Researching Contact Improvisation

Two Weeks at the Monastery of Dreams

At the former Seminary of the Marist Brothers, Outdoor Pursuits Centre (Casa de Colonies Ca n’Oliver) and Festival Location of MAPA.

 

I spent some time thinking about how to summarise or even give a taste of what happened during the two weeks I spent at the Monastery of Dreams, the first week spent preparing for the second, a intensive process of dancing, sharing, performing while thinking, living and imagining community. I realised it would be impossible. The richness of the experience, the fact that my understanding and appreciation is still forming in my being, and that my experience was emergent out of the inter-experience with so many others (some 30 people shared the intensive experience and some 60 people passed through the monastery doors during the two weeks) means that all I hope to do is share what it means to me now.

Also the forward momentum of the project and the people who are still in the Monastery now leads me to not want to freeze that moment in time but to offer something that is a contribution to where we go from here. I had an idea to choose one event from the two weeks and use that to reflect on the whole two weeks.

There were many events that brought our temporary community together that offered this possibility:

 

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The Trio group guided us into the chapel for an exhibit of their work over the week.

The exhibit included video work using three video cameras. Mesmerizing and moving.

The exhibit included video work using three video cameras. Mesmerizing and moving.

There was the sharing of the intensive groups on the morning of Saturday 8th August when each of the four groups (1. CI, NVC and Family Constellation, 2. The Trio Group. 3. CI in Nature 4. The Performance Group) creatively shared in twenty minute slots with everyone else the outcome of their week of exploration. The humorous and moving ways each group shared through role play, chapel exhibit, moving outdoor performance, and improvised discussion for another performance, involved all of us in ways that went against any simple summary of where each group had ended up after their week of exploration.

There was the visioning exercise at the beginning of the intensive week that brought everyone together to establish the groups and the topics to focus on, and the night time work of Jennie to somehow separate all the themes in a way that meant they could be reconstituted in wonderful ways the following morning.

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Sonja and Jennie plan the morning group forming activity.

 

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Forming intensive groups on the second day of the intensive.

 

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There were lunch songs and rituals that led into long lunches on long tables where conversations meandered between what was happening as our event and all the experiences outside of the community that somehow had relevance to our experiment.

 

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These were followed by a wonderfully diverse announcements for offerings in the afternoon and evening. Nirvan’s watsu water therapy offering immediately comes to mind, because after lunch the pool and our resident frogs always had a powerful draw.

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From the roof you can see all the way to the Pyrenees and realise how much of the region is forested.

 

There was our day out on the beach in Sant Marti de Empuries on Wednesday 5th of August, where we started out as three groups distributed on the long sandy beach and ended up by an ancient Greek sea wall eating, singing, dancing and not wanting to leave.

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An eagerly awaited picnic on the beach by the ancient Greek sea wall (Mol Grec).

 

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Christian gazes towards Escala. Cadaques is in the distance (top right)

A sharing of visions before the intensive week with visitors on a similar quest in Catalonia and Portugal, including Kabiro, Daniel and family and partners, helped us realise some of the historical and family reasons for our respective quests for community. But this event did not include all those who attended the intensives so I am slightly hesitant to make this a focus.

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A sharing of visions.

There was a community visioning afternoon session run by Jashana, Gabriel and myself informed by the writing of Diana Leafe Christian, Jashana’s decades of living in community and contribution to the GEN network, and my interest in allowing engagement with nature and bodily curiosity to help us understand the context for our own visions, and perhaps more importantly share them.

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Clustering the key values we aspire to in community.

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Walking toward the Alien Space.

Walking toward the Alien Space.

 

There was the evening performance in the cleared out Alien Space (thank you Nico) early on in the intensive week where the play on indigenous people meeting spacemen engaged us all, and also prompted the curiosity of our nearest neighbour. Walking through the gates of the historically accessible monastery, he was faced by the sight and sounds of naked indigenous people communicating with spacemen through rhythm and music. Asked by Sonja if it wasn’t a little ‘loco’, he replied, ‘No way, it’s liberating’. Our worries of offending the neighbours receded like the tide on a Costa Brava beach as the week progressed as we learned more about how much many of the village had been involved in drama and art projects with MAPA, a drama group, originally from Barcelona who for the last nine years have had Pontos as a base. The large painted Aliens in the Alien space were themselves part of an art project MAPA had facilitated in the monastery over four years. Postmodern theatre had become so embedded in the village through collaborative projects and local kids becoming inspired to go to theatre school, that we realised that many in the village were intensely curious about what was going on here.

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A morning meeting in the chapel.

 

And of course not to mention the amazing jams in the chapel, theater space and ballroom (formerly dining hall) that enlivened our senses and grounded our learning in our improvised movements.

We also explored the Monastery through walking soundings where we sought to experience the many spaces of the monastery by spontaneous walking singing and chanting and in so doing wake it up from three years of no occupation. We hope we reminded it of its long history as we gradually learn more of its history .

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Intricate designs in the roof of the chapel. We are trying to figure out the significance of the blue lines.

 

The building has a long history as a seminary for ‘Hermanos Maristas’ (Marist Brothers),  a shorter history as a ‘Casa de Colonies’ or outdoors pursuits centre for children and was used as a venue for artists residencies organised by MAPA over four years. Ernesto and Barbara’s theatre collective and foundation is based in Pontos.

[ Check out this amazing sound project that includes soundings from within the building in 2008 (see 33) carried out as part of MAPA project). The are real continuities to the history of the building in the way that many of us see our future there. As a seminary for Marist Brothers it was oriented by a profound aim of international education. There are even Marist links to Tonga (where they established themselves in 1842) before the Seminary was built in 1904. Could we say that we are shifting the focus from a outdoors pursuits centre for children to a community/dance/creative arts pursuits centre for adults (and children). And then the continuity to the creative and participative way MAPA engaged with Pontos over many years, that we would like to continue and be inspired by].

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Unexpected meeting of old friends.

And of course I have not mentioned the learning and joy gained from workshops, conversations, chance encounters, decision making challenges, talks, sharings, torrential downpours, tears of joy and pain, disappointments, car crashes into wild boar (Obelix would love to live in this area), shopping trips to Figueres, night-time sharing of tahini on rice cakes, etc. I could go on and on. I must also mention that it was not all a bed of roses, that we all faced challenges of finding the balance between listening and leading, productive compromising and assertive contribution, finding the structures of decision making, work contribution that allowed for a balance between personal freedom and supportive agreed structures. But then that was one of the aims of our experiment, to learn through experience, of how we could create community while learning about how we want to live within and apart from one another. The CI community has always been great at creating strong temporary working communities in jams, festivals and events, but only in Earthdance in the US and in some communities in Argentina have CI dancers decided to live together in a community, connected by their practice.

I hope at some point to offer photographs, video and sound to give some insight into all those events above that could have served to encapsulate much of what was so valuable of the weeks at the Monastery. But for now, I want to focus on one event that meant a lot to me and that captured many of the themes of our intensive and our challenges.

It was also an event that I need to understand and analyse for my work as an anthropologist committed to the use of video for collaborative research and with the motivation of social change and social empowerment. So by writing about it, I somehow can integrate my work and work for our community project.

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A screening of Five Ways In. The discussion went on till the early hours.

The event was the screening and feedback discussion of Five Ways In, on Friday the 9th August in the evening. Personally, it meant a lot because one of the key characters in the film, Jashana Kippert, was at the monastery, and this was the first time that Alyssa, Sonja and I had seen her since completing the film. She had gone from concluding in the film that at Freiburg Festival there was resistance to seeing CI as political, to returning to Hawaii to fight a two year activist battle again Monsanto against the testing of GMOs. By the time of the screening she had already given us a few talks and shared much of her experience with community building and made a huge contribution to our own community process. There was also something else very interesting for me about showing the film in the Monastery of Dreams. So much of the film deals with the meanings and value we give to CI particularly in relation to the idea of community, the politics of CI and the process of being in an intense festival experience. So here we were showing the film to a group of people in a community in the making, many of which were experimenting with the use of CI and other allied techniques in contributing to dealing with issues in community. The third reason why it was so interesting is because we had invited the local theatre group to attend. The film was the way we could introduce what linked many of us and present it for people who would be very important to us in helping us understand our place in Pontos and our potential contribution. This was the first ‘official’ event that we invited people living in Pontos to, even though they identified themselves as new arrivals and as ‘neo-rurals’.

Even the screening was thanks to our ‘neo-rural’ friends. Lize lent us her projector, and Ernesto pulled out a sound system and screen from the community store, near the community centre where many of us had spent a night in our first week eating beans and sausage with the whole population of Pontos.

 

Seeing and being seen by the community of Pontos.

Seeing and being seen by the community of Pontos.

Jashana did not want to see herself on the big screen and was also heavily occupied in working with Tatiana and Vianne of our intensive group preparing the 15 minutes performance of a role play that would summarise and evoke the next day the three hour combination of CI, non-violent communication and family constellations that we had used to address a question of community within our intensive group.

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After the discussion after the screening.

Sitting under a line of lights on cushions we sat and discussed the film till 1am in the morning. As people responded to the film they also related it to some of the challenges of building community more generally and our experiences here during the week. Lize’s sharing of the situation of Pontos did much to encourage everyone of the need to engage with the village.

(I have made brief summaries below and transcribed sentences and longer passages, but we encourage you to listen to the whole recording. It gives a much better sense of the flow of conversation and the people involved).

 

Mike- We’d love to hear impressions of the film particularly thinking about community?

Ben (Free)- I was curious about Lior’s comment about having a role? About breaking down roles between helper and consumer?

Gavin-(Deeply, deeply structural—competitiveness and insecurity. Not having a role. There are better structures).

Ben (Free)-Impossible to get away from a sense that role is needed?

 

4.20 Mike- Need to compare CI with other dance practices and the structures. It is also achievement to organise a festival that size.

 

5.12 Ben-There is a social and cultural shadow. We have got it here. We are creating roles and structure that also has a shadow.  Community will come against a hurdle, unless we soften the loosen the structures.

 

6.00 How the situation is set up is how to be mindful.

 

6.30 Alyssa- One of the strongest comments I’ve heard in previous screenings is about Jashana’ experience. ‘I feel really moved and saddened by the fact of someone who cares so much about community left everyone to be alone at a time of sadness.’

 

7.20 Jashana- I can speak to that. It was pretty courageous for me to go there. I didn’t know a single soul.

(chose to be vulnerable, there is a ranking, learn from people who are better than you, beginners longingly looking in , age  )

 

10.30 Igor- (attraction, most of my dances to do with the energy of the people, not the physical, I’m surprised to hear that you still that thing in a festival where there is a lot of contacters)

 

11.27 –Alyssa-Just wanted to add that on every occasion I showed the film people commented on how generous you were.

 

12.00 –Jashana (and it is awkward, ….).

 

13.00-Sven-I very much liked your research question. Is CI political? One answer, related the person you asked is to find words to not answer the question. (Jess Curtis). He described some things and defined them as political. That is not saying anything in the end. Just an observation.

 

14.00 Mike-What do you feel would be political?

 

14.09 Sven- It is a question that every community can ask to themselves? Political for me is try to influence the outer world of a community at first. Greater range, greater frames, which means networking with good people.

To influence the greater system of society. But it difficult because you put so much energy into the community, so it is not easy to get this broader frame in mind. Gabriel, for example, wasn’t able to take part in the group because he had so many other things to do.

 

15.37 Jashana- I would like to speak to that, because surprisingly the last two years I have been in the Hawaian island and chose to take on a political issue. (Monsanto, ).

(dancer friends, and political friends–) The challenge of finding the political bones in dancers in Maui.)

