Bodies Rolling Around - Contact Improvisation Community, Singapore. May 2017.
"Not sure (if) you can hear the sound of bodies rolling around... I'm doing contact improv."
I was introduced to Contact Improvisation (abbreviated to "CI" by its practitioners) by W. sometime in June this year. Prior to this, I've only ever tried two forms of dance - the Lindy Hop and Argentine Tango, dabbling only in the briefest of moments for each. CI, a postmodern dance form, is absolute news to me. W. correctly intuited (amazing, this women's intuition business) that this would interest me and I found it intriguing because 'contact', which is something I tend to avoid, is coupled with 'improv', which is pretty much how I ran my life for the past 2 years or so.
A quick hop onto Wikipedia enlightened me to the fact that Contact Improv has been around since 1972 and the brainchild of Steve Paxton, an American dancer, choreographer and Aikido practitioner. Further skimming on the introduction threw up terms like "experimental", "mediating upon physical laws", "mutually supportive and innovative", "resembles (...) martial arts and the jitterbug".
Promising! Activities like rock climbing, yoga, dance... they combine the qualities of planning and spontaneity, strength and grace, randomness and precision. An amalgamation of opposites that contribute to a sum much larger than its parts. I really liked what I've read about it so far.
"This dance practice explores the skills of falling, rolling, counterbalance, lifting using minimal effort, how to make ourselves light when being lifted, centering and breathing techniques, and responsiveness to our partners and surroundings." - ContactImprov.com
Just like the dance itself, the definition of Contact Improv resists the usual urge to taxonomically classify things. People engage in it both as a physical exercise, and also as a philosophy. It can be a strictly postmodern dance, or encompass New Age folkism.
Because it's such a slippery creature to intellectually wrestle with, I decided to give it a go myself.
(Special thanks to the Contact Improv, Singapore Community and the featured dancers who so kindly granted me permission to photograph this session. Taken on Ilford and Kodak films. All photographs © Nicholas Koh.)