The Revolution that is Contact Improvisation

I’ve heard that farmers who plant domesticated wheat have a vitally important task to do every few years if they want their crops to flourish. They must go into the wilderness and find wild wheat to take back to their farm and mix with their cultivated strain. The wild wheat gives the domesticated wheat more genetic diversity, which gives it endurance, strength, and a pleasing taste. I’m beginning to think of touring Contact artists as the wild wheat. We go into a community and introduce a wild strain into what has been locally cultivated.

But then the opposite is also true.

The act of going from place to place and dancing with many different people seeds my dancing with a quality that would be missing if I stayed at home.

To use another image, in the world of computers there is a revolution happening called open source programming. A piece of software is written and then anybody who wants to can improve the source code. The Linux operating system is the most well-known open source software. This process of creating software that nobody owns, that has no central control, that anybody can try to improve, creates programs that are the most useful, bug free, and elegant.

Contact Improvisation is an open source dance form. Everyone who enters the investigation of this dance adds their discoveries and improvements. And like open source software, there is no central control. There are means of communication so people keep track of what is going on in the network. We have the Contact Quarterly magazine, numerous web pages, festivals, and the simple fact that when we dance information moves between people.

This is not Graham or Balanchine repertory, or Microsoft corporation, where information is imposed from the top down. Contact Improvisation is a constellation of dancers, each informing the others. Contact is an inherently unfinished dance form. Each person gets to complete it with themselves in each moment. This is the strength of the form and why it slowly keeps growing worldwide.

I hope C.I. never becomes trendy, because trendy things usually end. I actually don’t see that happening because it doesn’t have flash, it’s not out trying to colonize the world. However, there is an international group of committed practitioners each contributing their piece to the dance puzzle. As the dance enlightens us, we enlighten the form. Teachers are one of the means of communication as we conduit from place to place threads of what is being investigated. We are a vital part of the open source.

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