17.40 Lize- [Asks for clarification].

18.10 Igor-There are people who are just activists, just dancers and those who do both.

18.28 Ben –Jashana, what do you think about Jess’ line. So the idea that we change consciousness and expand our awareness, and that can ripple out. Like for me the potential of that can save us on this planet. If we can expand our hearts and share that, that is what is going to change it. I’ve done some actions, I’ve been to demonstrations, I’ve had police beating me but it is part of the picture but it is not going to do anything on its own. I think he did answer the question as best he could. I think he is a seriously political mind. That’s my experience of him, he’s trying to take in the big picture. I first came across Dani because we were using contact in a political action in London. (CI community, political action in London, camera shot from miles away, activism become quite separatist ).

 

21.35 Jashana- Talks about the bathrooms in Freiburg Festival, how does it reflect the disconnect between community awareness (If I am connecting to you in an intimate moment, why would I even leave that mess for a helper).

 

22.59 Nico-We have the same story with glasses here. (community taking responsibility for everything)

 

23.29 Mike-So I have a romantic idea that people are in another state of consciousness so the cup is not so important at that moment.

 

23.50 Gavin-expansion and contraction of consciousness in CI.

 

24.25 Mike-It’s also a temporary space outside of everyday reality, it’s kind of a carnival space. We are not at home, that’s precisely the point, so sometimes the rules of tidying up and toilet paper just fall by the wayside.

 

24.55 Mike-I see the festival as more of a transformative space, which for many it is, you enter into a week long festival and you come out of the festival really transformed and all the nitty gritties are part of the negative stuff of transformation. Jashana came out of it with really key insights into whether you wanted to use CI or not (it is a transformative, reflexive and critical spaces).

 

25.47 Gavin-Aikido and the ritual space and importance of keeping it clean. (they don’t have to be separate)

 

26.50 Nelly- I think it is the time. I think if you think of us being here two months we wouldn’t have to speak about bringing a glass back, we will develop it on our own. (acceptance of time, just imagine what has happened her in two weeks, growing community after a while is just living).

28.13. Igor-I think to start a community is never easy. Today we don’t know our neighbour, we don’t know the people from our own village where we were born (what some people value others don’t, why many communities fail is because of human conflict, we have to accept that every single person has a different culture, acceptance and giving it your best spirit).

 

30.00 Nico-So what about the glasses? (laughter)

30.26 Nico- For me what I hear it to be aware of the space (goodwill, act for others, trust, awareness of the space, CI looking inside and mapping awareness of space through the dance).

31.20 ? So it is political, contact? I don’t know if political is the word, but I know that dancing contact has consequence. In your own community. No-one can dance contact and remain the same. It has consequence and that’s nice, no? I have just arrived and I can see consequence.

32.05 Jorge-If it makes a change in the person it makes a change in the community. (and the world)

 

32.40 Lize’s partner-Maybe I am wrong, this is the first time watching the contact community but I think the most important things about the community are outside of the dance. Now you are living here, and spending nights and days and it is not only dance, there are many things. In the case of Pontos, lots of relations with the village and the area. Its really nice to see how the people can dance and contact with other people but the good thing of that is not only in relation with the people who dance but with the people in the village and all around.

33.51 Lize-it is like a big secret what is going on. It would be nice if you could do a workshop in the middle of the place (Plaza).

34.00 Maybe you can dance in the middle of village, I don’t know?

(lots of voice of support and affirmation)

34.10 Jashana-but it can look really weird. It feels great. One of my concerns of dancing in the village is that it could scare some people off.

(discussion)

34.40 Lize-this is a very special village, they have for four years seeing all kinds of performances. There is no way you will shock them. No way. Maybe in another village, not this special village, the centre of MAPA. No problem, they are just used to it.

(for two years no performances, but the previous four years, residencies in the monastery, involved the village, amazing stories happening, children from the village became actors because they had this experience as the child).

36 Jashaha-This is most encouraging.

36.10 Sven-(talks about street improvisation and music) There is no reason to be scared.

36.50 Lize-you might not expect them to participate [in the dance] because they were used to the performance part. It was a festival with residents . During two weeks, artist came and they made the piece with the people, and sometimes with a video artist, a horror movie (artist from Holland, dressed up as Zombies). It is not so long ago. Talk to Ernestor and Thomas who are the organisers of this festival.

 

38.07 This will take time, we have just arrived. We are just starting to perform. It will happen if we are here for a longer time.

 

38.20 Nelly (talks about a festival in Bremen with outdoor performances, taking CI to the public, each time the reactions are different). I love to go out.

 

40.00 Lize-Do you need this comfort zone? You have this big square, do what you do inside outside. People will say, yes they are dancing. Break the mystery.

 

40.30 Mike- You said open secret. What is the open secret? What are we doing?

Lize-Until now I didn’t know….Even in our group of ‘neo-rurals’ people are, “who are they?’. …Just go…

(Laughter and discussion)

41.15 Igor-I’ve done CI many times in the street.

41.42 Lize-You don’t even have a police officer in the village. It is perfect place to do it.

 

——More discussion about the performance?

 

43.00 Jashana-Shall we go out this Sunday?

43.10 Laurence- What is interesting for me in this conversation is what we are doing is not about performance it is about research. Somehow we are sharing the results between us, our research about contact and community.

(discussion).

44.01 Lize-This is not the aim I am asking. I don’t say that people want to be entertained. It’s just, you are part of the village. We are very few people. Just like they know what you are doing. That’s it. Just by seeing it, ( ).

44.23 Mike-A jam in the square would do it.

(discussion)

44.37 You don’t even have to announce it, just do it in the square.

(discussion, Jashana, CI looking bad).

 

45.10 Lize-Maybe it would be good for Ernesto to announce it? And Barbara……

(discussion, portable floor, moving mats into square, more organised, ask Major, ask to do outdoor activity, experiment, )

 

45.13 Lize-Something that break open the what are they doing, who are they?

(Lize, we just didn’t know, was it a Agricola community, like Can Masdeu).

 

47.04 Lize-This is the village to do it, because it has this history.

 

48.04 ? -Music is opening (discussion of carton jam on beach, music and jamming, places to engage with public, Barcelona, difference between music and dancing CI in how open it is to others).

 

50.30 Lize (suggestions).

50.49 Igor (gossip goes very fast in these kinds of villages, gossip in one of the most dangerous things ever, important if we have a chance of being place like this, impotant for the communication of the project that the people in the village don’t feel weird about what is happening here).

 

52.00 ..You have co-ordinate, you have to announce where. (discussion about culture of the Alt Emporjda, take out the floor, professional).

 

Lize (we are a bumper between you and the other people).

 

55.00 Lize/Sven/Jashana (Further discussion of how people noticed us at the beginning, of how to organise an event, how kids could try, start with the kids, also good for the community to step out (political action?), internal spirit that is created in doing this, going out, inviting people from the village to come in, depends on who you invite, there are different kinds of people in the village, Lize (we connected to almost everybody in the village).

 

1.00.21 Thank you, we are very grateful.

 

UPDATE: On the 16th August we ran a contact improvisation demonstration event in the main square outside the monastery to which about 30 people of all ages from the village came.

 

FURTHER INFORMATION:

Thanks to Queralt for these links:

CASA DE COLONIAS which was in the building until about 3 years ago, and is now in another building close by:
http://www.canoliver.com/ca/la-casa/l-equip.html
AJUNTAMENT PONTÓS (Local Authority)
http://www.pontos.cat/
http://www.ddgi.cat/municipis/Pontos/POUM_2014/DOC01-Memoria-Avanc-POUM.pdf

ABOUT THE VILLAGE AND SURROUNDINGS
https://ca.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pont%C3%B3s
http://www.enciclopedia.cat/EC-GEC-0052089.xml
https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pont%C3%B3s
https://ca.wikipedia.org/wiki/Llista_de_monuments_de_Pont%C3%B3s

http://www.cercat.cat/cgi-cercat/templates/temes5.CFM?cercat__tema=pontos&cercat__1=regions&cercat__2=girona&cercat__3=altemporda

ABOUT THE CONVENT MARISTA CAN OLIVER

http://www.maristasalicante.com/content/los-hermanos-maristas-espa#.VbZf2eQ1xC0

http://www.poblesdecatalunya.cat/element.php?e=7947

http://www.laltemporda.cat/pap/ca/poblacions/pontos.pdf
Pel costat dret

Pel costat dret d’aquesta creu hi ha un camí que duu a la casa de colònies de Ca N’Oliver. Antigament fou una casa important, anomenada Cal Monjo. Després es convertí en un seminari marista I actualment és una casa de colònies. La façana més antiga presenta una finestra gòtico-renaixentista (s. XVI) amb uns bustos humans tallats amb gran perfecció.

 

DANZA Y FESTIVAL MAPA

Del festival mapa no encontrado la web, pero me acuerdo de este festival y había info colgada, entorno site-especific, desentralizando la danza i artes de la ciudad, involucrando bastante a la gente del pueblo. La compañia de danza DOCTOR ALONSO es conocida, no súper conocida, pero un poco sí. Es una de las mujeres que estaba por allí.
This is one of the products of the MAPA festival.
http://mapasonordepontos.blogspot.com.es/

 

 

NYC: Inclusivity as a physical, musical and spoken Conversation

INCLUSION:  “Yeah-even when you are on the fringes you are really still a part of it. I love that about CI-when we are creating that kind of general vibe.”

January 14, 2017    New York City Premiere at Jack (a cozy film and performance space in Brooklyn)  (http://www.jackny.org/)

A variety of people showed up to this event.  There were 3-4 people who had never danced CI before and a few teachers of CI and a bunch of CI dancers who range in level and interest, race, age, and background.  I found the conversation and experience of CI in this diverse group fascinating.  I hope that by transcribing the conversation before and after the jam, you, the reading audience, can get a feel for how the trust and connection grew during the physical, musical & playful CI jam. (Alyssa Lynes)

This post includes:

  1. the invitation to the event & schedule
  2. the discussion after the film showing
  3. (then a jam happened which almost everyone stayed for)
  4. the discussion after the JAM

Here is the invitation to attend the event at a sweet film and performance space in Brooklyn:

Everyone is welcome for a unique evening event in a cozy Brooklyn theater on January 8th. We will watch the premiere of the anthropolocial documentary “Five Ways In”, have a discussion about how this relates to our lives, and then turn the space into a dancing Contact Improvisation Jam (open space for movement–with a guided introduction). It’ll be a great time to gather as people from diverse backgrounds to share different mediums as an inclusive research/play approach to grow together and hopefully leave with more questions and newness than we enter with. Everyone is welcome to participate at the level they are comfortable with. We expect both seasoned dancers and people with no prior dance experience to attend.

www.researchingcontactimprovisation.com

EVENT SCHEDULE
5:30 – doors open, bar open
6:00 – short introduction & “Five Ways In” screening (NYC premiere)
7:15 – film discussion with Alyssa Lynes, one of the co-directors
8:00 -10:00 – introduction/warm up into Contact Improvisation Jam 0108171947a

DISCUSSION AFTER FILM:

One thing that I noticed that came up for me a bunch of times is how really new-age-y-flowery abstract language is often a huge turn off for people. I noticed for me it works for me for my own experience but then when I ‘m thinking about how folks that don’t translate that language or use it themselves or maybe have a lot of ideas about people that use that language might disassociate themselves from Contact Improvisation potentially having a benefit for themselves or through communities just because often the people that use it have a certain language or identification. I’m curious for myself about translation. How do I use the spiritual or abstract or –the things that that language allow us to get into and share and use a way of speaking that’s more translatable to folks regardless of where you come from.   I can think of so many people I know that just would think that is not for me just based on that way of talking.

