This will have to be the subject of a longer blog post at some point. For now, let me quote the definition I wrote for the Contact Improv LA Web site:
Contact improvisation (or CI, or “contact”) has always been difficult to define, in part because it’s intentionally undefined, in part because it continues to evolve and change.
However, one definition might be that contact improvisation is a social dance that arises out of modern dance traditions. One of its central principles is a rolling point of contact between two (sometimes less, sometimes more) people through which both dancers give and share weight. It’s somewhere between tango, modern dance, aikido, wrestling, gymnastics, and none of the above, and usually takes place without music. People dance contact in any combination of genders, there are no “steps,” and it’s entirely improvised.
You can find a few more definitions at contactimprov.net.
And here’s a few favorite video clips that may help give a basic idea:
Stefan Fabry & Shel Wagner Rasch in performance:
Steve Homsher & Jess Humphrey at a jam (CI36):
Kim Simons & Olivia Proudfoot training in a martial arts studio:
I am casting a show and looking for people who do contact improv. How can I get this information out to people who follow your blog?
Hi Rikki. Easiest is probably if you join the FB group “Contact Improv NYC” and post your needs there. Depending on what you’re looking for, folks there can give you suggestions on other outlets.
my definition of CI:
Contact Improvisation is the simultaneous exploration of, experimentation with, and execution of physical and perceptual attention to the location, duration, and operation of one or more touching or potentially touching surfaces between two or more bodies.
Hi Andrew, thanks for reading and sharing. I like that your definition is physically based and mentions touch and multiple bodies — a surprising number of definitions don’t.