Contact improvisation

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Contact improvisation " Jam "

Contact Improvisation (short: CI or Contact Impro) is a contemporary dance style that is about the active discovery of all movement possibilities that two or more human bodies can perform.

Essence and forms

Just as avant-garde musicians tried to explore the variety of possible sounds produced by their instruments in jazz from the 1950s onwards , dancers also use contact improvisation . The practitioner tries to explore all possible movements and movements of the body, e.g. B. in which they give each other the weight, roll on and over each other, climb and swing. Depending on the context and objective of a CI event, one speaks of a “ jam ” (short for jam session , more playful) or a “ lab ” (short for laboratory , more research).

A central principle is maintaining an unintentional mindfulness. This can be illustrated using two classic CI terms:

  • small dance: a solo exercise in which the practitioner, while standing upright, observes all those tiny involuntary reactions of his body (so-called "micro movements" ) that ensure his balance.
  • rolling point: in a duet, the dancers concentrate on a single point of contact between their bodies. In the course of the dance, this “rolling contact point” is kept in motion at a constant slow pace.

Studies from 2006 found an intense flow experience in ci-dancing people.

Since music influences mindfulness and can give strong impulses for improvisation and movement, it is sometimes not used or used very consciously, e.g. B. by improvising live musicians with the dancers.

Sources and practitioners

The beginnings of contact improvisation go back to various sources such as modern dance , various martial arts , Newton's laws of motion in physics, observations on the human anatomy , children's play and gymnastics . Initially it was actually conceived as a way of exploring the possibilities of movement and expression and used by professional dancers and choreographers. In the meantime, CI has become an integral part of the training to become a contemporary dancer and is seen by many choreographers as an equal means of finding choreographic material alongside other improvisational approaches and dance styles. In addition to professional dance, CI has also spread very quickly as a social dance form. The "entry barrier" is very low, especially because a playful, exploring mind and a human body are sufficient.

There is now a strongly networked international community of dancers whose skills and previous dance experience vary greatly, who physically meet each other during jams in dance in order to practice and develop CI with relish and curiosity.


Contact improvisation was invented or developed by a group of dancers in New York in the early 1970s , including Steve Paxton , Nancy Stark Smith and Daniel Lepkoff . Paxton, a former member of Merce Cunningham's ensemble and a member of the Grand Union Improvisations Collective , organized the first performances (including "Magnesium" in 1972) and directed the developments. In the same year, the first jam sessions , called jams for short , were created. Contact improvisation was a social phenomenon from the very beginning, people met in gyms and parks to try out and discover new forms of dance in jam sessions . In the years that followed, interest in this form of dance grew dramatically: since 1972 dance companies all over the USA began to integrate concepts of contact improvisation into their work, and the international magazine Contact Quarterly (initially Contact Newsletter ) has existed since 1975 . Contact improvisation now plays "an indispensable role in training to become a professional dancer."

See also



  • Heilke Bruns: "In the beginning there was touch". Contact improvisation - effects on body awareness, movement behavior and musical improvisation . Research project carried out at the Hamburg University of Music and Theater, 2000, ISBN 3-89811-936-X .
  • Heike Pourian: A tangible world: Contact improvisation as a culture that moves society. A collection of texts . contact Bewegungs eV, Dresden 2016, ISBN 978-3-00-052225-3 .
  • Petra Thelebein: The development of contact improvisation as a form of contemporary dance: artistic, psychological and social aspects . Diploma thesis University of Hildesheim (FB II), 1994.
  • Thomas Kaltenbrunner: Contact Improvisation: move, dance and meet; with an introduction to New Dance. 2nd Edition. Meyer & Meyer, Aachen 2001, ISBN 3-89899-515-1 .
  • Marion Glöggler: Contact Improvisation in the field of tension between dance art and everyday movement: body dialogues for the development of individual body intelligence . GRIN Verlag, 2009, ISBN 978-3-640-33097-3 .


  • Raphael Cushnir: How Now: 100 ways to celebrate the present time . Chronicle Books, San Francisco 2005.
  • Carol A. Horwitz: Challenging dominant gender ideology through dance: contact improvisation . Dissertation. University of Iowa, 1995.
  • Cynthia J. Novack: Sharing the dance: contact improvisation and American culture . (= New directions in anthropological writing ). University of Wisconsin Press, Madison WI 1990, ISBN 0-299-12440-1 .
  • Cheryl Pallant: Contact Improvisation: an introduction to a vitalizing dance form . MacFraland, Jefferson NC 2006, ISBN 0-7864-2647-0 .
  • Ann Cooper Albright, David Gere (Eds.): Taken by surprise: a dance improvisation reader . Wesleyan University Press, Middletown CO 2003, ISBN 0-8195-6647-0 .
  • Timothey Robert Wilson: The effect of creative movement and contact improvisation experiences on self-awareness . Ann Arbor 1987.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Jörg Lemmer Schmid: Contact improvisation as an art of living: More quality of life through flow experience and mindfulness . (PDF), accessed June 29, 2015.
  2. ^ Jörg Lemmer Schmid: Contact improvisation as an art of living . (PDF) p. 85 ff, accessed on August 31, 2016. “(With the) flowing quality of movement (...) any mental wandering and planning the next moment disappears. (It creates ...) an unintentional presence in the present "
  3. ContactImpro Cologne: What is ContactImprovisation? ( Memento from June 29, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) "There are couples of all kinds, trios, acrobatic lifts and relaxed floor elements, dances to any kind of music or even completely without music." , loaded on June 20, 2016.
  4. What is CI - Contact Improvisation? CI website for Switzerland; accessed June 29, 2015.
  5. Improv Dancers Have Impact . In: The Washington Post . November 4, 2005; accessed June 29, 2015: “In Contact Improv, inspiration for dance doesn't come outside from music, like in traditional dance; It comes from the moving point of contact, the exchange of weight and balance. You may start out leaning against your partner, say, palm to palm, but eventually your weight will shift, and you'll press into your partner's arm or shoulder. The point of contact can change infinite ways, (...) so the dance can go in infinite directions. "
  6. Contact Quarterly Volum 4, 1978-1979
  7. Werner Kirschner: Motifs in contemporary dance using the example of contact improvisation . In: Journal for Music, Dance and Art Therapy. 2004, p. 130; accessed June 29, 2015.