What do you really mean when you say new-agey? It can be different from whomever. From my perspective it is people who are uncomfortable with examining thoroughly and beyond an emotional open-hearted space.. It’s that thing that we don’t necessarily understand or that has been tradition manifesting in the very simple: “oh you’re a this, you’re a that” versus ‘what do you really mean?” What is “New Age”?

We don’t have the language per say. Maybe we are still exploring it.

 

I’d like to add a struggle that I find in my life, as I am entering more and more dance communities. Recognizing that dance is a language itself and that we are all learning how to speak that. So it’s a way to get at this heart opening connection with ourselves and others and recognizing that other people don’t speak that language. I am kind of wondering whether the thing for me to do or other people to do is to rope your friends and everyone in to the dance world and have them experience the language that way or whether you should be a translator and whether you should transform your heart opening and experience into a language that someone already speaks and meet them where they’re at.   I’ve been trying to figure out whether all my friends should come dance or I should learn some other skills too. (laughter) or both. What are the channels of which we can explore and expand this practice?

 

 

I would like to really support what you are saying about being open to really support other people’s languages. I don’t think that anything we are doing here is unique. People have been dancing for as long as humans have been alive. People have been having spiritual experiences for as long as humans have been alive. Our experience might be different in terms of this happening in this location with these types of clothes with this type of food being prepared but people have always been talking about ascension. People have always been talking about connection to dying and people have been doing it in their particular way based on their history, their community, whatever. So I think sometimes what you might speak in another community and have resistance to hearing somebody’s else’s language is what you call ‘jargon’. It’s what professionals use so they can sound more intellectual and smarter. If you really want to communicate with somebody you have to, like you said, speak their language.

Jess Curtis was talking about the elitist nature of Contact Improvisation in a way. I was looking at Freiburg festival and it’s mostly white people, Europeans, and young and able-bodied people.   So, it is a specific practice and it’s also about being able to dance. So you have to be, striving to become a ‘good’ dancer, whatever that means, athletic, flying, whatever. This older woman was having all these projections about being older and being able to do all the things. So there’s something about this practice is not inclusive to everyone. And Do we do anything about it or do we just accept it?

In the practice, while dancing you can’t include everything… Sometimes on the floor I’ll be dancing and my body just doesn’t connect with a person there and that’s part of the dance too .

(African-American Male:) On that note, someone said to me today, when they dance with me they realize that I was just human like everybody else (chuckle). I’m pretty sure you (looking at white folks) don’t get comments like that.    There is a space that is very unique that is happening here and I think it doesn’t have to be shared with the world but it is a very unique space.  It’s like if you are blue collar worker and your family is blue collar you are not necessarily going to end up in this space. You could. You are not excluded from it. But there is like a filtering system that does happen and I think it should be acknowledged and just to say ‘oh it just didn’t happen that way’ is like if there’s a system that is set up and it doesn’t happen that way then of course it’s not gonna happen that way because it wasn’t designed to happen that way. People make decisions. You said so yourself. You make decisions in your dance. Sometimes you make decisions that are in your comfort zone and sometimes you make decisions that are outside of your comfort zone. Sometimes those decisions outside of your comfort zone bring really wonderful things and sometimes they don’t. It’s not just that it happens that way. We make decisions. We make choices.

 

… Thinking about the different ways to make this practice more accessable in language, in interpersonal relationships to increase a draw and widen the scope is really valuable because ultimately a community and subcultures are always a reflection of values at large and in an international space being in Germany, in Europe, you are going to have a gathering of people that are going to reflect a broader cultural surroundings like mindfulness practices in general. That’s why I think it’s great because it has the possibility of being really accessable because while dance is the overall category of it, it’s not just dancing and it’s not just new-ageyness and spirituality. It’s so many different things that are allowed to occupy the space. It feels really important to be thinking about the different ways to communicate this practice at large so it doesn’t feel unaccessible to non-able bodied folks, people of different classes and backgrounds.

…It depends a lot of how it’s presented and couched. At it’s core CI is very simple..

What felt touching was to see the beginner from France and see physically how he changed through the movie. And how when he got in touch with his sensuality in his body, we saw him in his powerful state and so that convinced me of how —if I was a beginner I can enter and become more powerful. I felt the same by seeing the scenes with all the nature and the leaves and feeling into the energy of how people’s faces and physicality changed.

I found it interesting, this discussion of CI, because I learned CI in an academic environment, in a place that is not new-agey because it is academia. There is a certain language we use in academia. It looks like a great festival to go to… but it’s very different. It kind of felt like a retreat compared to the CI which I know which is very based on learning the fundamentals of ‘rolling point of contact’ or of sharing weight which is not new-agey at all. That is strict to the dance form.   I learned in an academic environment with people from all walks of life and all different cultures. It was an open dance program so anyone who wanted could come.   I think that is one glimpse and it’s a great way to look at it but that’s not 100 percent the community of CI. There are very fundamental basics to the Dance form to talk about.

I disagree with one of the sentiments of one of the people in the film. When she said CI is not political. I think it is very political. I think it is deeply radical. That’s why it bumps into all of our social organization, all of our holistic work, the way we talk about the world. That’s why it challenges us and that why it’s a struggle because it’s a very radical thing. There are parts of the world where if people did what we saw in the movie, they’d been chased out with rubber hoses and thrown in jail.   People need to be very invested in body and proximity and contact is a physical interaction. It is not sex and it’s not fighting. Nobody knows what to call it and those are the two things we know best.

I don’t spend a lot of time talking about CI or getting into language. For me, I come from a sports background. In terms of bridging other communities: when I first came in to dance I was a basketball and soccor player. I was on a basketball court and someone was like “You should come to a contact jam” . When I started dancing Contact the physicality –I realized I’d been dancing contact a long time, on the basketball court. I had incredible dances with mostly guys, -it wasn’t the form but we were doing it so I had all this physical knowledge already and there were so many places where we (mostly boys and men) had the opportunity where we were doing it a lot of our lives. I think it is more accessable than we think it is.   A lot of us are doing it and we are not calling it contact… When I was wrestling on the stage when I was 8 we were heavily involved contact.

 

AFTER THE JAM:

 

I really enjoyed when we got the whole room in a beat box. That was really fun because it was a way that I felt we were all connected even though I may not have danced with everybody. Everyone was doing their thing. It was really sweet.

I felt the inclusion vibe and the sense that there was really no rush. It felt very not New York.

There was one thing I got from the movie and felt it was brought to this space. That was vulnerability. I didn’t know anyone here but I knew the souls. It just feels so weird. In the matter of an hour there was such communication and not any talking actually.

I thought about dance being patterns of movement that are in the history of my body but also with thinking about inclusion there being many dances that are also not in the history of my body and how in contact improv. There’s almost this idea of starting out with no language-and almost no history. Even though there a history of Contact Improv. it seems to always start from body in space and everybody coming in from a different trajectory and finding the floor and the space. How problematic it is to create a new language and how impossible not to, arrive at one.

This was my first time. [cheering] It felt so grounding. I’m so grateful.   I just felt like I really enjoyed bearing weight on me. It really felt like it grounded me into the earth. It was very nurturing.   I needed this especially today. I had a very tender day. I could sense hands and bodies and people on me as if they all knew I needed that. Thank you everyone. It was a great entry, way in.    -and just to speak on the theme of inclusion. To me that’s something that is particularly sensitive about body diversity and body sizes and I’ve always felt self-conscious for not having a thin body so not feeling like I could fit in this and so that is really beautiful to have space to do this.

Something that I had in my mind coming into this is that I’m leaving New York soon and this is one of the last things I’m doing in New York, certainly last thing I am part of the organization of. The theme of inclusion or intersectionality is a huge thing for me because there are people here from my work, different communities I’m a part of so it’s a super awesome convergence of worlds. It felt really palpable moving through space with all of these different aspects of my life how I am interacting with these people considering the context and culture I’ve developed a relationship inside of. My understanding of who these people are is shifting in this context and in the intension of inclusion.

I just want to say I loved the film and doing the dance after. I wasn’t able to really connect until the silence after we did the beat.  Right now I have this incredible silence all in the back of my head.   I just find it interesting that it happened after we made the noise. It’s really hard for me to hear silence in New York.

This is my first time also and someone said there is no rush but I felt rushed. I communicate with people in various ways. I have sensory integration issues and I like my personal space. I have known Alyssa for years and this felt like a safe space but there this little part of my brain and I want it to stop nagging me. Then a friend came over and he easily pulled me in. One of the things I do is play music with people and this was a wonderful example of –we are all a part of a certain space and we all come of a certain perspective and we can learn new ones. You can incorporate others’ spaces into your space. It’s an organism and it felt no different than getting together with people to play music and someone just starting a line or whatever and then all of a sudden it’s music. Am I creating it? Am I in charge of it? Not really. It’s really about letting yourself go. I mean I hear music in my head all the time but before I was pulled in with a partner, I was thinking how are they moving without music? I thought I’m going to have to hum to myself for a second. I thought that was really interesting going from a silent space to then having everyone participating in a certain sense in terms of sound. I really enjoyed that dipping back down into silence again. That kind of allowed myself to examine it. Thank you. I appreciate it. It was cool.

I totally had the same thing.   After sound came in and left, I had thing thing like “We are dancing in silence?” I’ve been dancing in silence? This never happens. It was cool to reexamine what the function of sound is.

I found it interesting how we related to the space here. I’ve been to this space many times as a performance venue. I was actually in this space all day because I was doing a workshop here earlier. I hadn’t even realized that this is such a perfect spot for CI. I think it’s because of the nature that people in the CI community come in here very tactile. I saw people touching the tinfoil and interacting with that and with these great spacious wooden floors. It opened me up to this particular venue in a way that I had never really thought of before. Contact can happen anywhere but it was interesting to see how that added that extra element to it.

Thank you for the film. I am just reminded how Contact is no light, fun ride.   It’s really powerful. It’s not candy. It’s like a deep meal with deep flavors that bring up a lot. I tell people “come do Contact. It’s really fun!” It is fun but it makes you feel things. It’s super scary. I feel pretty confident in Contact Jams. But you know- the fear of rejection, not being wanted that Jashauna spoke to. That’s always present for me, at least.

I’m curious if we could show a show of hands for those of us who feel that, like you said it’s always present for you…that kind of fear of rejection. I’m wondering who else feels that regularly in Contact. (many hands)

I’ve developed some strategies to deal with it because sometimes its totally overwhelmed my ability to generally think or being present at all. So one thing I’ve been playing with sometimes is to deliberatetly do thing full-on and I am going to destroy the situation and my social reputation and connections and totally bomm this experience and destroy my life. And then when I start dancing I’m like “this is fine”.

Dancing is a place to play that out and take those risks.   It’s safe enough that you can. Or at least tiny ones.   I guess a lot of things I worry about in CI is: Am I overstepping my boundaries? Am I being too aggressive or am I dominating the situation too much? Or Whatever and I am like: “you know what? It’s only an issue if they are not willing. If they say it’s an issue. It’s about “trust”.

Ray Chung, who is a famous CI teach who has been around forever. He is very skilled and respected. I was in a workshop with him and I asked him about that fear stuff and the “I’m not good enough” and he said he has that every time, still. I thought that was interesting to hear because it’s a human thing.

I want to go back to the conversation of the words we use and the spiritual aspect of it. There is nothing spiritual in this and I mean that in the best way possible.   It is fear, joy, love, inspiration, emotions.   I feel spiritual is life and there’s no things above the basic experience.

