Contact Improvisation

Anna M. Maynard
Anna M. Maynard

Contact Improvisation is an evolving system of movement initiated in 1972 by American choreographer Steve Paxton. The improvised dance form is based on the communication between two moving bodies that are in physical contact and their combined relationship to the physical laws that govern their motion—gravity, momentum, inertia. The body, in order to open to these sensations, learns to release excess muscular tension and abandon a certain quality of willfulness to experience the natural flow of movement. Practice includes rolling, falling, being upside down, following a physical point of contact, supporting and giving weight to a partner.-Contact Quarterly

Contemporary Dance Improvisation

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Class with Columbus Moving Company

Dance improvisation is paramount for my work, for my rehearsal process and my teaching methods alike. I use improvisation to connect to the humanity of dance. For me there is nothing more human than curiosity and living in the moment. Improvisation asks these very things from a dancer allowing one to put more of themselves into a dance performance. Making the dance more human as a result. This sincerity that improvisation generates causes dancers to become more genuine in their movement, more alive and sensitive in the space they are dancing in and allows a deeper connection between themselves and the other dancers on stage. This in turn effects people in their everyday lives. People learn to adapt and improvise in order to overcome obstacles in life, they slow down and enjoy life more, and people become more creative and free thinking. The applications of dance improvisation are endless and that is what I love about it so much. Life is one big improvised dance, and I feel as though my work can help people understand life from a different perspective. This artistic mentality has enhanced my life greatly and I want to share that with my audience and my students. For example, movement improvisation, and especially Contact Improvisation, allowed me to access emotions, and to consider human relationships, in a different way than what I was used to when growing up in my home town of Lancaster, OH. Lancaster is a blue-collar town and I grew up in a blue-collar family where men and women were expected to act and think in pre-conceived, more conservative ways. It was a very traditional sense of living that was highly influenced by a patriarchal way of life.  I was taught that men were not supposed to be emotionally accessible or sensitive to the events around them. This lead me to being emotionally and intellectually limited growing up and it wasn’t until I started dancing that I became aware of it. It is therefore important to me, through my choreographic process, to work with a full range of emotional ideas and thoughts when making new work, as well as when teaching improvisation to students, in order to connect to the humanity that we all have to offer to this world.