improvisation First steps.” This is one of those workshops that isn’t posted on the internet anywhere, but I can get you info if you’re interested. Or you can contact peaceablebarnstudio “AT” gmail (dot) com.
  • Wednesdays in February (2/3, 2/10, 2/17, 2/24): Igor Shteynberg and others facilitate a Contact Improv + Martial Arts Lab, 7pm to 9:30pm at 100 Grand Dance, 100 Grand St., 2nd floor, New York City. Drop-in, $5-$10 per session.
  • Sat, 2/13: Patrick Crowley teaches a fundamentals workshop in Boston, “Contact the Core.”
  • F, 3/4 – Sun, 3/6: Felice Wolfzahn teaches a beginners workshop at Earthdance, “Beginning CI Workshop: Laying the Groundwork.”
  • Sat, 3/5 – Sun, 3/6: Neige Christenson teaches a workshop in Westbrook, Maine (near Portland), “Experiments in Grace & Gravity.”
  • Sun, 3/6: The Earthdance College Jam. 3:30pm to 7pm, immediately following the Felice Wolfzahn workshop. Only $5-$10.
  • F, 3/11 – Sun, 3/13: The legendary Kirstie Simson teaches a workshop in Boston, “Touch. Listen. Move and be Moved.”
  • Sun, 3/13 – Th, 3/17: CI Ground Research at Earthdance. This year’s event is hosted by Rene Alvarez and Ronja Ver, and is titled “Unraveling Normal.”
  • Th, 3/17 – Sun, 3/20: Spring Equinox Jam at Earthdance, facilitated by Ronja Ver and Sarah Konner listed on a few publicity materials. I’ll update this when I know for sure.
  • F, 3/25 – Sun, 3/27: Ontario Regional Contact Jam in Toronto. Again at the beautiful (so it appears from pictures — I have yet to see for myself) National Ballet School. I am trying to start a rumor that CI50 will be in Toronto in 2022… this is a prime potential venue worth scouting out. Fully wheelchair accessible, “[e]specially welcoming to new people, non dancers, people of all sizes, ages, shapes, mental and physical abilities.” They do inclusion right over there. A mere $80 CAD if you register before 1/31, which is currently (as of 1/4) only about $60 USD.
  • Th, 4/21 – Sun, 4/24: The great Andrew Harwood returns to teach at Earthdance. “Suspension [of Weight, Time, Balance, & Disbelief]: A Contact Improvisation Workshop.
  • F, 5/27 – M, 5/30: Boston May Jam. Contact Improv Boston hasn’t published details yet, but usually this is a solid weekend of jamming, with some light facilitation by an invited teacher, and usually super-cheap. More info TBA.
  • Sun, 6/19: Global Underscore. More info TBA.
  • T, 6/28 – M, 7/4: The July 4 jam at Earthdance. Earthdance continues its “super-size” version of this jam, at nearly a full week.
  • T, 7/5 – 7/9: Touch & Play: Embodying an Intimate Language at Earthdance (though not an official Earthdance-sponsored event). Touch & Play explores the edges of CI, most notably through consciously mixing CI and sexuality, but through other means as well. The festivals have been European-based since their founding in 2010, but now come to North America for the first time. On first blush, it can sound pretty cheesy/creepy — like just a bunch of people who got sick of CI’s occasional asceticism and who wanted to get all sexy-sex. But from what I know of the facilitators and what I’ve heard, these are serious CI practitioners charting new territory in contact improvisation. Very, very intriguing.

Wow! What exactly is contributing to all of this?

Well for one, there’s a noticeable uptick this year in Earthdance’s CI offerings. Earthdance Executive Director Sarah Young says that this is a reflection of the sustained strength of CI at Earthdance. All of Earthdance’s four seasonal jams last year were full or had increased attendance.

It’s not so hard to imagine a time when Earthdance is offering a weekend jam every month, and when most of them are full. This makes me optimistic — while CI is exploding in Europe and growing in South America, it has often felt like CI is pretty flat in North America, aside from a few communities (Toronto, Buffalo, Portland (Oregon)). Perhaps there’s a larger trend here of CI growing in this part of the world.

I don’t know what accounts for all the offerings in fundamentals. Perhaps it’s a recognition of what is a relatively poor grasp of the fundamentals in this part of the world — what is in part a consequence of having so much dance and so many people with very skilled bodies before coming to CI. Lots of existing physical skills can mean that people skip steps in their CI development, primarily in skills like maintaining a rolling point of contact, off-balance weight-sharing, learning to wait and listen (Ouija dancing), and moving granularly. Or maybe it’s an increasing desire to bring people into CI, in recognition of our all-too-common insularity and self-indulgent mysticism. But I like it.

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