Alyssa: I’ve been traveling a lot and one of the ways I enjoy traveling is entering into jams or festivals that are exploring communication through CI.   I am interested in, after a long time of being a newcomer to a lot of these spaces, I switched to being someone who knew people and someone who could maybe guess who was a newcomer. I switched to the ‘in crowd’ from the ‘out crowd’ or however you want to see it. I had conversations with different people who were on the in or the out at different times and I realized that I don’t necessarily know who is in and who’s out. If I think I’m in and I actively include myself then everybody else is going to think I’m totally in. This is my space. This Is my thing. This is my jam.   It’s two ways, right? How do I feel in? and How do I support others to feel in? and if we are are all doing that, then maybe we are actually all “in”. Just this curiosity of what are some specific strategies that I use to do that? and brainstorming that so that I can arrive in a good way to whatever space I’m at. This is a research question I have had for a long time.

Can you share some strategies?

Alyssa: First is what I said about believing I’m in the whole time. Second that even when I go to the bathroom for instance, staying in.   I had so much fun dancing with people who were walking and cleaning the floor.   Maybe he didn’t see it as dancing but I saw it as dancing and so now I’m in his dance and he’s in mine. Whether or not he’s experiencing that way, I don’t know but I’m playing with that. This kind of mindset and creativity play.

Yeah-even when you are on the fringes you are really still a part of it. I love that about CI-when we are creating that kind of general vibe.

 

An Interview with CI Virgins!

Ever wonder what people who don’t know anything about CI would say if they came and saw the film as their very first impression and then entered the JAM?

Alyssa (A) interviews two brand new beginners  (B & C) at the showing & Jam,  Darmstadt, Germany  Oct. 2, 2016 

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A: So you guys came and saw the film. Did you also see Fall After Newton- the early film shown?

Two Beginner Women: Yes.

A: I am just curious since it’s brand new to you, 1. How you found out about Contact Improvisation and thought about coming here today?

B: One of them who is in the workshop she sent an email to my mother actually. She’s dancing a lot around here so I heard it from that side and the third girl who is with us tonight –I met her last weekend in a movement medicine workshop. We started talking and she found out and said there is a Contact Improvisation workshop next weekend.   And I was like “yeah I was thinking about joining it but I couldn’t because of the time. And then said well there’s the jam evening with the film so she asked me if I want to join her and then I asked my friend to join me because we wanted to spend some time together on the weekend. That’s why we are here.

A: And did you have any idea what Contact Improvisation was before coming?

B: So I did because when my mom sent me the email I watched –I think you did a bit of the film in the internet, is it?

A: The trailer.

B: That’s what I saw. I saw the trailer. That was the only thing I saw.

A: Cool. And what was your first thought or impression from the trailer?

B: From the trailer was like it was something new for me. It’s not like my home thing in dancing. That was the first impression I had about the film but it made me curious.

A: What kind of dancing did you do before or do you normally do?

B: Movement Medicine. It comes from the Five Rhythms so it’s very free. My mother is doing Nia which is not that free but in comparison to Movement medicine, Nia, and Core Connection and Slow Motion my home base is the free stuff.

A: Do you connect to the word healing? That’s what comes to me when I hear the word ‘medicine’.

B: yeah. It is. That’s what I connect to and I find for myself that from all the things I’ve done over the many years- it’s when I am am totally free it’s important to come to myself in the beginning and I do it easier when I start with myself and when I’m really good in contact with myself I start to spread out and get in contact to the others. So that’s my way at the moment at the moment that I think works well for me and how I come into healing through the dance.

A [to C]: And what was your understanding of Contact Improvisation before you came this evening?

C: I didn’t have any idea what was going to happen tonight [both laugh]. She just said something about a workshop, Jam, and a film. Yeah, well, let’s go. So I didn’t know anything.

A: What was your first thought when you saw the film?

C: I really liked it. It was kind of magic to me. The magic of the body, the magic of movement, the magic of moving together and improvisation and just being in every moment. Move in every second a new way. It was really impressive to me.

A: And do you do other kinds of movement?

C: Yeah, I’m a yoga teacher and I just started with a few acro-yoga workshops so that came to my mind as well because there are some similarities and that’s really new because before I really did just on my own. Doing something together is something new. I really like it. I enjoy it. Even tonight.   It’s special.

A: Which character did you both connect to in the film?

B: The Israeli. C: yeah.

A: Lior?

B& C: hmhmm [as an affirmative yes].

A: What was it about him that you connected to?

B: I think it was all about him like his wholeness. I think he was very very honest so he really showed a bit of his truth in these moments. Yeah-very authentic.

A: What does that say about you –in that you connected to Lior?

B: hmm. In the end when he was walking through the people I saw that he was little. He’s not that big, not that tall. It’s so funny because I never see it in other people and sometimes I don’t feel it in myself. I see myself on pictures and I say wow I’m really much smaller than most of the others. [laughter]. But I don’t feel myself like this all the time. That’s what I saw in the end with him. Wow, he’s not that tall. That was one thing in the end that I connected to.

I think in my life I’m very connected to my own truth more and more so what’s important for me at the moment and how can I live that in that life, that busy life with many other rhythms and so I at least would say that’s really an important thing in my life this year.

A [to C]: What did you connect to you?

C: I felt the same when you asked us and I thought it’s because I met quite a few people from Israel l in the last two years and I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s because they are really authentic so he is as well. They don’t fear to say no. It’s really something which is very important for me. I learn to say no more and more and it’s also his truth and his authenticity. For me it’s really important to get to know the truth, to tell the truth. So it’s quite similar to her.

But there was a bit of connection to the French guy as well.

A: Camille.

C: yes. Because he was a bit shy and well, ‘I’m not good, I’m a beginner’. So I saw myself in him as well. But when I watched him during this film he was just amazing. So much sensitivity and so much beauty as well. His movements were just wow, amazing. In this last month I got to know that it’s kind of the same with me that I can’t see my beauty but I get to know it more and more. So that was a connection as well.

A: And then we went into your first jam experience after the film. What was that like?

B: Before I was like “Oh no, I can’t do it because my arm hurts, my back hurts and so I can’t go on the ground. I can’t roll. I can’t move so active with the others. So I started to move on my own. I really enjoyed it. A few months, a few years ago I wouldn’t have done it at all because I would have said “oh no, the others do it like this, they do it like that.” And today I was just like ‘ok, I do it my way and I enjoyed it. And then I was dancing with three different women and told the first two I can’t do that much and they respected it and it was really nice. And with the third one I didn’t have to say anything. It was small. It was just a movement with a hand and arm with the eyes and it was really deep and special and quite often I’m like ‘ok, it’s enough now and I’m off. And I really enjoyed just staying there and just being in the moment. So it was quite something. [sigh]

A: Do you think the film supported you to begin dancing tonight or was it just your state of being?

B: Yeah, I think so.

A: You don’t have to say yes for me, I’m just curious if it lead you to feel like you could do what you wanted.

B: Yeah, yeah. I think it did. It did.

C: I think the same. It was a bit like “OK you won’t be able to do a lot of it so it was two sides but more it was being more curious about it. I had a bit of a red line that you know something is not that new and you know where to start. I know that I like things about it. So for it was good as well, to have the film before.   Yeah, it was a bit like a book how to do it. I don’t know the English word for it.

A: A manual?

C: Yeah [laughter] like a manual. Yeah, it was good for me to have it as a start.

A: What did you read in the manual? [laughter] How to do Contact Improvisation?

B: I read in it: to get in contact with different parts of your body, to support but even more to be supported. So that felt good for me tonight; to really let go and let someone else carry your weight. So it was really special for me tonight to really –not just the earth. I try that a lot. To give my weight to the earth but even to give it to someone else. To be in nice contact and enjoy it. To fly a bit. I like that as well. It was really quick. Really special. I started with the woman we came with and then one minute later I was in the air so that was very funny. I enjoyed it. I liked it very much. It was good. But then came as well my mind a bit more. I would really like to have some knowing about it to really go a bit more into it. I wasn’t sure. When I was sitting on the side now-as longer I sat there-you know you get out of the field a bit. I was thinking that I might miss the music a bit if I did it more often or frequently. But I think it’s not that much a part of it. Not always, nah?

A: The music is not always part of it. Yeah.

B: I know that music is often helpful from my side too. Yeah especially in the music you can always find your own story and for me it’s a support as well to have the music. Even if it’s music I don’t like. Even when they started to jam a bit on the side it gave me a bit of support. Hmmmm. Maybe it’ important to do it without music sometimes.

A:[to C] Do you want to add anything about your experience?

C: no I think that’s it.

A: Thank you so much for sharing. It’s a gift for me to hear about what people’s first impressions are because I dance and work a lot with people who have done it for a long time. I also enjoy working with beginners but usually they have some so I was really curious about your first impression because you only get your first time once, right? [laughter]

B: Yeah-only one time the first one. Yeah-that really was our first time.

A: And that was quite a dive in.

B:Yeah yeah.

A: I commend you for your bravery.

B: Thank you for giving us the opportunity. It’s not really common that you can just come as a beginner, watch a movie and then join in a group.

C: Yeah it’s true.

A: Should we go join back in the group? [The jam was still continuing in the next room.]

B, C: Yeah. Thank you.

 

 

 

Dance IS Peace

Dance is Peace Festival, Lviv, Ukraine- May 2015

The question of how contact improvisation is political was at the heart of the Dance is Peace festival in the beautiful Ukrainian city of Lviv in May 2015. We had seen Poured Out, the powerful video of spontaneous dances in Maidan square, Kiev,  at the Bern Jam the year before.

It was not difficult to resist the temptation to offer Five Ways In as a way of exploring what was meaningful for people at the festival. Their manifesto for the festival moved Sonja and myself deeply:

Dance IS Peace
There’s a well-known initiative called “Dance for peace”. Something was constantly wrong for us in this idea, and now we understood what exactly. Dance is something that has no higher goal than the dance itself. Putting a goal means you’re not really present in the dance. But when dance is real, you’re connected with everything. In context of crisis and war, you dance with it – and you became peaceful with war. Dance IS peace, and dance may include whatever. Accepting the reality, in dance, is more than war-and-peace duality. And this is true peace.

Another inspiring thought is from Mahatma Gandhi. “Be the change you want to see in the world. If you want to change the world, start with yourself”. So the peace starts inside, starts from accepting whatever happens, and working with it. That’s why we decide to dance.

 

Lior Ophir (one of the five protagonists in the film) was among the five other amazing teachers (Inna Falkova, Claus Springborg, Bruno Caverna, Stephen Bates and Angela Doni). As was Sveta Bird, who had appeared many times in Five Ways In. We had not shown the documentary in their presence before. From the website we got a feeling of the festival being an act of peace-it was translated in English, Russian and Ukrainian. Russian teachers and dancers were coming.

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Lior's

Lior’s workshop proposal.

 

Inna Pavlichuk, the filmmaker of Poured Out and organiser of CJ around the world and Alex Postnikov, one of the dancers in Poured Out, were both planning to be there.  We had a feeling that a powerful journey awaited. We were not disappointed.

There were so many wonderful encounters, dances, sharings and insights during the days in Lviv that it would be impossible to share them all. So I have focused here on the screening and what it revealed and facilitated.

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Nadezhda Lebedeva doing the Russian voice-over.

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Post screening discussion in groups.

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Yuriy Kuzin introduced the screening and set the scene for the discussion afterwards framing in terms of ‘whether we should or should not dance during the war?”. We also recorded him during the discussion.

