Lab recap (3/4): NYC CI Lab, Wed., 2014/07/23, at 100 Grand Dance, New York, NY

This is a recap and summary of conclusions from the third of four sessions of the July 2014 dance lab at 100 Grand Dance, which I am facilitating this month.

What we did

We investigated two topics: (1) ways of intercepting handstands (beyond what we did last week) and (2) offering and accepting (or rejecting) increases in speed. We also briefly explored ways of increasing speed in more open dancing, in duos and trios.


We did my standard warm-up (rolling side-to-side, then up — see Week 1, July 9)

Ways of intercepting handstands

We experimented with Person A doing a handstand and Person B “intercepting” A — catching, redirecting, or otherwise coming into contact with A. As we continued, we occasionally modified these handstands into cartwheels, sometimes directly at B.

We sped this up at the end, with A and B repeatedly going up on their hands, with little or no pause. Speeding up necessitated becoming looser about executing a full handstand, and allowing it to be more of a dance. This evolved naturally into using vocabulary from previous sessions of jumping at or on to each other.

Offering increases in speed, and accepting or rejecting

Person A danced with Person B and tried to get B to dance faster. B would either go faster (accept) or would resist going faster (reject). A third person observed the dance.

We experimented with A simply offering increases in speed and B trying to accept or trying to reject. Later we experimented with B being reluctant, and A having to be “seductive,” to compel or persuade B to speed up.

Speeding up in trios, duos

We briefly experimented with dancing rapidly in trios and duos. We decided to do more with this next week.


Intercepting handstands

  • We noticed a difference between executing the handstand (A) and catching/intercepting the handstand (B)
    • Perceived speed — movement can feel quicker to A than it is for B
    • A may not be able to anticipate contact, where possibilities are totally clear to B.
  • It’s helpful for A not to worry about how to come down from a handstand—to launch self without worrying about how to get down, or how A’s legs will fall. But this is scary.
  • As A, it’s difficult not to worry about going over your head in the handstand.
  • Ways of intercepting:
    • Redirection
      • redirecting A from A’s foot was less certain (and a little scary to A, though exciting)
      • redirecting A from A’s hip felt more secure
    • Torso to torso (B’s pelvis under A)
      • it’s surprisingly easy for B to get in under A quickly, even when it may not seem like it to A.
      • Into lifts
      • one strategy: B hand checks (puts hand on A’s torso) before getting pelvis under A, then uses arm around A’s torso to stabilize A during the lift
    • B gets under A in a table position
      • easier as B is larger, because can meet A higher off the ground
      • B can contact A at A’s chest, A can then roll down A’s torso on to B’s back
      • when B is smaller, B can contact A at A’s hips while B is standing, then go down into table
    • “Tim O’Donnell lift”
      • A does a handstand towards B (A faces B before the handstand, has back to B while in the handstand)
      • B wraps one arms around A’s torso (waist/hip area) and put one arm under A’s shoulder. B pliés to lift A off the ground, while A is inverted
      • this sometimes-challenging lift was surprisingly easy for B after going through all the other permutations of touching, pushing, and catching. Comfort from repetition made this easy.
    • Contact without (or with minimal) redirection
      • e.g., standing next to handstand with a little bit of touching
      • This seemed to be a good prep for the “Tim lift.” One A observed a progression:
        • instability of the handstand position
        • stability of A standing next to the handstand
        • instability of being lifted by B
  • Conclusions from increasing the speed of the exercise
    • We found that attaching ourselves to the exercise/plan of doing a handstand slowed us down.
    • By having a looser sense of the end position (not necessarily a perfect handstand), we were able to get the dance to flow more.
    • We found ourselves integrating skills from previous lab sessions — for instance, the “side jumps” from Week 1 (July 9), jumping on to table from Week 2 (July 16) — in direct or modified form.
    • The dance became throwing ourselves at each other through handstands. This was VERY tiring! I got the impression that this looked a little scary from the outside, but it felt pretty safe from the inside.
    • As A, there’s a tendency to want to be standing before going into a handstand. But there are other ways of approaching a handstand (i.e., from the ground)
    • As A, there’s a tendency to want B to be standing before going into a handstand. But there are other ways for B to receive other than to be standing.
    • It’s fine if A just “cruises past” B, without contact.
  • I remarked that one strategy that I use to quickly close gaps in fast dancing is to cartwheel directly at my partner, which is easier to initiate and more efficient than walking/running towards someone.

Offering increases in speed, and accepting or rejecting

Person A (instigator) and Person B (receiver).

  • General observations
    • Person A offered increases in speed through, essentially, either offering more stimulus to B (pulling, pushing, weight) or by simply moving faster.
    • Person B indicated acceptance of speed increases by, basically, moving faster (no big surprise).
    • Even when A was fairly persistent/insistent on increasing speed, B could reject/resist A by simply dropping weight and moving less, or moving away.
    • Whereas we thought there might be some difficulty in the mechanics of offering speed and accepting or rejecting speed, it turns out that the communication was fairly clear all around — it wasn’t too difficult to tell when A was trying to speed up or when B did or didn’t want to also speed up.
    • More interesting was what was compelling as an offer — how A could convince B to speed up more when B was reluctant. We discovered a tendency for A to treat B as an object — to simply start engaging in a rougher dance without tuning into B.
    • One Person B wanted A to meet B and tune in first — to create a sense of relation and trust before increasing speed. B wanted A to match A both through the point of contact (consistent point, matching weight) as well as through the intensity level.
      • Differences in size may have played a difference. As a larger B, you’re rarely threatened by A’s actions, and can easily resist, and may have the luxury of less caution. As a smaller B, you may insist more on A’s tuning in, in order to feel safer at higher speed with someone who may have more mass or power than you.
    • When B doesn’t respond to A, momentum is stopped
    • Generally this was a little rushed — we didn’t have a ton of time.
  • Instigator strategies (offering):
    • while facing B, A drops pelvis to ground and back, and grabs B’s hand — basically, squatting away and pulling
    • A moves feet faster/more
    • A engages in more manipulation of B (A pushing/pulling B)
    • A jumps at B
    • A throws A’s body at partner
    • A backs butt into B or otherwise moves pelvis towards B (my notes say “butt incursions”)
    • one B found it really effective for A to give weight quickly while B was on the ground. B described A’s weight as almost creating a springing motion in B — the sudden weight on B caused B to react by pushing back
    • providing & removing support — A creates a balanced weight with B, then moves away (causing B to fall)
    • A spins
    • One strategy that was only partially effective was simply pulling on B. We made a distinction between initiating counterbalance and pulling — the former was more effective.
    • Another thing that happened to me was that I thought I was giving a compelling invitation to B at a moment when I was moving quickly and lightly — but apparently I was just moving fast, and B wasn’t! I suppose the lesson is that your partner isn’t always
  • Ways that the receiver said yes
    • falling faster, allowing self to have less control of movement
    • picking up A!
    • favoring more counterbalance positions (V-frame)
    • grasping A
  • Ways that the receiver said no
    • moving feet less
    • not moving
    • being heavy
    • slowing down!

Speeding up in trios, duos

A few things noticed:

  • Going fast in trios is hard — we ended up doing a lot of thinking and calculating
    • Everyone trying to speed up seemed to result in less listening
  • There seem to be moments of “resetting” — of trying to figure out what to do next, or gathering yourself physically before the next movement. We seem to be able to maintain speed better by moving through these moments — by continuing a movement or falling through them.

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