Consent Culture in Contact Improvisation SYMPOSIUM

With Kathleen Rea, Keith Hennessy, Leslie Heydon, Nicole Bindler, Richard Kim, Rythea Lee, Sasha Lasdon & Vivek Patel

April 18, 2020 - 12:00pm to April 19, 2020 - 5:00pm

Programming category: 

An ONLINE forum for CI teachers and committed practitioners to cross-pollinate ideas and strategies toward safer CI spaces

Curated by Nicole Bindler, Deirdre Morris & Vivek Patel

~ Due to the current pandemic, the Consent Culture in Contact Improvisation Symposium has been moved to a new online format on Zoom. See the schedule below. ~

There have been many recent developments in the past few years around best practices for safer CI spaces. This two-day online symposium gathers some of the innovators and thinkers around this topic to share their ideas, push the conversation forward, and further develop inclusive, consent-oriented CI pedagogy. We will grapple with hard questions around accountability, engaging in this work cross-culturally, and sustaining these endeavors for the long haul. We will emphasize community care and process over outcomes. 

The weekend will include presentations, discussions, and CI experiences conducted through Zoom that will focus on consent practices, inclusion, and intersectionality. Additional videos from the presenters will be provided to participants to view beforehand at their own leisure.

We will embrace our differences. We will approach this meeting as a beginning.

All CI practitioners of any level of experience are invited to apply to participate in this special event, but priority will go toward applicants who intend to bring the information back to their home CI communities, organizers and facilitators who are looking for tools to create safer CI spaces, and teachers who will incorporate the material in their classes.

Earthdance enthusiastically encourages participation across social differences including race, sexual identity, gender, age, class, and ability. Earthdance is committed to ongoing learning about identity-based privileges, marginalization, inherent power dynamics, and how to be a more inclusive, equitable space. We have accommodations available for those who use mobility devices. Please inquire with your accessibility needs: email

In order to reserve your spot you must first apply to participate in the event and be accepted. Once accepted you will be invited to register and pay. Application deadline extended until April 10.

Apply Here

Our Fees Explained
Our fees are priced on a sliding scale to help allow for a diversity of people to attend. We ask that you please pay at the highest level you can afford:

The Sustainer Rate is for those able to help sustain someone else’s tuition.
The Full Rate is for those comfortably able to pay at cost (what it costs for Earthdance to run this program).
The Subsidized Rate is for those needing financial assistance to attend.

Pricing for Tuition (prices have been adjusted for the new online format)
$205 Sustainer Rate
$165 Full Rate
$125 Subsidized Rate

Earthdance Cancellation Policy

Schedule (all times in EDT)
Saturday, April 18, 12–5pm

  • 12–12:10pm Greetings from organizers, orientation to Zoom
  • 12:10–12:20pm Opening remarks by Deirdre Morris
  • 12:20–12:30pm Community agreements facilitated by Nicole Bindler
  • 12:45–1:30pm Beyond Sex: consent as liberation with Nicole Bindler
  • 1:45–2:30pm Write it down! a retrospective and call to action with Richard Kim
  • 2:45–3:30pm Trauma Informed CI: A Way into Understanding Consent with Rythea Lee
  • 3:45–4:30pm Supporting Neurodiversity in Contact Improvisation with Kathleen Rea
  • 4:45–5:00pm Integration with Deirdre Morris

Sunday, April 19, 12–5pm

  • 12–12:15pm Opening remarks by Vivek Patel
  • 12:15–1pm The Colour of Consent with Leslie Heydon
  • 1:15–2pm Pleased to meet you. I'm human too. with Vivek Patel
  • 2:15–3pm CI and Consent with a Midwestern Queer Perspective: the power of ensembling in breaking heteronormative touch norms of the form with Sasha Lasdon
  • 3:15–4pm Dancing Magic Together / Earthdance with Keith Hennessy
  • 4:15–4:45pm Integration with Deirdre Morris

Symposium Presentations

Supporting Neurodiversity in Contact Improvisation with Kathleen Rea
This is a class that gives an overview of neurodiversity and provides experiential learning as well as practical applications to teaching. Why is this class at a Consent Symposium? When we see who is in the room they feel seen. When we make room for difference this creates a more even playing field that supports the building of consent culture.