 

Nadezhda Lebedeva did an amazing live voice over in Russian, the lingua franca for most people in the room.  She also translated the discussion (English subtitles meant that others could also understand.). It is partly out of gratitude to her and also my wish to capture some audience participation and particular Lior’s that I video recorded during the screening.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The screening also led to a wonderful conversation/interview with Nirvan where he shared his response to the festival,  the documentary and being in Lviv. He also shared what he felt were the parallels between CI and the spiritual practice he experienced in Mooji’s community in Portugal (5.15) referencing Jashana’s conclusion in the documentary,  how CI is a way of investigating our true nature, questions of privilege in CI (prompted by Jess Curtis’ statements) and how CI is interpreted and communicated in other cultural contexts. He sees the power of contact being manifest less in the big festivals than in the smaller local festivals.

 

We would like to offer the Russian voice-over over as a  Christmas gift for peace to all those acting for peace in Ukraine and particularly those using dance for that purpose.

 

The password will be shared on Ukrainian and Russian facebook and other networks.

 

Feedback on Festival

Facebook event page.

Projects of Peace in Ukraine

Vision Nova Kraina

 

 

 

 

 

Mirva, Bastien, Alyssa and 16 others’ discussion at Les 1001 et une Festival Contact Improvisation Grenoble July 2015

Setting the scene:  Grenoble Festival, July 2015

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Getting ready to watch ‘Five Ways In’ one evening in the middle of the festival:

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A full house of Contacters watching: +/-65 people 

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Who was present at the feedback session:

Mirva Makkinen was one of the Contact Improvisation Intensive Teachers of the Grenoble Festival. She was also teaching an intensive during the film.   She saw the film for the first time at this screening and gave feedback.              Mirva MAKKINEN (FI) –Featured intensive teacher in the film (2012)

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Photo from a Jam moment: Mirva (from Right to left) with Alyssa and Christina Klissiouni (other CI Intensive teacher of the festival).

Others listed as present:

Bastien Auber (FR) – One of the organizers and translators of the Festival Grenoble, a local CI teacher

Alyssa Lynes (US) – One of teachers at Grenoble Festival, Co-director of Film

THE SMALL GROUP DISCUSSION AFTERWARDS:

Mirva: …a point of view from the whole festival. Is suddenly because we are many we can share so many different aspects, we are sharing it [the festival] but it can be parallel. It depends what intensive you choose, who you dance with, who you happen to be with-it’s influencing so much your experience of the festival and the film was helping to understand. It was from five people but at the same time you see so many moments and persons having their journeys. It was touching me.

I was that year giving an intensive in Freiburg and so my role, my experience, was also from the dances that were moving. It is also kind of mixing because I’ve been many years to Freiburg so some of the dances I don’t remember, whether they were two years ago or five years ago. You get confused of the years but that specific year –it takes a lot of focus to hold an intensive. I say hold because it is many people in the same class.   And then just seeing the different journeys was really touching. It was nice to feel and see.

It was my first time seeing the film. It was like realizing how we are sharing the space and sharing the dances but everything is so individual anyway. What kind of journey I have or you or you or you- are not the same or similar even (chuckles).

Alyssa (to everyone): You can share whatever you wish but I’d like to offer as a question for this discussion: If you were being filmed now in this festival: What is the key of what you are looking for or exploring here in this festival, your question or interest? And how is that intention going for you in this festival?

Bastien (Organizer of Grenoble Festival): It reminded me these things during this festival as an organizer and also this question came ‘what about me? What about time for myself?’ About this view of doing and this view in. So it’s important to deal with my dance, to survive in a way as Lior said. It’s good to come back to this question. How I can really enjoy who I am? Enjoy the festival to organize, to see everywhere that people are joyful, we would like that. So the question is- we organize a festival, but what is it in the end finally? And it reminds me of this aim for myself like oh wow, it’s important to connect with who I am. This question came to remind me.

Participant 1: Thank you for the movie. It touched me a lot. I saw the movie in Freiburg in 2013. The team of the movie encourages us to express how we feel about seeing this movie. I felt really touched by what I see but at the same time I was imbalanced because there was a few pieces of the movie that I was not feeling so comfortable with because I felt it was difficult to show this movie to my family or to my friends who are not in the Contact community- like the nudity, zen (7:42) and other parts of the movie when people are just playing like idiots because for me it was difficult to show to people who are not in the community because of the interpretation of the images around the dance. Now this movie is not like that. I really enjoyed it because I can show this movie so thank you very much.

And it touched me a lot because it reminds me really of Camille- I felt a lot of resonance with this man because it reminded me of when I was a beginner of all the questions how for a man to express/assume the sensitivity. How can I allow me to express it? How do I deal with my weight? And this question of self.

Finally you chose what is really important for me in Contact Improvisation- it’s not just about dancing. It’s really deeper than just that.   The different ways- in a festival like Freiburg, like this one- we can learn a lot about who you are- like you said Bastien.

Participant 2: I really appreciate the empathy of each other, human warmth. It’s not just dance. It’s more than dance. We can see it further away. It’s very good for everybody to be in contact, to share some things, to believe too.

Participant 3: I would like very much to have the source because I thought I have to show this film to people, because indeed this practice is not so spread or known by people. I feel lots of joy practicing this and the woman she told about the therapy. Dance is always a pleasure, lots of kinds of dance. But this is more meeting people. To go deeper in the dance, deeper inside oneself and deeper to meet people in another way without I thought also this mix between men and woman there is no… it’s beautiful to see –all the culture—without, ambiguity, with the body. It’s quite rare to find that in dance, to go like that. That’s what I like and also the spiritual side, to connect more than with people, with the nature, with energy. I’d like to see it again and I want to share it. It would be great to have the French subtitles also to reach more people.

Alyssa: We would love someone to volunteer to translate the subtitles. We have someone translating it to Italian and to Romanian. It would be great. As many people who want to translate would be wonderful. *****

Participant 2: Dancing in nature on the lake and with the leaves- that made me very happy to see that you can dance everywhere. Before I did not think this. I thought it works just and now I have a strong (15:44)

Participant 4 (translated by Bastien) What he felt during the movie was an experience of a festival although he doesn’t know Freiburg Festival. He liked the atmosphere, the ambience. He shared many things with the people. He asks himself if this movie can be watched by everybody or only people who dance. This kind of experience, sensation, organization of festival… There are many people with a lot of passion and he asks if just these people can perceive that. He asks if what he feels of the movie can be felt by others who don’t practice Contact. (to Alyssa) In this version, is it more oriented for dancers or is it oriented for everybody and non-dancers?

Alyssa: I don’t know, is the real answer. We are all three contacters. Mike is an anthropologist and the goal is to make it as real and clear as possible and we’ve shown it in the process to non-dancers and dancers and received feedback from both. Our hope is that it can be shared with everyone who wants to see it.   But my thought is that people see it from where they come from. And I also have this question that Lemmer said about ‘how much can be perceived from watching and then how much can be perceived from watching from a video? How we perceive comes from who we are and our experience with how we perceive.

So, I know that my family has seen it, many different people. Some that were very critical of Contact before and then accepted me more as a contact dancer after seeing it because they could relate to the person and they said ‘Oh, these are people experiencing people things and so I understand more why you do this.’ So for me it’s been special to share with non-dancers. They get something, maybe something different but they definitely perceive something.

Bastien: And I’m sure that people that are not dancers can be really touched by the movie, maybe more than dancers sometimes. There are no rules for emotional things.

Participant 5: That’s Contact Impro. I feel it teaches about something we are living in our society right now. I mean this kind of evolution of what we need to find solutions in our living. What I would like to know–is there anything like that before in any country or any time, similar like that happening before Steve Paxton? I feel that what we loose in the present with the new condition and the evolution that we are a kind of humanity and the needs we need to meet in that situation with the contact with the body and the emotion. It’s a big mix. It’s very a rich experience because when I am in contact anything can be. I’m thinking about when we dance-relationship, a very big meeting.

Participant 6: If I understand your question. (23:08) I can say that maybe, MAYBE, Contact Improvisation can be a Western form of traditional dance expression. In a way that dance since the beginning of human civilization has been expressing communication, communal sharing, there’s a lot of similarities like even touch and contact but not in this way that we are using now with our whole body to share contact. This is very unique. As far as I know. I can say that this is a form of dance that developed after the, let’s say, hippy movement in the Western world and it connects to a lot of ideologies. Ofcouse it has developed and a lot of things have changed in my opinion but I think it’s a lot like trying to connect to this communal spirit that the Western people have lost. You know, we live in a very narcissistic society where individualism comes really first. And this is a way to feel our individual being in relation to the communal and group feeling. I find this a unique proposition in the dance expression. I can say that in all traditional dances you find people looking for communication and that’s what it is about.

Participant 7: What about the traditional role of women and men?

Participant 6: Like African dances, as far as I know, there can men together and women together. We have in Greece, for instance, dances between women and dances between men. You know, it’s there, but this kind of neutrality that you can find in Contact it’s not so common in other traditional dances although I think, underneath the costumes and the rituals it’s really there also. I’m not an expert. I don’t know. But with the very little I have witnessed I can say that.

Alyssa: I do think that the context in the US at that time, it was progressive to dance two men and two women together in full body contact.

Participant 6: Definitely.

Alyssa: So, historically it was provocative and progressive.

Participant 6:  and rebellious.    It’s very provocative.

Participant 6: There’s something I’d like to say and I’m sorry if it is a critisicm because I really like the film and I’m touched by it. I had a problem with the music, the sound, most of the time. It felt very, may I use this word?, niave and somehow I don’t know how you chose music that was happening in the festival. Actually last year when I was in Freiburg festival teaching this intensive, the weakest point of the festival was the music and I see this in the film. Really. It’s amazing. Because somehow it weakens the atmosphere, you know, like when I look at images, also in nature, like really giving a sensation feeling, but the music, God, it lacks spirit. It lacks energy. For me this is a very weak point. I don’t know if you could do something about this but definitely the music for me is a problem there. Also in Freiburg Festival.

Alyssa: I appreciate the critical feedback because we want to have critical feedback. At this point it’s complete the way it is. We consciously chose music that only happened during the festival but we also made the choice to have music that happened outside with the musicians from Latin America playing overlapped a Jam later so it wasn’t the music or sound that was originally there. This was a choice mostly for non-dancer audience members because we felt like, if we do want to share the form with people that have no connection to Contact that having the music overlap is a way to keep the connection and keep the attention of non-dance viewers. But I appreciate your feedback.

Participant 6: Yeah, but it also gives a kind of character that is like a little bit like guitar glang, glang, glang . I’m sorry. I’m very sensitive to that. And then it’s like a person that is not connected so much to Contact, someone who’s not really in the form, can think of ‘why is this music related somehow?’ It’s just thinking.

Alyssa: I had a conversation with the co-directors and we actually want those people who are really critical of the film to show the film and use it as a beginning point to question music and Contact in film or whatever the question is. So if there is something like ‘errr’, like you really dislike it, it’s also a way to start a conversation. So maybe it could support a discussion on music and jamming because it’s not what you prefer.

Participant 6: Definitely. I mean, I like silence but when I choose music I need to have some kind of understanding why I choose the music I am using. That’s very important, also when I teach in my classes. Or if I see a performance of Contact.    Thank you very much.

Participant 8: I was touched by different things that were said by different people. The man who speak about his sensitivity and how he can deal with it in the dance. The question he ask about it. In fact, I think I had no question arriving here because I felt I was sure I could express myself. I didn’t know anything about Contact Improvisation and dance Contact but I was sure I was at the right place to express myself by my body. The question is: I am contacting really my sensitivity during the week, during the festival and now how can I deal with it in my life? It’s one of my problems and here it is good because I can express. I can do what I want. How to survive? How to express myself? Is a very big question but not in dance but in life outside the dance even if everything in life can be dance. It’s not easy to share it with everybody. It’s easy for me to see dance when I’m in a city I can see people walking and it’s under control. I see people walking and people going there, there, there and it’s a big stage. It’s like a show. People are amazing! I decide to see that. How can I dance in this life and now only in the festival? In daily life I cannot come with everybody and say’ OK this is your shoulder, great!’ and I do that. I cannot do that. This is my big question today and with the film.

