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In()Flux: Contact Improvisation & Steve Paxton

I was suspended for a moment on my partner’s shoulder before falling to [the] ground… I softened, spread, and rolled… folding to continue the dance, I caught the pelvis flying toward my chest… As he dove I grounded, finding a one-legged apex of balance held only for seconds… and we continued… For the last few […]

BodyCartography Project workshop/Fritz Haeg’s Domestic Integrities at the Walker Art Center. Photo: Gene Pittman

I was suspended for a moment on my partner’s shoulder before falling to [the] ground… I softened, spread, and rolled… folding to continue the dance, I caught the pelvis flying toward my chest… As he dove I grounded, finding a one-legged apex of balance held only for seconds… and we continued…

For the last few weeks on Monday evening,  the Cowles Center Target Studio has played host to participants engaging in contact improvisation, a dance form developed in the 1970s, instigated by Steve Paxton. Often done in duet or small groups, it has been described as an “art-sport,” combining elements of social dance, rules of physics, aikido, wrestling, and modern dance.

“The dancers in contact improvisation focus on the physical sensations of touching, leaning, supporting, counterbalancing and falling with other people, thus carrying out a dialogue.” (Cynthia Novack, Sharing the Dance)

Contact Improvisation (CI) has been alive in the Twin Cities for a long time. HIJACK has been teaching a class at Zenon’s dance school since 2000, and Morgan Thorson has taught a beginning CI class at the University of Minnesota since 2002. Patrick Scully, a pillar of the Twin Cities dance community, is an anchor for contact improvisation. He has been an advocate for the form, its teachers, and practitioners, and he has continued to attend jams over the years. In collaboration with the CI series, he will present a fireside chat on CI’s presence and evolution in the Twin Cities. Former resident Chris Aiken, now an internationally known CI teacher, taught locally from 1989 until 2000 and was the first ongoing contact improvisation teacher at the University of Minnesota. The emergence of this new series feels compelled by the upcoming events with Steve Paxton at the Walker Art Center this fall.

Steve Paxton and Lisa Nelson. Photo: Paula Court

I’ve been imagining contact improvisation as a room with many doors. For me the practice of CI is a rigorous commitment to embodied listening, agency, and spontaneity. This practice can lead many directions and be used as a tool to create community, to foster self-awareness, to inform partnering choreography, to understand a three-dimensional body in space, and to inspire nuanced choreographic structures.

The form can be used to inspire or train for performance and as its own performance modality. Within the dance world, improvisation is sometimes referred to as lazy, unrefined, “doing whatever you want,” but now we have an opportunity to reset this idea. Through the CI series and the performances and events surrounding Steve Paxton’s and Lisa Nelson’s visit, dancers and audiences can explore the many layers – physical and intellectual – that contribute to the phenomenon that has endured for more than 40 years. Witnessing the sheer magic that lives in an unplanned moment, executed by individuals with a mature practice in the unknown. In a way this series is readying our pallet for Paxton and Nelson’s upcoming work and his longtime commitment to structures of improvisation within performance.

…pause, I gesture with fingers and knee simultaneously to the body on the other side of the stage, he responds, I respond, then we are together…moving as a two headed, multi-limbed being, surfing pelvis over pelvis, upside down, I’m head over heels and weak in the knees… I’m exhausted, not knowing what might come next, I shout “Go”…and we continue.

To find out more about Twin Cities Contact Improvisation classes and lectures, visit BodyCartography Project’s upcoming events.

Writer Taja Will is a Twin Cities based choreographer, educator and improviser. This year’s WAC Choreographer’s Evening, curated by Kenna Cottman, will include an improvised work by Will and long-time collaborator Blake Nellis.

Building The Room Nobody Knows

As a part of Out There 2014: New World Visions, the Walker presents Japanese performance group Niwa Gekidan Penino’s The Room Nobody Knows, a personal, psychosexual account of the competitive strain between two brothers. The piece is rife with Freudian imagery, with phallic shapes forming much of the set and props, as company director Kuro Tanino intersects […]

As a part of Out There 2014: New World Visions, the Walker presents Japanese performance group Niwa Gekidan Penino’s The Room Nobody Knows, a personal, psychosexual account of the competitive strain between two brothers. The piece is rife with Freudian imagery, with phallic shapes forming much of the set and props, as company director Kuro Tanino intersects his experience as a practicing psychiatrist with his work on the stage. Intricate, surreal sets are a hallmark of Niwa Gekidan Penino’s shows. Works of art on their own, their sets are often opened as miniature exhibits before the narrative or characters that inhabit the space are even conceived. Of course, the process of setting up such a space is equally as detailed as the space itself.

