Lab recap: NYC CI Lab, Wed., 2015/04/01, at 100 Grand Dance, New York, NY

This is a recap and summary of conclusions from our first session of the April 2015 dance lab at 100 Grand Dance, “Risk-Taking and All the Fun Stuff,” which I am facilitating this month.

What we did

We investigated continuous/daisy-chained lifts and where that took us. I was interested in counteracting the tendency of many CI dancers to spin out and “recover” after a lift. Instead, I wanted us to explore ways to come back into contact and/or a lift without having to collect oneself — to shorten recovery time as much as possible.


We did a version of my standard warm-up (rolling side-to-side, then up, based on a warm-up from Julia Rae Antonick)

  • Relaxing into the floor
  • Extending listening awareness outside the body, to the room (“Can you tell how big the room is from the sound of my voice echoing off the walls?”)
  • Extending awareness outside the space — listening to cars and people outside the space (“How far away can you hear? Can you see the room outside the window? How big is that truck?”)
  • Returning awareness to the body — listening to and feeling the breath entering the body
  • Scanning through body to release muscle tension, body part by part, from feet up through head
    (images of heaviness, liquid, warmth, circling energy, release)
  • Pause
  • “Waking up” –small movements to start activating the body again
    • With a long, lazy inhale, stretching long, on the exhale relaxing to fetal position on the side
    • Pouring weight side to side, with an image of body filled with sand, pouring slowly and evenly
    • Pendulum: inhaling on side, sense of falling and exhale towards the back, slowing down while climbing to the other side and inhaling, suspension on the other side, falling back towards the back on an exhale
  • Gradually following roll into higher positions, then falling again back into roll, with sense of a pendulum. Up into mid-level and into standing.
  • In group, falling in proximity to each other. Finding different ways to fall, including:
    • copying someone out of the corner of your eye
    • deliberately falling awkwardly
    • falling “prettily” — making fun of falling gracefully


Immediately out of the warm-up, we divided into group A and group B. All the following exercises happen in a group — with people momentarily pairing up then circling around to find new exercise partners. Throughout, a sense of the pendulum — that we’re not standing, but coming out of a fall or going into a fall — and keeping an idea of falling when in doubt.

  • “fallers” and “dodgers” — With everyone standing, Group A Member gently fall towards members of group B. B moves to the side, allowing A to fall to the ground. Switch roles of groups. Progression: B helps up A after the dodge, e.g., hand-to-hand, hand in hip crease, hand under shoulder. Switch
  • “fallers” and “under-dancers” — A falls towards B, B presents pelvis to A in standing post. A can fall into a lift, sluff down to the side, or fall over to hands, depending on where B’s pelvis intersects with them.
  • falling into people on the floor — now without groups. Anyone can fall to the floor or fall into a person on the floor. Once you fall into the floor, someone can fall into you! A falling into B: A falls towards B’s pelvis, bending knees if it seems necessary to control the fall for B’s safety. B can repel A with B’s feet on A’s pelvis, or can give A a little ride.
  • everything at once — from standing, you can fall at someone standing, fall at someone on the floor, fall to the floor, or help someone get up. If someone falls at you while standing you can dodge them or give them a pelvis. If someone falls at you while you’re on the floor, you can repel, give a ride, or dodge. And anything else that seems like it makes sense.

Open Experimentation

We took turns with half of the group dancing in the space at a time, we experimented with ideas of daisy-chained lifts — lifts coming immediately one after another, with over-dancer becoming under-dancer, etc.

I showed “continuous lift circles” — A and B stand side-by-side, facing opposite directions, inside arms looping around the other’s lower back. B squats slightly, sluffing down A’s side, and rocks A’s pelvis on top of B’s pelvis. A sends her outside leg up and *backwards*, so that A is lifted on top of B, moving backwards, with B as the center of the circle. (B is moving towards B’s front.) As A lands, A immediately squats slightly, sluffing slightly down B’s side, and B kicks her outside leg up and backwards, so that B is now the over-dancer and A is the under-dancer, continuing the circle in the same direction but with roles reversed.

Romain showed what he called “plowing”/”ploughing” — A and B stand face to face, each slightly tilted to their right (of course, can be done on the opposite side as well). A puts her right hand on B’s *right side*, and A’s left hand on B’s *left shoulder*. B does the same: B’s left hand on A’s *left side*, and B’s right hand on A’s *right shoulder*. With a little help from B, A vaults up on to B, so that A is nearly parallel with B while B is standing, but A is facing B and inverted, with A’s weight going primarily down into B’s waist.

As A comes down, reversing the motion, B thinks of “plowing” A into the ground, B pouring her weight into A’s hips. In this way, B now inverts and goes up into the air, with A forming the base.

We practiced these different patterns, as well as played with the ideas and exercises from before.


We did a long round robin, further exploring these ideas. It was tons of fun.


We drew conclusions, made observations, and put forth ideas for next time.


Here are some of the conclusions we drew about our experiences:

Continuous lifts

On “plowing,” and generally in finding yourself in continuous lifts

As the over-dancer:

  • find support through the under-dancer’s legs and pelvis, not their back
  • think of yourself doing a handstand on the under-dancer’s waist
  • loft your own weight as much as you can — do the work
  • throw yourself into the under-dancer


As the under-dancer:

  • don’t think of yourself as just putting your partner onto his legs (as your partner descends), but as pouring your weight into your partner’s legs (and then going up)
  • think of yourself as pouring your weight into your partner, not just collapsing


For both

  • Pouring weight back and forth — a continuous weight exchange. Image of a plastic bag with water, a single container, with water being poured from one half to the other.

General concepts

  • thinking up while falling down, to give tone and not necessarily collapsing into the ground
  • paying attention “the last six inches” (a Nancy Stark Smith concept) to smooth out the fall
  • ideas related to always being unstable
    • doing handstands as a way of maintaining a sense of imbalance, keeping a sense of falling (because handstands are hard to stabilize!)
    • looking for unstable positions — e.g., picking up a leg, falling into your partner
    • having a sense of the small dance within moments of “stability” — having a sense of fall/suspension/instability all of the time

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