Updated November 2022
Earthdance aims to cultivate a Contact Improvisation (CI) culture of interdependent care and growing self awareness. The purpose of these CI Jam Guidelines is to help create a container within which we can dance, grow, learn, play, and heal through this form of Contact Improvisation. This living document also aims to name and cultivate awareness of the diversity of experiences that are present in a CI jam space.
Every participant in a jam is contributing to a co-created space. We invite you to contribute something Amazing! Beautiful! Silly! Supportive! Profound! Authentic! Generous! Playful! Loving! Honest! If your expression causes harm to someone, we hope you will be open to feedback or a “calling in” with curiosity, compassion for self and other, and an openness to repair and learn; feedback may come in various forms from your dance collaborator, a facilitator/host, or another participant.
During your time at Earthdance, we ask that you take on the following principles, both while actively dancing and while in or around the jam space.
Listen Well to Others
Tracking and looking for non-verbal as well as verbal cues not only supports a dynamic, engaged dance, but also helps you and your dance partners be safer, physically and emotionally . Listen to and honor what a person’s body, energy, and words are saying. Your non-verbal listening and communication skills will improve as you practice. Personal and interpersonal dynamics can greatly impact one’s ability to set boundaries, to use one’s voice, and to self-care. You cannot assume someone is always able to name and assert their boundaries and needs.
- Look and listen for non-verbal NOs as well as YESes, both when starting a dance as well as throughout the dance. If you’re uncertain about whether someone has communicated a non-verbal NO, feel free to ask your partner verbally.
- If you’re unsure how a dance is going but you want to stay with it, ask the person you’re dancing with.
What is something you could say or do to check-in if you’re reading your partner accurately?
Listen to Yourself and Set Boundaries
Continuing to develop our individual skills of boundary setting, tracking our needs and safety – physically and emotionally— and learning how to set our boundaries are important CI skills.
- You can leave or end a dance AT ANY TIME FOR ANY REASON.
- You don’t need to know why something is a “no” for you but practicing honoring your own ”yes” and “no” can make for more aligned dances. In this spirit, if someone leaves your dance, practice not taking it personally.
- Check in with yourself, notice what you are bringing with you in terms of agenda, expectations, attachments and how it affects the choices you make.
- There is also an underlying principle of self-determination in contact. This includes dancing and behaving in such a way that allows others to be free to take care of themselves—avoid grabbing or manipulation techniques.
Practice saying “no” and “yes” both verbally and physically, how does it feel for you?
Be Aware of Complex Dynamics of Power & Personal Identity
We each bring to the space and dance a range of lived experiences, identities, and histories. Power and historical dynamics may exist in varying degrees in the room due to race, ethnicity, age, sexual or gender identity, socio-economic status, immigration status, physical ability, body type, body size, and religious beliefs. Some people with marginalized identities may carry with them varying degrees of experienced oppression. What one person may consider a “safe” space, another person may feel unseen in, racially tokenized, and/or guarded for various reasons. Being curious and aware of these dynamics and the varying effects of them in the room is a starting place.
Some questions to ponder: What power and privilege might you be bringing into the space? What assumptions might you be making? How might you bring care and curiosity to a dynamic which might lessen the potential for harm, and/or increase belonging for all involved?
Consent & Boundaries: Meeting and Responding to Sexuality & Sensuality in CI
In this form that relies primarily on touch for communication, questions can come up for dancers around physical, emotional, and/or sexual boundaries. Two important sets of skills are the ability to self-modulate in response to sensations, emotions or situations, as well as the ability and capacity to communicate one’s own boundaries verbally and non-verbally. Again, it’s very important to know that some individuals carry complex trauma histories that are not immediately obvious, and may spontaneously arise during a dance or CI jam event, which may affect their ability to voice their boundary or to self-regulate.
It’s normal to have sensual or sexual sensations in the course of practicing contact improvisation, and it is not wrong to have these sensations. However, actively pursuing these sensations on the dance floor may be felt as threatening, uncomfortable, or distracting to your dance partners or others in the space, and may cause you to be less sensitive to your partners’ needs and feelings. We encourage you not to think of the CI dance floor as a place to pursue these sensations.
- If you feel a boundary has been crossed and want support, reach out to a host or staff
- If you find yourself unclear on someone’s motivations, try ending the dance and inviting a conversation off the dance floor.
How could you respond to non-consensual sexual dynamics if/when they arise for you or someone you’re dancing with?
The Jam is a Focused Environment
Please be mindful of the space around you, in particular if you are dancing with speed, large movements, or other potentially risky ways of moving. The jam is meant for the practice of contact improvisation and related movement practices. Please keep social/casual conversation outside the dance space. Be mindful of how sound and language affect the space; sounds or words that are a part of the dance are quite welcome, and communication particularly about safety and boundaries are encouraged!
We invite you to be an active conscious participant in tending the jam space. Here are some suggestions:
- Check in with your dance partner(s) about the impact of your dance.
- Have shorter dances with new dancers who might feel shy/unskilled with leaving a dance.
- Check in with someone if you notice they might be having a hard time, be aware that power dynamics are woven into the fabric of this space and understand your particular role(s) and responsibilities.
- Check in with a Safety and Care team member, facilitator/host or ED staff member if you see something you’re unsure about.
- CI dances can range from slow and quiet to fast and athletic, and everything in between. Please ensure you are sufficiently warmed up for what you are doing.
- Cultivate awareness of self, others, and the jam environment in general – it’s suggested to keep your eyes open. Expand your awareness and vision beyond your own dance to the connections between dances and across the room.
- “Grazing” (warming up to interaction with others and the environment through a series of short connections) is a simple, pleasurable way to experience dances. Grazing could last for a few seconds or several minutes.
- Witnessing is a vital part of the form. Please feel welcome to watch from the periphery of the dancing space. Witnessing can be a great opportunity for learning, and can be supportive for the people dancing.
Ask Questions. Earthdance guests are welcome to speak with identified “support” people, facilitators and/or Earthdance staff members who can assist in finding qualified people to address each individual’s needs or questions. Earthdance is honored and excited to have you here as part of a CI Jam or dance event!
If you have questions before or after a jam you an email firstname.lastname@example.org.