'Ephemeral' - Contact Improv

Contact improvisation, although considered a modern dance technique, has no real rules. The only defining characteristics are that there are two or more people participating, they are moving and at various points they make physical contact. But really, I hesitate to even define it. For me, improvisational dance is the simplest form of expression, and contact improv allows dancers to communicate with each other with selflessness and sincerity. Contact improv is a gift that forces me to stay present. I have learned that it is vital during contact improv to always be connected to my partner—and not necessarily just physically connected. If not by touch, then by sight; if not by breath, then with emotion.

Contact improvisation is an art, and it is a process. I have had the great pleasure of participating in contact improv with fellow dancer and choreographer, Adán Aguilar, for the past five months.  While dancing together we have learned so much useful information about each other. Simply by moving together, we started to naturally pick up on various elements of each other’s movement characteristics, for example: quality, shifts in dynamics, habits with patterns, how we use space, how we use our own bodies, and especially what movement inspires the other person.

These are three things that always happen when Adán and I dance:

  • During our improvisation, I will accidentally whack him in the face at least twice.
  • Adán will ask me to try a seemingly impossible movement or lift that causes my eyebrows to furrow, my arms to cross and my right foot to stomp the floor.... And then we try it.
  • After an amazing and completely connected phrase together, we will stop and say, “What did we just do!?” and then realize we can’t remember. It is lost; it was just meant for that moment.

What I love the most about contact improvisation with Adán is that I must trust him and myself. It is imperative to let go of fear. Fear is crippling in dance, just as it is in life. Releasing fear from dancing has led to a huge shift from where we started. Our movement vocabulary and ability to communicate has flourished. Our stronger connection and understanding of each other has allowed our “conversation” to be more exciting, interesting and fluid.

Improv Dance

The video in this article captures the final contact improvisation between Adán and me. Nothing in this video was planned. It was purely organic. We walked into the studio, warmed up and started to dance. The name of this video is “Ephemeral,” which means simply “lasting for a very short time.” This name was chosen because Adán and I knew we would have this time together and that it would be short-lived. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn from a mover as intelligent and dynamic as Adán and to have captured this final improvisation together.

In the paragraphs that follow, I’ve attempted to recreate my experience dancing with Adán. It includes my observations as well as my inner dialogue:

We start with a breath, a handshake and a hug. We shift weight. My senses are heightened. I say to myself, Let go. I move; we move. What is our tone? What is this moment? Follow his lead. Stay connected. Take initiative.

It is an investigation of our selves. It is an investigation of each other. Invite him in. Breathe. Feel him; he constantly moves to support me. The sensation of touching another brings up a lot: a sense of vulnerability, the feeling of being nourished. The music brings up more: unclear sensations from my past.

Use your breath. Find opposition. Don’t get stuck in the same movement. Travel somewhere new. We are strength; we support each other. We are light; we find air. To confront frustration, or to just let it be and smile? He smiles. Yes, smile.

The music is everything. It leads us. When we connect, it feels beautiful. And then we miss, bump, trip, fall. Don’t resist. Just keep moving. As much as I want to think, to plan, there is no time. We find the next path. We are grateful to feel so alive and free. We speak through movement and learn it is enough.

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Burlesque Without Borders

Bettin May, Burlesque Without Borders Bombshell Bettina May is making an appearance in 'Burlesque Without Borders'.  Details for the above performances are listed below.

May 24: Washington, DC - *Burlesque Without Borders* at Red Palace, 1212 H St NE. An all international cast of burlesque with Canadian Cutie Bettina May, Finland's LouLou D'vil, and Spanish Siren Medianoche, with host Albert Cadabra. Doors 8:30, show at 9pm. Tickets $10 advance, $12 at the door. Click here for advance tickets!
May 25: Wilmington, DE - *Burlesque Without Borders* at MOJO 13, 1706 Philadelphia Pike. An all international cast of burlesque with Canadian Cutie Bettina May, Finland's LouLou D'vil, and Spanish Siren Medianoche, with host Albert Cadabra. Doors at 8pm, show at 9:30pm. Tickets $10 advance, $12 at the door, available at MOJO 13. Must be 21+.
May 26: West Chester, PA - *Burlesque Without Borders* at The Note, 142 E. Market Street. An all international cast of burlesque with Canadian Cutie Bettina May, Finland's LouLou D'vil, and Spanish Siren Medianoche, with host Albert Cadabra. Doors at 9pm, show at 10pm. Tickets $10 advance, $12 at the door. Click here for advance tickets!

Wrinkled $ By Clara Lofaro

Clara LofaroI've been inspired by Clara Lofaro for years. Rarely do we see an artist take the stage empty handed, command silence with stillness, and begin filling our hearts with their voice. She began her set with an acapella performance at Cafe Vivaldi, in SOHO where I was asked to perform a dance in collaboration with her music. We were thrilled to be working together. Our first performance was her song entitled 'Wrinkled $.' Wrinkled $ speaks of a loss of innocence that is inevitable as each of us accepts reality beyond our youth. This happens sooner for some than others who may be more sheltered. Clara sings:

There was a school yard Where we used to play In our sweatpants and short hair We told secrets and we didn't care

About the world About the wrinkles on our face About the money we made About the pressures That weigh us down today About the impressions we made About the politicians And the apostles About the war child And the egos That smack us in the face About the hearts we break

In the spirit of The Beatles, 'Imagine' where no religion or war inhibits our ability to find peace, 'Wrinkled $' showcases the innocence of childhood as a utopia where no $, politics, or egos reside. Innocence exists here without knowledge or life experience and has no grounds for opinion. A child simply sees beauty in everything. It seems that we cherish these moments in our lives, ones where we are free from daily travails.  Then when does the agony begin? Part of growing into our adolescence and even into young adulthood means facing frightening truths. This may be where ignorance is born. Born as a fear, creeping up when that innocence is challenged with information that opposes our current understanding of the world, and if accepted, would require change, which is often difficult. It's clear why people maintain an iron grip on their traditions and opinions - we can't expect everyone to be be open to having their beliefs challenged, regardless of the validity of those challenges.

On the contrary I can see benefits in our innocence and value it. A child is brought into life with an unconditional ability to love. Something to admire, they remind us of what is truly important. How might I wonder do we sustain this ability to give unconditional love. When a child asks a question about the world, we may find it in their best interest to be dishonest with them, to protect them. However, if we provide them with a platform of knowledge that helps them understand the world, they will be prepared for tough transitions. Life has a lot of evolutions to undertake and this is yet another one that we need to identify, where Innocence meets Ignorance. Our fear of evolution is simply something to acknowledge and seek understanding in its wake.

See Clara Lofaro @ Canal Room Friday, February 25th, 2011 8pm www.ClaraLofaro.com