This time-lapse video shows the set’s careful recreation at the show’s North American debut at the Japan Society in New York City. This construction (and deconstruction) will happen a number of times over the next few weeks: the Walker is the second stop on a tour that also hits On the Boards (Seattle, WA), FringeArts (Philadelphia, PA), and the Wexner Center for the Arts (Columbus, Ohio).  Audiences at the Walker will be placed on the McGuire stage with the performers for an intimate look at this symbolic world and its story. (For another chance to interact with director Kuro Tanino, consider Inside Out There: Niwa Gekian Penino, an acting workshop that will perform a surgery in silence.)

In a recent interview with the Walker, Tanino provided some advice for his audience: “Please build a house and have a room in your mind somewhere. Put your secret emotions, curiosities you can’t tell anyone, and your dangerous illusions there. The room will instantly be filled, almost to the point of exploding. Lock your room then, and open the door with the key after you see the show.” This set, bursting with these curiosities and illusions, is such a room, and he has left his door wide open. See how yours compares.

Niwa Gekidan Penino performs The Room Nobody Knows Thursday, January 16, at 8 pm (SOLD OUT) and Friday and Saturday, January 17-18, at 7 and 9:30 pm in the McGuire Theater. Very limited seating.

Backstage Haiku: Back to Back Theater

The last Out There show! The sets and lights will delight… Ganesh says “GO NOW!”  

The last Out There show!

The sets and lights will delight…

Ganesh says “GO NOW!”

 

Head of Ganesh

Head of Ganesh

Backstage Haiku: She She Pop

She She Pop load in! Despite a long list of notes, s quick photo op!

She She Pop load in!

Despite a long list of notes,

s quick photo op!

Serious

Serious

Backstage Haiku: The Rude Mechs

  Come watch this tiger (possibly) eat an actor! Rude Mechanicals.

Ready to eat a Liz, a John or a Beth...but not a bird

Ready to eat a Liz, a John or a Beth…but not a bird

 

Come watch this tiger

(possibly) eat an actor!

Rude Mechanicals.

Backstage Haiku- Nels Cline

Audio line check. Man, that’s a LOT of backline for Nels Cline tonight!    

Audio line check.

Man, that’s a LOT of backline

for Nels Cline tonight!

 

setting monitor levels for Nels Cline

 

Backstage Haiku- Laurie Anderson

Crew member Karen is standing in for Laurie for writing light cues!

Crew member Karen

is standing in for Laurie

for writing light cues!

…being Laurie Anderson (temporarily)

Backstage Haiku- Voices of Strength

Curiosity- To make a bottle curtain? a THOUSAND bottles!

Curiosity-

To make a bottle curtain?

a THOUSAND bottles!

Running crew member Jeff strikes the bottle curtain

Running crew member Jeff strikes the bottle curtain

Backstage Haiku- Body Cartography

Next show coming up? It’s Body Cartography… Check out those shadows!  

Next show coming up?

It’s Body Cartography…

Check out those shadows!

 

teching "Supernatural"

standing stage right

Video: Making Music with Sō Percussion & Emily Johnson

Making Music host James Everest sits down for an artist talk with the classically trained musicians of Sō Percussion and their collaborators for their latest work (and Walker Commission/World Premiere) Where (we) Live. Director Ain Gordon and choreographer Emily Johnson share their insights about the nature of collaboration, performance, and improvisation. Gordon discusses his role in […]

Making Music host James Everest sits down for an artist talk with the classically trained musicians of Sō Percussion and their collaborators for their latest work (and Walker Commission/World Premiere) Where (we) Live.

Director Ain Gordon and choreographer Emily Johnson share their insights about the nature of collaboration, performance, and improvisation. Gordon discusses his role in finding the dramatic arcs and theatrical structures for the piece, and alternatively, Johnson describes her approach to bringing movement, instruction, and chance to the performance showcasing how artists of seemingly disparate talents collaborate and come together to make a successful work. During the discussion, members of Sō Percussion share their motivations for the new project and explain their unique transitions from their lives: from conventional music schools to their current projects of experimentation and exploration. Throughout this interesting and in-depth discussion, the performers discuss relevant themes of community, place, and home.

Video: Making Music with Sō Percussion

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