“Love Your Body Week”, planned by the UW Women’s Centre, included a number of fun and informative events for students. There was a film night, a yoga class, a contact dance workshop, a seminar with a naturopath, information booths, a sex toy workshop, bust casting, and a belly dancing class. One of the events I attended was the contact dance workshop. What in the heck is contact improv? I hear you asking, curious and inquiring. I didn’t really know before I went to the workshop either, and I admit, I was a bit apprehensive that it would be totally weird and awkward. “Contact improvisation is a dance with gravity, momentum, and everything else that is happening in the moment, including the physical and energetic contact the dance-partners share. It is a whole-body study in the subtle art of non-verbal collaboration and co-creation. Often a meditative practice, improvisation is done without music, to allow space to tune into what is happening and the moment-to-moment impulses of the body.” (http://www.contactimprov.ca/#whatis)
At the workshop we started by plopping down on the floor and becoming aware of our breath. The leader suggested we think of our bodies as a bag of sand, and picture the grains of sand shifting with our breath. We slowly started to move more until we were all up moving around the room, still keeping the idea of sand and weight in our minds. Then we were asked to become aware of how others were moving around us, and start to make eye contact. Eventually we began to make contact with one another. We did an exercise where we pressed our hand or shoulder into a partner and tried to give and take the same amount of weight from one another. And then feel the weight of a partner as we moved through the room together.
Going into the workshop, I was a bit nervous and reserved. It seemed kind of weird and new age (even for someone who’s into yoga and other hippy, earth-mother activities). Dance around with no music and make almost full body contact with complete strangers? Sounds awkward. But by the end of the two-hour workshop I felt completely different. I felt aware of my body and how it moved and felt. I felt comfortable and calm, and even fulfilled in a strange way. Where did this sense of fulfillment come from? I think a lot of it came from the collaboration, contact and touch that I shared with the other participants of the workshop. Even living at a friendly place like Grebel I often go through an entire day and only make physical contact with several people (hugs from a few friends) and other days maybe no one. This doesn’t seem healthy or natural for me. Maybe I’m not reaching my “contact quota”. I felt fulfilled by the safety, trust and friendship created in the space of the contact improv workshop. I think a lot of the fulfillment I felt came from the physical contact and touch in the dance.
After the workshop I was talking to a friend about how it seems that sometimes people rush into romantic relationships when they might not be ready for one. They might jump in simply because they’re craving physical contact and intimacy. Relationships that are formed only on a physical basis can be unfulfilling. (insert witty joke about safe sex here) There might be healthier alternatives, you could start giving free hugs like that guy in Australia, or maybe embrace the new age and try some contact improv.