There will, I hope, be many CI50 celebrations this year. But Critical Mass: CI@50 (what does the “critical mass” part mean?1), starting today in Oberlin, Ohio, U.S.A., will be the CI50, the main celebration, the official one, the one that everyone will talk about until the next anniversary celebration.

At least I assume so. But you could make a case that if say, the Freiburg Festival or the Israel CI Festival this year do a CI50 celebration, that those might be better attended, be longer, have more classes and prominent teachers, and better reflect both the current and future of the form.2

A few years back, I think I was speculating that CI50 would be whichever festival Nancy Stark Smith showed up at. But now that Nancy has passed on, it’s a little more ambiguous who can lay claim to the official celebration. The case for Oberlin isn’t bad though:

  • 280+ dancers, possibly the largest gathering ever of CI dancers in North America
  • Oberlin, Ohio, where Magnesium premiered
  • Attended by luminaries such as Chris Aiken and Andrew Harwood
  • Attended by Nancy’s Underscore group from Northampton, who will be co-hosting an Underscore (I will be one of the official musicians for this)

Anyway, here we are, and Critical Mass: CI@50—CI50 from here on out, and until another event lays better claim to the title—will start today! And I am attending.

And I have some questions about what will happen here. But first…

Blogging from CI50?

Before I go further, let me just say that I hope to write a little bit about what goes on at CI50. But CI festivals being what they are, and knowing myself, I’m not sure at all that it will happen. I’ll try to do some updates from CI50—at minimum, I’ll try to write some reflections after the fact.

Richard’s CI50 questions (a partial list)

I have a number of questions about how CI50 will go. Some are quite personal :) and so won’t be shared here, or perhaps just shared obliquely. Some are very snarky, and so out of respect for many people who worked hard on preparing for this, both in organizing and teaching, I might think about a little more before sharing. But here are a few that at the front of my mind:

What is CI?

Groan. But no, really. This was a question at CI36, which was somewhat answered by some of the DVD interviews… I’ll try to pull a quotation and citation a bit later, but there was something about the “unfilled circle” that was discussed there.

Nevertheless, “What is CI?” is defined by its practitioners, and a gathering like this—which might be the largest assemblage of years of CI dancing in history—will have some sort of answer to this question, answered at least by the bodies in the space.

What does it mean that so many aren’t here?

Nancy Stark Smith, of course, is the biggest absence, and her death leaves a profound void. But from the U.S., other prominent teachers/dancers such as Martin Keogh and Ray Chung sadly aren’t here. There are a host of prominent European teachers that aren’t represented—for sure I will leave out important teachers if I try to name many, but Daniel Werner and Joerg Hassmann come to mind. (Feel free to tell me in the comments whom else should be considered to be tragic omssions.) And it is a U.S.-centric celebration—there are many others around the world who could/should be here.

I wonder also, what effect the war in Ukraine has had on attendance from people from that part of the world, and especially Ukraine and Russia. The recent CQ posts from Ukraine are heartbreaking. (“As soon as we are safe enough to know people can come to a specific point in the city – jams start immediately.“)

What will be the effect of #metoo, George Floyd, and the pandemic on CI50?

Did we learn anything from these past years? Perhaps. Already some of these learnings seem to reflected in the Schedule and Guidelines.

The Schedule contains a good dose of social justice and consent content, some of it from people who presented at Future of CI and the Earthdance Consent Symposium, and including a BIPOC affinity space. And the Guidelines draw heavily from Kathleen Rea, Michele Beaulieux, and many others who have shaped consent conversations (including Sarah Gottlieb, an author on this blog), including a requirement that teachers not engage in intimate relationships with non-teachers at the event. I’m cautiously optimistic that CI50 could be a positive step forward and precedent for future CI gatherings.

So far, the largest omission in terms of our social consciousness is climate change. We have little to no acknowledgement of the climate crisis so far, nor of the carbon footprint generated by all the travel here. Will that change? I hope to make some statements here and there, if the opportunity arises. I hope we don’t simply try to forget that the climate crisis exists.

More later, I hope—I’m off to the opening circle!


  1. Also, what’s the significance of the @ symbol? Is there an Internet aspect to this?
  2. Is there any doubt now that the center of the CI world has moved to Europe from the U.S.? Perhaps it’s Berlin, or Freiburg, or Ponderosa. Or maybe it’s someplace else that I don’t know about because I’m just not that up-to-date with European CI—but the volume of festivals and jams in Europe pre-pandemic seemed to easily eclipse what was going in the States, or even the U.S plus Canada.

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