Kathleen Rea has choreographed over 40 dance works and teaches Contact Dance Improvisation at George Brown Dance. She is a published author (“The Healing Dance”, Charles C. Thomas). Kathleen has a Master’s in Expressive Arts Therapy and is a candidate teacher of the Axis Syllabus. She directs REAson d’etre dance productions through which she produces both the Wednesday Dance Jam and the Contact Dance International Film Festival. She created and writes for the Contact Improv Consent Culture blog.


Dancing Magic Together / Earthdance with Keith Hennessy
Exploring the poetics, politics, and potentials of creating a shared world by dancing together. We will dance and talk supported by ritual technologies of divination, ancestors, elements, care, and prayer. We'll consider the symbolic and metaphoric aspects of dancing together as well as the real intimacy of what is happening right here and now. Engaging decolonial and queer-feminist practices of consent and collaboration this will be a futurist laboratory that knows that another world is possible and it will be improvised.

Magic involves poetic and embodied action in a ritualized context to influence both consciousness and material realities. The pretend influences the real. Working with dancing, somatics, tarot, political analysis, and spell crafting we will create a laboratory of activist magic.

Keith Hennessy, MFA, PhD dances in and around performance. Born in Sudbury Canada, he lives in San Francisco since 1982 and tours internationally. He started dancing CI in Montréal in 1979 and has been practicing-teaching-studying-critiquing improvised dance and CI cultures ever since. Keith's doctoral research is a critical race and queer analysis of CI, which is summarized in the zine Questioning Contact Improvisation. Practices inspired by anarchism, critical whiteness, contemporary dance, activist art, the Bay Area, wicca, punk, CI, indigeneity, and queer-feminism motivate and mobilize Hennessy’s work. Prioritizing collaboration, often across lines of difference, Keith’s recent collaborators include Peaches, Meg Stuart, Scott Wells, Jassem Hindi, J Jha, Annie Danger, Gerald Casel, Snowflake Towers (Yoeme, Mayan), Starhawk, the punk band Hemorage, and the BIPOC collaboratives Blank Map and Circle X. Keith's writings have been published in CQ, Movement Research, community dance blogs and several academic journals. Hennessy directs Circo Zero and was a member of Contraband with Sara Shelton Mann. Hennessy is a co-founder of CounterPULSE (formerly 848 Community Space) a thriving performance space in San Francisco.

The Colour of Consent with Leslie Heydon

My presentation is focused on the interaction between systemic racism and the development of consent culture. We will examine how race affects both implicit and explicit consent and explore how these mechanisms function consciously and unconsciously.

The presentation will consist of three sections: a short interactive lecture, a set of experiential movement exercises, and a generous period for questions and group discussion. The material will be examined in a Contact Improvisational Dance based format. The presentation is based on an experiential adult learning model where questions, exploration and “mistakes” are welcome and form the basis for embodied learning and growth.

Leslie Heydon was raised by amateur, dedicated dancers and remembers her grandmother going dancing Saturday nights in gold sparkled shoes. She earned a BA in Psychology and Fine Arts and trained as an Expressive Arts Therapist. Leslie worked in Addictions, in specialized programs for Women and Black youth, providing individual therapy and facilitating groups. Meanwhile she completed an Outdoor Leadership program at Outward Bound. Twenty years ago, Leslie started dancing 5 Rhythms. In 2016, after years of toe-dipping, she began the practice of Contact Improvisational Dance in earnest. She facilities a monthly Person of Colour CI Jam and is on the Toronto Sunday Contact Jam Safety Committee. These experiences sharpened Leslie’s awareness of consent culture. Attending a multi-day Wheel of Consent workshop with Betty Martin sparked her desire to delve further, particularly into how gender, race and other dimensions of identity and power impact consent culture within CI. Her passion is to explore and guide, in the outdoor wilderness, on the dance floor and in the internal wilderness of the soul.