Participant 9: I’m surprised that you (Alyssa) made this movie. It doesn’t seem like I feel you. And also it’s not the world I know of Contact Improvisation. It’s nothing to see this. It’s spectacle and publicity. It’s nothing to see, what we feel when you teach (Christina). ***

Alyssa: Thank you for sharing. Thank you everyone.

*****The day after this group conversation Participant 1 offered to translate the subtitles into French. 🙂

*** This participant 9 had attended Alyssa CI class and appreciated it a lot. She was also in Christina’s intensive. She joined the discussion at the end to add her opinion but had not heard the earlier comments. She spoke with lots of emotion. Later she spoke in French (her first language) to another participant who told Alyssa about it later. She has been actively involved in community living for many years and has a strong desire to connect with people as a community within a festival context. She seemed to be finding this collective sense at the Grenoble Festival but did not feel this shown in the film. She felt strongly that the film misrepresented what CI is for her.

Thank you to the organizers for supporting this showing to happen.  new-logo-1001-bis-ledge1  new-logo-1001-bis-ledge1

http://www.1001festival.fr/

Reflections on Vision and a Community Research Visit

The need for a core group with a coherent vision is often regarded as vital to starting a community that lasts. I reflect on feedback on our Monastery of Dreams intensive in relation to visits to several formed and developing communities in Catalonia in 2013. We visited Kanawen, Arcadia, Arlequi, Cal Cases, Can Masdeu, Esblada, Irehom, Cala Fou and Molinàs. I also offer a brief history of the group that formed to set up the Monastery of Dreams and the extent of our mutual involvement to provisionally suggest that a lack of strong group vision in our case reflects the trust born in our common practice of CI and an explicit wish to expand our network to encorporate other visions through the residency and intensive process. I conclude with a call for a different idea of visioning that is sensitive to dance, art practice and improvisation.

 

 

In her hugely influential book ‘Creating a Life Together’ Diane Leafe Christian argues that a strong vision and one preferably developed over many conversations and group processes is one vital part of the development of a successful intentional community.

 

I believe it was this widespread idea that Jashana Kippert was referencing when she expressed her appreciative surprise for how we as a group has managed to hold the space for a tremendously productive intensive at the Monastery of Dreams in which more than thirty people participated, without an agreed group vision.

History of the Group

The first thing to explain is that while some of us had visioned together in the past, or had a sense of a shared purpose, the group that finally came together to organise the residency and intensive did so under quite precarious circumstances. We did not know if we would be able to rent the monastery until we actually had the keys. Some of us knew each other well, others not at all.

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Community Visioning in Cardona 2014

Community Visioning in Cardona 2014

On the website where we invited people to the community experiment nine of us were named. Daniel, Gabriel, Melody, Jenny, Mike, Free, Laurence, Gavin and Sonja. The order is significant for the first three names. Daniel was the most connected of all of us to Catalonia through his long stay in Can Masdeu, speaking Catalan, being in partnership with Queralt and having a child here. If there was one person who was most vital in terms of linking and connecting others it was him. We would not have learned about the Monastery at all, without his involvement, enthusiasm and presence at Can Masdeu. The initiative of Melody and Gabriel helped by Daniel facilitated the first visit to the monastery, which then galvanised us into action. They recounted their first visit on a blog post and also attached lots of photos, which gave us a sense of the place but not its magic or potential. I wonder if the journey of imagining what it was like from hearing accounts from others (eg it is too big), looking at Googlemaps, seeing photos to finally arriving and experiencing it as a social place can offer a cautionary perspective on trusting our own visions of what community needs to be for us?  Could the journey of imagining of the Monastery from second hand information to finally experiencing it with others be a metaphor for the difference between community visioning and actually living in community? Do we really have the capacities to really imagine what a community would be like for us? I see more of the value of visioning in the mutual learning of doing with others, than in the actual content of the visions.

So what of the connections in the rest of the group. Sonja and Free had been involved in discussion around community in Spain for many years and were part of a wider network of people similarly interested. Daniel and Jenny developed the concept and practice of Bread and Jam (Building Relations, Eating, Active Discussions) in January 2013, which presented an extended practice of CI into conversation and sharing food. This was a strong philosophical step in the direction of showing how CI is already integrated in activity that create community.

 

Free also had been living and studying in Barcelona for a considerable time and so was well connected to the contact community there. He has considerable experience with communities and setting up festivals (Ecodharma, Buddhafields).

Sonja, Free and Daniel shared an activist interest in CI and had been involved in bringing CI to the Bank of Ideas, set up in a squatted bank in the City (Photos below).

 

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Jenny, Daniel, Sonja and I were involved in a few previous visioning experiments in Cardona, Catalonia that included other people. Melody, Gavin, Jenny, Sonja, Laurence, myself and others had been part of an experimental lab in London where we explored the boundaries and potentialities of CI, using a Bread and Jam structure. We were also part of a very social CI scene in London. There was trust based on having been to many jams and social events together. None of us had properly met Melody’s partner, Gabriel, in person until we saw him at the monastery. Through skype and extensive emails we came to agreements together that constituted us as the organising group with roles which developed before and after we arrived at the monastery. We also shared a financial commitment to paying for the rent for the initial two months planned and a degree of liability should not enough people come. (For more information about us-go to the facilitators page on the Monastery of Dreams website).

Arriving with Gratitude

I arrived in a mood of gratitude that this residency was even possible. Without the initiative of Melody and Gabriel and the considerable support of Daniel none of us would have had the opportunity to even arrive the monastery, let alone spend time there. Without the active strategic planning of Jenny and Sonja at key moments, what we could do in two months was not imaginable. Jenny had been particularly pro-active at the Dance is Peace event in Lviv and NIM in Norway to ensure the wider community was informed about our initiative.

Without Gavin and Laurence committing themselves to extensive planning and being on site, quite apart from their financial input, we would not have been able to ahead. All our networks and the relationships we had with others were key routes through which people heard of the project and then had sufficient confidence that it would be worthwhile coming at short notice. At the end of the intensive week, Jashana led a circle of appreciation to remind ourselves and to make real all that we appreciated about each other. It was a vital exercise of grounding and recognition.

Exploring Cala Fou in 2013.

Exploring Cala Fou in 2013.

While for me, just being there was something to be grateful for, many others arrived not in that mood, but in one of curiosity, contribution and desire to be involved. Gratefulness for the authenticity of people’s participation, the sharing, and the human warmth came later, during the sharing at the end of the intensive.

 

Most of us arrive at events without realising the extensive work that has gone into preparing them. The payment of money allows gratitude to take second place to making the most of the event. I’m reminded of the Tongan greeting of Malo e lava mai, which many people translate as welcome, but which literally and emotionally has the quality of ‘thank you for having managed to arrive here to us’ . There is acknowledgement and thanks of the journey and challenge of arriving, which perhaps harks back to a time when Pacific Islanders would make journeys over thousands of kilometres of open ocean. Arrival was never guaranteed, despite incredible seafaring and navigation abilities. At festivals and events we often welcome the arrivals, but not so often thank the organisers nor enquire, how it is that they managed to organise such an event. Enquiring might imply surprise that they could do it, which is a bit of an insult. One could enquire more about the impact of consumerist culture on appreciation and the degree to which the CI community can subvert that, but I should return to the main thread.

 

 

I don’t know how much people knew of the process of setting up the Monastery of Dreams beyond that of what we put online. Most people, however, arrived with the impression, from looking at our website, that the solidity of the vision of our group might mirror the solidity of monastery building itself. Some arrived with expectations that we might be further along the route of visioning community than we were, others that presence and involvement would inevitably lead to being part of the decision making process of how we go forward.

Core Group and Decision Making 

So what kind of group were we nine? At some points we called ourselves the core group and the original decision making group? But then what defined us as a core group beyond the trust some of us had developed in each other over years, and the fortuity of us being available to move this project forward at this particular time. There were many other people who had been part of important conversations, workshops, processes that no doubt could make vital contributions but because of time and other commitments could not attend. So in part we were a group of people, from a much wider network, that happened to be able to commit and could come at some point over the summer to the Monastery. I personally felt the strong need to give the coincidence of us coming together value, but that also related to a desire for some sense of structure and a coherent group to make decisions. Making decisions even in a group of 9 people you know well is a challenge, and we spent much time before the intensive in long circle discussions. Should we open the decision making group to others and on what basis became a question to us? This was an opportunity for reflexivity into our own psychological preferences in groups that also related to our own previous experience of being in groups and deciding in groups. Fears of losing influence or some degree of control in the development of the project was something I experienced as the possibility of others becoming part of the core team became necessary for simply organising and running the place. The subtle difference between core team (the original 9) and core decision making team, which included new vital members, was enough for me curiously to settle into the vital changes.

 

We were developing our structures in the process of being and organising in the Monastery, which is distinct from many groups that spend a lot of time planning and creating a solid group before they inhabit a place.

 

But yet, much of what we did worked well, which had surprised Jashana in the appreciation circle she led. I attribute this in part to the bodily dispositions encouraged by CI and particularly the jam space, which is the acceptance of ambiguity and the building of group confidence. There was a confidence in each other and a trust in each other that I felt underpinned and was enough to ensure things worked, even though we did not have a detailed and extensive (and perhaps prescriptive) vision statement to refer to. Things would work out by allowing the intentions of others to be held and supported and sometimes rejected in the space, rather like a jam, where we had some common understanding of accepted process. That is not to say that it did not require a lot of work and effort, but that that work and effort could be experienced as valued and useful.

Group Vision or not?

When I raised Jashana’s comment in a skype meeting a week or so after the intensive when many of us were outside the monastery, several people said that was not true, that we did have an agreed vision. And when they described that common vision in a shared wish to live and create a dance/creative arts community together, I agreed, struck by how that clarity and simplicity united us compared to some of the extremely detailed visions we had worked on previous explorations together. I realised that we had different ideas of vision, and that those ideas of what a vision is, also had impacts and influences on the possibility of sharing it or them, and using them to work together.

 

If an extremely detailed and developed vision is vital for some communities to develop, is it necessarily the model for all communities to develop? Sharing detailed visions of the kind of community we want to live in opens space for distinctions and difference to arise (That’s not the kind of community I want to live in? Therefore I would not want to live with you?). But then that honestly of how we imagine we want to live is a vital process to self learning, even if it might not tell us what kind of community would actually be good for us and/or would work for us? Visions can be as temporary and as connected to the current situation of a person as they are to really identifying how they would feel comfortable living in the future.

Tatiana’s revelation, half way through the intensive, that in her community people just liked each other and didn’t have a strong common vision struck a chord in me. It reminded me of other communities I had visited and lived in and made me curious of whether or not an strong founding vision was vital for all of those communities. Or are there ways a group vision can emerge out of the process of actually working and living together?

 

Our invitation to the CI community emphasised a long term interest that some of us had in setting up an international dance centre or community with CI strongly present.

