Contact Improvisation


brennahelgaContact Improvisation is an open ended exploration of the kinesthetic possibilities of bodies moving through cobarcfilmntact. Sometimes wild and athletic, sometimes quiet and meditative, it is a form open to all bodies, changing from moment to moment and dance to dance, a result of the physicalities of those meeting. Contact manifests in different ways depending on accidents of physics and the intentions and curiosities of those participating. Having a reference point in the post modern dance explorations of Steve Paxton and others in the early 70s, there is a base in an observation of the body’s abilities to self organize functionally in precarious, off-balance situations set up by the collaboration and collision of two or more investigating partners. Part “non-martial” martial art, part acrobatic dance, part movement meditation, part collaborative bodywork practice, contact is a place where we can, with a sense of playfulness and curiosity, explore our bodies and interconnection.

Contact is the frame of investigation. Improvisation is the flow of choice-making and response.

Originally instigated as a performance experiment, it has evolved and branched out in many directions. Its investigations have become the underpinnings of many of the principles of contemporary concert dance, informing not only how to work with another body, but also informing the investigation of how we use our bodies more fluidly, gracefully, and efficiently, whether with a partner or not. In this context it also has become a major tool and reference point for dance theater, not only as a technique, but as a source of material for investigating relationship, for both improvised and set work, both physically and dramatically — the metaphors for relationship emerging out of CI are endless.

Contact has also spread across the world as a kind of folk-art, where people gather in “contact jams”, ranging from 2 hour evening gatherings to week-long retreats, to explore CI as a kind of body-awareness practice or post-modern social dance. It has also filtered into and affected other forms of popular social dance. (goto Contact Jams for information on contact jams, their practice and etiquette, and other forms and frames of open movement jam and laboratory)

Descriptions of contact are sometimes quite vague. This vagueness comes from a choice made early in its evolution to not copyright the term or restrict it to any one person’s conceptions. This lack of ownership of the term allowed it to expand and blossom in each person as their own personal investigation… it allowed contact to evolve in greater diversity than any one person’s vision would have taken it. This has been both a virtue and a limitation of contact, its’ lack of clarity.It has also taken contact sometimes into such different directions of explorations that some practitioners might not agree that they are still in the same practice.

For a description of the root techniques and practices of contact improvisation… something of a condensed version of some of the early classic explorations of contact improvisation, goto Fundamentals of Contact Improvisation. For a further explanation of what one might think of as way to talk about beginning/intermediate/advanced skill sets in classic contact improvisation, go to Contact Levels.

Approaching Contact Improvisation as a potentially profound and fulfilling opportunity for self-study — physically, emotionally, and aesthetically –Body Research offer in their workshops many roads into the investigations of contact, looking at what is unique to each encounter and what is universal about bodies and physics. The aim is to cultivate greater ease, power, and pleasure in being in a body as well as greater presence in physical inquisitiveness and aesthetic exploration. Karl Frost’s teaching is organic and adaptive to workshop circumstances, and usually falls into one of 3 different realms: classic contact improvisation, poetics of human contact, and release-approaches to contact (the Passive Sequencing work). For information on the specifics of Karl’s approach to Contact Improvisation, go to Body Research Contact

For more information on Contact workshops with Karl Frost or on events organized by Body Research, visit the Calendar

Click the link here for a newspaper review of a weekend contact improvisation workshop with Karl Frost in Ventura, California

Yann L’Heureux interviews Karl Frost on Contact Improvisation, collaged with images from contact workshop. Montpellier, France 2003. video by David Olivari


a contact exercise bringing the attention to the bones and joints in contact. from the 7º Encuentro Internacional de Contact-Improvisación en Barcelona, Spain/Catalunya 2008


a contact exercise bringing the attention to muscles and muscle use in contact from the 7º Encuentro Internacional de Contact-Improvisación en Barcelona, Spain/Catalunya 2008, video by Ramon Roig


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