Beyond Sex: consent as liberation with Nicole Bindler
Nicole Bindler offers an intersectional approach to cultivating consent culture within CI spaces by addressing the ways that everyone—but particularly those who come from marginalized populations—has a need for bodily autonomy and freedom of movement. In CI spaces, people who hold minority identities, including but not limited to people of color, queers, and folks with disabilities, in addition to experiencing overt bodily trespasses, are often subject to a more subtle coercion by those who hold dominant identities to conform to unspoken and sometimes unconscious social norms. 

To build truly consensual spaces, we must broaden our definition of consent to include more nuanced analyses around power dynamics, conformity, and assimilation in our communities. Bindler will share some common challenges that arise in many CI communities around these issues, and strategies for shifting resistance to change. She will also pose questions about how to do this work in solidarity with those who are most often silenced while humanizing everyone, and with an emphasis on transformative justice over punitive systems.

Nicole Bindler is a Philadelphia-based dance-maker, somatics practitioner, educator, writer, and activist. She is a practitioner of Body-Mind Centering and has been practicing CI since 1997. Her performance work and teaching have been presented at festivals, conferences, and intensives throughout the U.S., Canada, Argentina, Europe, and in Tokyo, Beirut, Bethlehem, Mexico City, and Quito. 

Her current projects include teaching about consent culture and disability justice in contact improvisation; somatic research on the embryology of the genitalia from a non-binary perspective; and collaborations with Diyar Theatre in Bethlehem, Palestine. She organizes with Jewish Voice for Peace-Philadelphia and as a member of Earthdance’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. 

Her writing on dance, somatics, and politics has been published in Critical Correspondence, Contact Quarterly, Emergency Index by Ugly Duckling Presse, Jewish Currents, BMC® Currents, Curate This, Journal of Dance & Somatic Practices, Somatics Toolkit, Amercian Jewish Studies Perspectives, and thINKingDANCE.

Write it down! a retrospective and call to action with Richard Kim
How did we get here and why did it take so long? I'll give a talk exploring the history of CI around issues of consent, boundaries, and sexuality, through the lens of published materials (and with observations about what has NOT been published), including a review of recent writings on the subject. I'll compare recent materials to older materials, draw lessons as to what has been successful about recent writings in forwarding change, make a case for generating more written material, and give my thoughts as to what makes an effective published piece. Learn about the history of CI writings on these subjects, find out about the latest published pieces, find resources for staying up to date, and learn how to contribute to the dialogue.

Richard Kim: I'm a CI dancer, teacher, and organizer, as well as an improvising musician, technologist, and lawyer. In 2014 I created the Earthdance Diversity Scholarship with Sarah Young, and oversaw the Scholarship's development from 2014 to 2019. Since 2019, I've been a member of Earthdance's Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI) Committee, which seeks to foster equitable and inclusive environments at Earthdance and beyond. I'm the DEI liaison to Earthdance's S&R Working Group, and taught the Safety & Respect class at the Falling Leaves Jam 2019. I was a local jam facilitator in New York City and Los Angeles, and was an organizer of Shift: The 2012 New York City Fall Equinox Jam. Since 2018, I've been publishing the writings of Sarah Gottlieb on ethical sexuality in CI on my blog, I've published four pieces by Sarah so far , with more to come. I live and dance in New York City.

Trauma Informed CI: A Way into Understanding Consent with Rythea Lee
Trauma affects all parts of CI: how we perceive, move, breathe, create boundaries, allow desire, choose, discern, express, and offer our innate exuberance. Trauma impacts our nervous system and its ability to process and respond: it directly affects our ability to give consent.

Rythea will present information on how trauma education impacts our own physical and emotional safety on the dance floor, gives us tools to recognize trauma in other people, and then in the space at large. Even if you do not identify as having trauma, this material is crucial as part of our collective understanding on how to care for each other.

