On Why You Should Try Contact Improvisation if the Idea Terrifies You

We live in a culture that tends to support us doing what we’re good at. No? And, of course, this has its merit: you don’t want the doc doing your shoulder surgery in the room getting by on her efforts alone; she has to be a good surgeon.

It also has its downfalls.

Take a movement practice, for example. We tend to — and are often socially rewarded to — do what we’re already predisposed to do well. Flexible people get really into yoga; Viking-heritage types lift weights or do CrossFit; people who like control find practices that reward control, and those who find it easy to fully let go practice forms that head in that direction.

And, to quote Taylor Swift, all the meditators gonna meditate …

What we can gain from diving deeply into something we’re naturally predisposed to: a deep, long-lasting relationship with a form or forms that resonate with us at a cellular level, that may even be part of our genetic makeup, a sense of ease in going the direction we’re already going, in loving ourselves as we are. All that is beautiful!

What we can miss out on, though, is what in modern medical terms is something like neural plasticity — that is, our continued ability to joyfully adapt to our environment.

(Like you have to do as a child. And so this is a sidenote, but consider “your inner child” less about ice cream cones and playgrounds, and doing whatever the hell you want all the time, and more about cultivating and nurturing a kind of plasticity within the whole schema of “who I am.” It’s about relating to REALITY, not necessarily getting met now all the needs that were unmet as a child.)

Take Contact Improvisation, a form of dance where the dancers are often very much in a state of surrender. If you’re a super flow-y, groovy character who easily releases into the weight of a partner, then you’re going to find this a natural language.

However, if you are like most of us, and have some significant traumas in the body — and who knows where this is from! maybe your life, maybe an epi-genetic imprint of traumas your ancestors experienced, or from how you’re a sensitive being and the outside world can and does traumatize us in fundamental ways … all that to say, no blame for anyone’s tension or holding; “just let go” is often some of the worst advice out there — if that’s you: then Contact Improvisation can become a real, life-changing practice and art.

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One class or 100? Who cares? This is for YOU.

And you’re dancing – working, playing, being — at the interface of where you’re holding tension, and the forces streaming through your skin and bones. Wherever that interface is, who cares? If the moment you start to tip your head back at all you feel a kind of primitive panic: beautiful, there you are. If you can do a full back bend with pliable, supple spinal tissues all the while, fully oriented to the 360 degree space around you: beautiful, there you are.

Looking flow-y and groovy only looks cool. (And even that only to a certain aesthetic.)

Enter into an arena where you are not the top dog, and enter into that arena because you are not the top dog.

Here’s to your radiantly beautiful self, exactly as it is right now, without a thing to prove or hold fast to. Here’s to non-dancers dancing, and our collective vision to offer sweet encouragement to those people ESPECIALLY. Here’s to our deaths, to what is already fallen away by the time you read these words, and these, and to experience that—go all the way—before these bodies expire. It’s never as bad as we think it’ll be.

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