2017 CI Ground Research (CIGR)

Curated by Aaron Brando with Research Catalysts Romain Bigé and Kristin Horrigan

March 12, 2017 - 5:00pm to March 16, 2017 - 5:00pm

Programming category: 

CIGR is a week-long artist residency for seasoned improvisation dancers to engage in research and pedagogy through open dancing, labbing and discussion, culminating in the Spring Equinox Jam. We delve deeply into the practice of Contact Improvisation together. For more information and to apply, click HERE

This year's thematic content:

Gender, Philosophy and CI

Philosophy, food for dancing

Philosophy is a practice that tries to challenge our preconceived ideas. It’s often technical, sometimes boring, but from time to time, it can bring a lot of joy in new understandings of reality. For this CI Ground Research, our intention is to use philosophical texts as seeds for dancing and naming our dancers’ experiences. Our research catalysts, Romain Bigé and Kristin Horrigan, will propose several authors and notions to work on (texts from philosophers like Bergson and Merleau-Ponty, or dance improvisers like Steve Paxton and Lisa Nelson) as a way to trigger and illuminate our experience of dance. The intention is to dance with these texts and ideas, letting them give their weight to our practice, but also, letting our practice shape our understanding of them.

Focus on gender

As an addition to these philosophical perspectives, we would like to bring a special focus to our conversations, looking at gender dynamics in these, and reflecting more broadly on domination issues in the teaching and practice of Contact. Certainly, Contact promotes an equality in gender uncommon in dance and sports: women lifting men, relatively gender-neutral clothing, an absence of proscribed gender-roles... But even if we usually practice egalitarian “speaking circles”, even if non-violent approaches to exchanges remain common (“yes and…” instead of “no” or “yes but…”, speaking from one’s point of view, listening and not reacting…), gendered power dynamics surface when we come back to talking and/or organize around CI. Do those raised as “men” take up more space in conversation circles than those raised as “women”? Who feels comfortable speaking up quickly or interrupting? Do gendered styles of speaking lead us to take some ideas more seriously than others? Do we divide the labor of producing CI events by gender roles? 

Framing research

Contact Improvisation is the practice that we share and love. It is our common language. CIGR is a unique opportunity for a residential in-depth practice of the form with a concentrated number of experienced practitioners. Our intention is to use this common language to research different areas of our expertise as dancers, body-workers, teachers, humans, citizens... Contact Improvisation, in this “Ground Research”, is not the answer to any question that we may ask: it is our way of communicating together to refine our interrogations. The gender issue, in Contact, is a good example of that: Contact is not an answer to gender domination (it does not erase it)–but the precise sensitivity required for the practice allows us to study when and how gender-bias emerges in our ways of relating to each other.

There are many ways to practice research through Contact Improvisation, and each participant will come with their own questions, states and methods. We propose to bring into focus a specific practice of research, that of using philosophical texts to illuminate experience, but we do not intend to control the content of our investigation. As facilitators, we will provide a selection of questions and ideas as a starting point; but Earthdance library is big, and participants will be invited either to share readings they find, or to bring books/articles/quotations/etc. that they’d be curious to research and expand on during the week.

Depending on the day, depending on the topics, each participant will have a different range of interest and desire to share in the research: some might prefer proposing structures, others might enjoy the ride along. It is crucial that we work within these differences. Negotiating with each other is not just a preliminary to research—it is the incubator in which novel ways of understanding the world can emerge.