Kuva: Ronja Verkasalo

Kontakti-Improvisaatio Finland.net


What is CI?


General introduction

Contact improvisation is a form of dance and movement based on interaction with one or more partners. The contact between dancers is not similar to contact sports (martial arts) but it's more like a general tool to join dancers and dances into one single dance.

Contact improvisation (CI) is based on improvisation, so usually it does not have any strict given rhythm or choreography although some practiced movement patterns are often present in some form. In this sense, CI can be more approachable than some other more strictly defined forms of dance. One can practice CI basically without any experience in any dance. Everyone can do it according to their physical and other limitations – including the blind. What is required is a little bit of openmindedness, particularly in communicating with touch. Classical dances (waltz, tango, ...) are an excellent way to begin.

A fundamental element of CI is "sending" and "receiving" through touch. By practicing CI the body learns to use touch as a communicating tool. The interaction in CI is based tactile sense (touch) which is often neglected in our normal day-to-day interaction. However, activating tactile sense can have very strong positive influence on both body and mind.

In guided teaching you can learn some common and safe movement patterns that can be used while dancing or in some applied form. Practicing CI helps you get to know your body better. The best way to learn CI is by practicing it by following your own and your partners senses and limitations. Watching can also sometimes be very useful.


In addition to guided teaching, CI is done in so-called jams, where people dance in pairs or in some other forms. The jams can be either free form jams or they can have some fixed structure, for instance silent jams, where speaking, singing, etc. is not allowed (see also Saturday practice score below). In free jams there are some rules to be followed. See more below [jam code].

Jam code
Some instructions and guidelines, mainly concerning general safety, are listed in the following:
  • It is worth warming up – both for your own sake and for that of other dancers. Warm-up can be done in the way that suits you best – alone or together
  • Do not leave any socks, shirts, etc. lying on the floor on which people can slip. Take them to the sides of the space – even if they are not yours!
  • Lying down, general hanging around and very slow dances should be done towards the sides of the space, so that there is space for faster dance at the center. Of course, this rule depends on the jam.
  • You can freely refuse to dance with somebody. You can also start and end a dance without any excuses. Although it can be worth changing a word or few if you feel so. It can also be a good idea to mention beforehand to your partner if you have some injuries or wishes about the dance.
  • Sharp objects (watches, diamonds...) should be removed or kept in a safe place. Fingernails should be kept short.


Contact Improvisation Practice Score - structure for Saturday sessions
A supportive structure in which to practice and research contact improvisation which is followed in Zodiak's Saturday sessions (by Malcolm Manning):
  • Arrival time 20 minutes, after which the door is closed and no entrance is allowed - time to meet, get ready to practice, begin your warm-up - talking is permitted
  • Opening circle 10 minutes where everyone can share their questions, intention for the practice, let others know about any injuries, etc - the structure is explained for first-timers
  • Warming up and dancing time 120 minutes. You can also solo, watch, take a nap, etc., but whatever you do you are always "in" the group structure. We each commit to not using words during the dancing time (unless there's an emergency). A signal is given by the facilitator 15 minutes before the end. We all try to find an ending together
  • 10 minutes on own your own to recover and cool down. We maintain the commitment not to use words
  • 20 minutes closing circle for checking in with each other and sharing our discoveries, after which we leave the space.
  • No partial participation. If you take part, you commit to being present for the whole structure (180 minutes)


About safety

CI can sometime look very acrobatic and wild and sometimes it is so. However, since CI is done with other persons, one should keep the dance at a level where you feel comfortable and safe. Wilder and more acrobatic things should be postponed until you are ready for them. The following three points about safety are good to remember:

  • If something doesn't feel safe it probably isn't
  • Respect others as much you respect yourself – and yourself as much you respect others
  • It's better to "stretch" your limits than to break them

You should always respect your own dance – if your partner is dancing in a very wild way and you don't feel comfortable with it, you have every right (and duty) to dance in a way that you feel comfortable with – or end the dance.