 

Monastery of Dreams
An experiment in community living with a shared practice of creative improvisation.
Two years ago a group of friends met to explore the idea of setting up an intentional community based on Contact Improvisation. During this week it became clear that there were several different visions of creative community – not all of which centered on CI. We started dreaming of bringing more people together that are interested in community living and the creative arts to see if any of those seeds could take root and inspire a group to take them forward.
This year another friend discovered an old monastery available for sale or rent and we felt that this could be fertile ground for our community visioning. The monastery has very basic facilities, so in order to have our event we will need to co-create our home. There’ll be time to think, create, work, play and explore. We feel living this experience together will challenge our ideals of community and help us to imagine new ways forward.
We invite you to take part in this experiment!
You can either come to our arts residency sometime between 25th July and 13th September or join us for an intensive week from the 1- 9th August. During the residency you are welcome to come at any time, create a home with, share your skills and realise your creative project.
The intensive will be a focused week of exploring community living and creative improvisation. In the morning, there will be on-going groups that explore a particular interest. The afternoons are free for participants to offer workshops or labs, to suggest activities such as trips, swimming, etc. or just to rest and hang out. We will start the evening by getting together to share the findings of the day, and then there will a chance to process further through dance, play, music, words, drawing etc. in an open jam.
To find out more visit our website: creative-art-community.org or Facebook event https://www.facebook.com/events/1134148523267440
We hope to create fertile ground out of which many new community projects could grow
With excitement and curiosity
Daniel, Gabriel, Melody, Jenny, Mike, Free, Laurence, Gavin and Sonja

 

 

Gabriel and Melody’s invitation on their blog was more oriented to creative art practice showing that as a group we already had a wider range of visions that suggested by the invitation to the CI community. But very explicitly we framed coming to the Monastery as a ‘fertile ground for community visioning’. For us to be too fixed in our own visions before the event not to be true to the aim of the Monastery of Dreams, which was to dream first. We didn’t want the practicalities to overwhelm the possibility to dream first. So if we didn’t go into great detail at the beginning about our group, the finances, decision making etc it was because we wanted to be open to dreaming and visioning. Some people, of course, need the practicalities to be able to dream. We resisted sharing too much of our own journeys up till the Monastery to create a non-judgemental space for imagination to thrive.

A Community Research Visit 2013

Now that the intensive period of visioning is completed, I feel it is appropriate to bring in some of those previous journeys and practicalities. Two years ago in August 2013 Sonja, Daniel, Queralt and I did some research and visited communities, abandoned villages and new community projects in Catalonia. We visited several existing communities and looked at some places for sale. We did not have a strong research agenda, we visited and learned what occurred to us to ask when we there. The importance of vision or not, or of the importance of a strong ‘core’ or other group to start things off, were not at the front of our minds. We were just looking at possibilities. But reflecting back on that visit, using Sonja’s report as a reference, on the questions of vision and the need for a core group, I feel would be productive in thinking through our own needs in the Monastery and relate them to other groups.

 

I also realise that my experience of these other communities strongly informed why I am so enthusiastic about the Monastery as a location for a future project. I also should say that my curiosity in these communities was also guided by having researched and lived in a particularly strong community culture in Vava’u, Tonga for two years from 1998 to 2000. I also carried the knowledge of living in shared houses in London for close to 8 years and working as a volunteer in a wonderful community/course centre in Sweden called Angsbacka. I was also privileged to have many conversations with a good friend Alex who has extensive knowledge of the key aspect of decision making in communities. He had spent much time doing ethnographic research in Auroville. I should also add that after living in Madrid from 1992 to 1993 and in Ecuador for a year I always nursed a desire to spend more time in Spain.

 

On our trip in 2013 we visited:

 

  • Kanawen: A big community project that intended to buy an entire valley divided into five parcels and build a fully self-sustainable community of 100 members.
  • Arcadia: The mother project of Kanawen, a successful centre for spirituality, therapy and renewable energy and living community for the last 20 years.
  • Arlequi: A centre for dance run with many workshops during the year strongly related to CI.
  • Cal Cases: An intentional community of 20 adults and 10 children that had been going for 6 years.
  • Can Masdeu: An anarchist community on the outskirts of Barcelona-which acts as a key centre of communication for many other communities.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Can_Masdeu
  • Esblada- An abandoned village of 14 houses/ruins advertised for 250,000 Euros
  • Irehom: A project to build a centre for living community in the hills overlooking Montserrat
  • Cala Fou: A post-capitalist community in an old factory with a fluctuating resident population of around 40.
  • Molinàs- A project to rebuild a house next to an abandoned village for a living community of 8.

 

Our visits were driven by personal interest and mostly facilitated by personal contacts. While we asked many questions, our research was informal rather than formal and related strongly to our own ongoing interests. So any opinion or statement on any of these communities should not be read as a statement of truth or evaluation, rather more as part of a conversation of understanding.

 

In April 2014 we returned to Cardona to carry out a visioning process and further research with a group of friends. We spent a lot of time together, formed a loose group that we called ASHA and visited local properties.

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Visioning Drawings from Cardona 2014

Visioning Drawings from Cardona 2014

Much of what happened on both visits has informed, to varying degrees, our position and interest in the Monastery of Dreams. Also being at the monastery of dreams has enabled us to update ourselves on what has been happening with other communities in the area and further expand on useful links and developments.

 

Sonja wrote a report on our visits which I have copied verbatim. Each is followed by reflections and new information about each community or project prompted by our experiences at the Monastery.

 

 

August 2013 (Sonja)

Kanawen

 

Mike found the information about this project on the Eco Village Network website and contacted them. Didier who deals with the international communication was very welcoming and invited us straight away to see the project and stay with them in their ‘transition house’. On 29th August we met Didier, his wife, their two children and two more members of the community in the transition house. Transition houses are the places where community members live until the actual houses in the intended valley are bought and built. In future they will also be used for a transition period for new members to accustom to the area and go through an educational programme before moving in with the rest of the community.

 

Didier welcomed us and was very happy to tell us a lot about the vision of their project. There is a very clear procedure laid out for people interested in the project: you first read the mission statement of the community on the website, if you’re lucky you get invited by Didier to come and visit. Apparently they receive a lot of requests every day. Once there, Didier will talk to you to see whether you have similar ideas and fit into the project. If this runs well they will show you the valley that will be the future home of the community. We got off the car and before we had a chance to see the house and put down our luggage we had a two hour conversation with Didier. We spoke about practicalities, spiritual vision, housing, finances, membership, structural set up and future activities of the community’s members. Most of the information can be found in their online mission statement. We were impressed by how well thought through the whole project was. They seemed to have considered every detail. Later we had dinner with Didier’s family, a Spanish member of the community and an Australian lady that was visiting. Extensive conversation about the project continued.

The next morning we went to see the other transition house. It’s a beautiful big house with a stunning view across the valley. A family from Zurich just moved there. With Anna, the mother, we had breakfast. She gave up her academic job in Zürich to join the project and will be actively helping to set up the school they are planning.

 

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Later Daniel and Queralt arrived and we went to see the valley (seems that we qualified). It’s a fantastically big piece of land; fifteen minutes drive from Girona once the road will be built. At the moment it’s all forested and there are five ruins of former farmhouses. The forest is very green, mixed trees and much more humid then around Barcelona. Most of the land is on a slope which makes it difficult to cultivate. Previously we had seen the architectural model for the first construction: A spiral shaped building that can host around 15 families in individual units. There’s also a big communal space and a restaurant planned. This project will cost over a million and will be finances by the community member’s membership fee (7’000E) and monthly rent (250E /person).

Half of a fifth of the land has been bought so far (funders unknown) and now they need members to join that are happy to contribute from where they are or move into the transition houses.

In addition to the building plans in the valley Kanawen has access to a big school and sports ground that they help manage. There they can organise courses and meetings and are planning to start an alternative schooling programme for the children. Didier’s wife educates her children at home at the moment.

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Walk into the valley, one of the ruins and the view into the valley from Arcadia’s grounds.

 

The community will be organised in cooperatives that support its members to work and earn money. Currently they haven’t set what direction the cooperatives will take and they’re very open to dance and the arts to form part of it. There will certainly be a centre for therapy as quite a few therapists are involved in the project. Kanawen’s big example is a community called Arcadia, which is a successful centre for spirituality, therapy and renewable energy. Arcadia also started on a ruin and has now been successfully running for almost 20 years. However wonderful and well thought through it all sounded we also heard some critical voices. The Australian lady that stayed with Didier shared with us that she knows of a few members that have already left the project and she suspects this is because Didier and his family are really good at theorising the project but haven’t put much into practice so far. Didier in turn says that he wants to give a lot of importance and time to the process of finding the right people.

 

I left with a feeling of finding this project attractive and interesting and I liked the people that are involved. Didier and his wife have expressed strong interest in us joining the project. However, I also have doubts whether all the good ideas will be implemented in the foreseeable future. I think it might take years for the building project to start. We did like thought the idea of a rented transition house before buying land.

August 2015

In July 2015 we learned through the process of unsuccessfully trying to get in contact with Didier that the project had been disbanded on the death of the founder of Arcadia, who had been a key figure in the development of the project. There had been around ten people still interested and committed to the project when he died, some of whom have stayed in the area. Some are grateful for having been brought into the area thanks to the project, an opportunity they are now developing in new directions. One member of the community reported that in the months before his untimely death of a stroke the founder had been wanting to push the vision of the community into a much more spiritual direction that some of the members had signed up for. They also recognised that the agreements with landowners were made before the crash of property prices and so they were no longer worth sticking to.

 

In reflection, Kanawen was developed on an incredibly well developed vision, almost too encompassing, that perhaps inhibited a stronger group of committed members to take the group forward. It was premised on people accepting most of the vision without being part of the process of developing that vision. It seems to me in retrospect that that vision gave great confidence in the project, but it also inhibited it and meant that questions of inclusion and exclusion were present from the very beginning. We did learn a tremendous amount about the project and were particularly struck with the idea of a transition house that allows people to live in the area and test out their own feeling and process in relation to community before having to commit to a particular place or a particular group of people. It was sad to learn that so much creative process and visioning had not developed beyond planning. But then if lessons were learned and all the people who had partaken in the process had got closer to realising more particular and personal plans, there had been benefits experienced.

 

Arlequi (Sonja -August 2013)

 

Only two minutes drive from Kanawen’s transition houses is the dance centre Arlequi. When entering the site we met a group of CI dancers that we knew. This felt like coming home. Mike and I loved the building and Daniel said there’s lot’s of those houses around.

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The lake Banyoles close to Arlequi was somewhat disappointing even though it’s one of the only natural lakes in Catalunya. Swimming was only permitted during certain times and in enclosed areas.

 

August 2015

Arlequi is still going strong, but there is some evidence to suggest that numbers on workshop organised by them are dropping because of the financial crash. Thomas Kampe was on his way to teach a workshop there, when he dropped in to visit us on the way. To have Arlequi so close to Pontos, we see as incredibly useful and valuable. It has been an important dance centre and place of workshops for CI over the years and its continued existence demonstrates the viability of a dance centre in this region.

 

 

Cal Cases

A twenty minutes drive along a stony road from a little village is Can Cases. A friend of Queralt’s received us and showed us around. Can Cases is a community of 20 adults and 10 children that have been living together for the last 6 years. They have one big communal house, which was there from the beginning and allowed the group to move in straight away. The house and land’s value was 450.000 E. Behind the communal house they build small individual units for each family or individual. This reminded me of a Mexican village with a village centre surrounded by small white houses. On the other side, a bit more hidden they are in process of finishing eco-construction houses made out of straw bale and mud. We had a chance to see them from inside. Apart from keeping the heat from the sun in winter and cooling in summer they are visually very attractive. In Spanish law it’s difficult to get permission to build unless it’s on an already existing foundation. This was not the case with these houses. Ruins can only be extended by 20%.