The specific topics offered include information on Flight, Fight, Freeze, and Fawn trauma responses, and how they relate to giving and receiving consent. We will discuss and engage with these ideas through information and then somatic exploration.

Rythea Lee is a long time contact dancer (loves it so much!) with a huge passion for transformational creative practices. She sees art-making as a heightened conversation with potential to shift consciousness for all involved. Her current projects are: recently finished performing her one woman show “Impermanence is Exhausting” in Northampton, is now going to travel the show to Lawrence University in Wisconsin; in the midst of publishing a curriculum that goes with her 20-episode youtube show “Advice from a Loving Bitch”, teaches radical Peer Counseling courses, homeschools rambunctious child, makes random music videos, and runs a booming therapy practice. She’s fired up about consent and empowering people from all walks of life to joyfully say “fuck off” when needed.

CI and Consent with a Midwestern Queer Perspective: the power of ensembling in breaking heteronormative touch norms of the form with Sasha Lasdon
How does a focus on the duet in CI support heteronormative dancing? What do longstanding queer leadership and ensemble sensibilities have to do with each other? How does a community with consistency in dancing together over years balance with welcoming newcomers? What do urban, small town, academic town, and rural dance scenes have to teach each other about who shows up and how we dance together? Where do institutional memory, culture building, improvisational forms, and power sharing come together? And just who keeps the money?
With almost two decades of perspective and direct experience, I will offer a historical overview of our flyover territory regional community and its networked infrastructures, with a lens towards queer power. I'll share what we’ve done with jam guidelines, inclusion and justice scholarships, affinity jams, care teams and building accessibility structures to build on years of dancing together, sharing leadership, and potlucks.

Sasha Lasdon (they/them) discovered CI in a basement queer club long before getting to a jam or workshop. They are based in Madison, WI and dance, teach and co-organize in the GLACIER regional CI network. In addition to their dance work, they practice as a Somatic Sex Educator, with a focus on embodied and experiential education and consent with individuals and groups. They teach Betty Martin’s Wheel of Consent work and have incorporated those teachings into the vast experiment of CI as a score. Their other movement homes are stiltwalking, wallrunning and things involving glitter and flight.


Pleased to meet you. I'm human too. with Vivek Patel
My relationship to consent has been shaped primarily by three factors: Conscious Parenting, experiencing a life of racism, and my decades as a feminist ally. 

It is a profound thing to think about consent with one foot in an oppressor demographic and one in a marginalized demographic. I lived with a daily experience of racism growing up in the 70's as a non-white kid (my family is from India) in a white culture that taught me that there were people who didn't see me as fully human. There was a hierarchy of human worth and I had my place in it. 

This hierarchy revealed itself to me again in the early 90's when I had my feminist awakening. For the first time I saw my internalized misogyny and recognized myself as oppressor.

Knowing oppression from both sides I refused to relate to my child from that paradigm. That meant not relating to her from a hierarchy of human worth. This is what led me to develop a philosophy of Conscious Parenting.

As a contact improv dancer, teacher, and lifelong student, it is astonishing to me how similar CI and Conscious Parenting are in both principles and practice. This workshop will explore this connection and how it relates to feminist/anti-racist work and resisting the hierarchy of human worth.

Vivek Patel has been teaching Conscious Parenting concepts to families for over 10 years. His daughter is 22 and they're best friends. The ideas he shares have helped mend many broken relationships between parents and their kids and bring more peace and harmony to families. He cares deeply about empowering parents to develop more harmonious relationships with their kids using a powerful parenting model based on: Collaboration, Connection, Acceptance and Reasoning. Vivek is also a Contact Improv dancer and teacher. After 14 years he still learns something new every time he dances. Dance deeply affects all aspects of his being - physical, mental, emotional and Spiritual. As martial artist who has been teaching and practicing Ninjutsu for 30 years, he deeply integrates martial arts principles into his dancing. Both arts serve to make him a better person. 


photos © Lindsay Swan (top)