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The community meets every Sunday for practical meetings and emotional sharing. Even though they say that there’re not a spiritual community they realised that space needs to be given to emotions and personal relationships, otherwise ‘discussions about where to buy the toilet paper becomes a hidden discussion about personal conflicts’.

CalCases dinner

The meals are always shared and one person cooks each meal for the community. It was a beautiful big table full of people with an array of vegetarian food. One of the residents told us that the process of finding a house has taken them over three years and in the end they abandoned most of their criteria (e.g. close to a town) because they liked the place so much. Some of the members work in the community, e.g. brewing beer or producing pasta, others have a job in Barcelona or in the surrounding area and commute. Everyone gives the same contribution to the community, this can either be done with working hours or with the equivalent in money.

 

I left with a very good impression and felt that this could be a place I would very much like to join. It seemed really down to earth with a strong emphasis on simply being human and living together.

 

August 2015

 

The community has experienced media attention on TV recently and seems to be still going strong. The builder of the straw bale house wrote an extensive blog post describing the process.

I do not know the details of the visioning process they went through at the beginning, but it seems very clear that their visions had to be adjusted to the reality of what was available to buy. In that process, some people dropped out the project, not willing to compromise on their vision. I wonder what the attachment to a particular vision serves, if it eventually stopped some people becoming part of a very active community. Where can the space of compromise of vision be a space of profound learning about what actually informs our desires for community? In terms of group work, one thing that very strong defined the group that developed Cal Cases, was that they were all part of a co-operative group in Barcelona and they had a lot of time to work and research together and feel into imagining living together. I felt there was strong point of comparison in their being part of a wider network in a co-operative and us being part of a much wider network of people connected through CI.

 

 

Irehom (Sonja 2013)

 

After spending most of the day at Cal Cases we went to visit a new project that a few friends of Queralt’s are part of. It’s a group of around 20 people from Manresa that are in process of building a community project in the mountains of Montserrat. It was already late when we arrived at Irehom and we saw the beautiful evening light with a view to Montserrat. The land of the project counts three buildings, one that is in process of being rebuilt by the community member’s themselves into a big communal /workshop space and a kitchen. One small house can already be lived in and four people live there and another big one is not safe to enter and needs rebuilding in order to be used.

 

One person owns the land and currently there are no written agreements of how the community will be organised financially. We felt that this is a big risk. The group seemed very enthusiastic and young. They want to build a centre for education, spirituality and sustainable energy among other projects. The couple we met built a straw bell house for themselves next to the main houses.

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I really enjoyed the view from this place and felt the potential this place has, there seem to be a lot of great ideas around, but it is very hard labour for the community’s members without a clear financial plan.

August 2015

 

It is quite remarkable how much the centre has developed over the last years, at least evidenced by their webpage. It would be very interesting to learn how the social dynamics are with ownership in one hand, and how people can feel a sense of ownership of the project they are involved with, without needing to have actual ownership or part ownership of the place.

 

Can Masdeu (August 2015):

 

We spent the night at Can Masdeu, Daniel’s wonderful community. I love the view of Barcelona from there and the fact it’s so close to the city and yet with such a natural feeling.

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View from the roof of Can Masdeu

View from the roof of Can Masdeu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 2015

 

Can Masdeu is a vital hub in the development of communities in Northern Spain. So much happens because of the role Can Masdeu plays in facilitating meetings and education. It’s historical involvement with the local community was vital to its survival and continues to this day. Daniel’s experience of the value of this engagement has strongly informed our feeling of communicating and engaging with the community of Pontos as soon as possible. In fact the confidence to do so and its value is well demonstrated by Can Masdeu. There is also much to learn in how they manage visitors and how they decide who is to be welcomed into the community. Even though they are an anarchist community there is a long process to becoming a recognised member, that involves long term residence. That necessary process and degree of exclusivity was very different in Cala Fou, which both benefitted and suffered from it extreme open door policy. They have become so popular that having visitors all the time posed a real challenge to community feeling. They now operate a month on, month off system, with visitors only staying during the on months.

 

Cala Fou (Sonja August 2013)

Calafou is a massive former paper and fabric factory built next to a contaminated river under a road bridge. Approximately 40 people live there. On a big board at the entrance we read: Post Capitalist Community. We met one of the members in her little flat, which she says is very cold in winter. Apparently below was a water tank, which she found out at some stage and emptied.  Cala Fou has an extremely open visitor policy which means a lot of people come and go and there is little control who stays. A big part of the community dedicates to hacking activities in their computer room. Some members work outside the community to be able to pay for their rent. Several of the buildings have collapsed or burnt down. There are no finances or clear plans at the moment to build them back up. The river and land next to the factory are still contaminated from the time when paper was produced. I couldn’t get a clear picture of what their ideology is apart from being against capitalism.

 

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August 2015

 

Cala Fou faced challenges in accepting all people who came and incorporating them in functioning structures. It now has a defined visitor policy.  It has become a bastion for people all over Europe, there were many vans with German number plates in the car park when we were there. Sonja’s brief description perhaps reflects that she she did not personally resonate with the place. But we were both in awe of its existence.  The story how they got the money to buy it from a Spanish Robin Hood character who borrowed from the banks to give it to the group that founded it, and then went on the run, is fascinating.

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Hiking in the Garrotxa

There is much more to research about this remarkable place and how it is working now. The only thing we heard on the grapevine when mentioning Cala Fou in conversation, is that the ideological founder has bought land in the Garrotza and wants to set up a smaller eco community there. It continues to inspire people, as I learned in a jam in the park in London Fields where I learned of someone passionately interested in visiting after reading about it in on the blog of the P2P Foundation.

 

 

 

 

For me now, in relation to the Monastery of Dreams, it signifies the challenges of being too open and not having a recognised process of people requesting to visit. While much in their post-capitalist ethos is of interest to me, I feel more committed to community practices and ethos that do not pose a fundamental break with the past, nor aspire to utopia or strongly reference dystopia.

 

Esblada (Sonja 2013)

https://goo.gl/maps/pLSsv

 

Esblada map

Abandoned village for sale:

In searching for an abandoned village of 14 houses for 250’000 Euros we drove straight past it without realising. We found a village of a similar name, slightly deserted but all well cared for and we got suspicious and guessed that it can’t be the one until we met an old man who cleared the matter for us. So we drove back and found Esblada: an accumulation of ruins, barely visible from the road. From a winegrower nearby we found out that there is a never-ending fountain as part of the land. We ventured into the overgrown valley and found a lovely microclimate of fruit trees and bushes. Around the fountain were two pools for washing and an abundance of clear fresh water came out of the hillside.   Mike really liked the place, but I wasn’t drawn to the fact that all the houses are on a steep slope and the valley felt very enclosing to me.

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August 2015

A group of people from Barcelona formed a housing co-operative about 6 months ago and the final purchase is imminent. Some of the group are already living nearby. Daniel reported that the group needed to get public vouchers together to be access the Coop57 financing they were seeking for the purchase. Public vouchers are pledges by other institutions and people to cover the debt should the co-operative not be able to pay mortgage payments.

 

Abandoned Spanish villages have captured the public imagination on Facebook and global media. There is, however, little critique of the context of what makes such opportunities so attractive: prohibitively expensive housing in the UK and the hugely unequal distribution of land.

 

The attraction of such places for our group in our visioning was insightful, as it also revealed preferences of living environments and the ability to invest and improve one’s own nest, as separate from the whole community. Findhorn is an example of a community that also provides this opportunity and people can now buy and sell property there, on a more open market. Having one’s own house in a village that could then be bought and sold was a middle ground that served both the need get benefit from an investment and also be part of a community. The current property market in Spain means that old properties in rural areas are not regarded at investments, they are both difficult to buy and to sell. They are difficult to buy because prices are inflated because of an impression of rich foreigners coming to buy and paying ridiculous prices. So there is a lottery mentality of people putting property on the market that they don’t really want to sell but will if it makes them a fortune. Selling on is also a challenge, because of inflated market prices that no-one want to pay, and then the lack of accurate reference point for what the value of a property is now. The extensive negotiation and coming to a price is against the ethos of many Northern Europeans.

 

There is some value however, in accepting, that becoming part of a project of transforming a property cannot be profit making in monetary terms. Structuring out the possibility of profit, would also ensure a longevity of the project by ensuring co-ownership. But will this please all people who would want to contribute? What does money and investment really mean to people are questions really worth exploring as they are at the heart of much anxiety and can inform the attraction to living in an old building or abandoned property?

 

The challenges of buying and developing abandoned villages is often underplayed. They are often in very remote places or in places difficult to access. In developing a dance based community, accessibility is very important to ensure visitors for weekends and for longer stays from overseas. Pontos is ideal in this way. The contrast between the accessibility of Esblada (which is actually more accessible to Barcelona than most advertised abandoned villages are) and that of Pontos was one of the reasons why the Monastery captured Sonja and I so much. Abandoned villages also don’t have the opportunity of such close community involvement beyond the actual community. They have by definition been abandoned by the community who had a historical and familial relationship to me.

The last project we visited was the most remote.

Sonja resting above Esblada

Sonja resting above Esblada

 

Molinàs (Sonja 2013)

 

https://goo.gl/maps/STLZI

The last project we looked at was supposedly another abandoned village that a community is building up. This time, which is rare, it was very close to the sea in the very north of Cataluña. We met three of the guys in Colera, close to the border with France, and followed them with our non-off road car along a steep very stony road until we got to an group of houses. The guys explained to us that nobody lives in the village anymore but all houses have an owner. However, after many years of administrative effort the council gave one ruin to the group to build up and move into. They are a group of eight young people that want to live in an eco-community in the countryside. Most of them have been unemployed for quite some time and are now looking for a new way of living. With no finances and hand collected materials they are now rebuilding the house by hand. In the meantime they live in tents until they will be able to move into the stone house. Water is an issue, there are two fountains but they often dry out. The house is next to a major hiking route and the group is planning to produce goat’s cheese and bread, which was the tradition in this village. They are hoping that on some point they will be able to expand and take on a few more houses of the village.

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August 2015

 

When asked by a visitor to the Monastery about this project, I realised I had completely forgotten exactly where it was. This was not the case with all the other places I visited. Somehow, the opportunity of Molinas also made me sad, in a way that other community projects did not and influenced my memory of it.

 

 

Arriving with recycled material to use in the house.

Arriving with recycled items to use in the house.

The guys struck me as very industrious but also as signing up to a capitulation to not being able to live where they wanted closer to family and friends. The drive to their place would take its toll on their van as it would on them, and I felt the support they were given, as they described was not really sufficient to do justice to their energy in the project or the building itself. I got no sense of a strong ideological focus, like at Cala Fou, that unifies and also prompts curiosity and thence support from people. I found myself while there constantly imagining of what might help them become more connected to wider projects and collectives, and how on earth they would be able to make any money or live in the winter in that ruin. In the fourth photo Sonja is looking at a historical book about the nearby village that they had and that at the very least was one way to prompt curiosity about their project.

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Speaking with them made me aware of the scourge of youth unemployment and lack of housing being suffered by so many people in Spain, that somehow in visiting such active communities who had already managed to deal with the financial crisis, I had put to the back of my mind. And yet, as one of the key motivating structural drivers of the desire for living in community in Catalonia and of the opportunity of cheaper prices for those coming from overseas it was somehow not being addressed in a critical enough fashion. For those outside Spain, the financial crisis created an opportunity. That opportunity cannot be grasped ethically without critiquing its origin and participating in projects to somehow address its impact. Perhaps, this is more possible in Pontos with the possibility of more local collaboration. Perhaps another strategy is to offer the Monastery as a place for meetings of co-operative group that  address the crisis in many different ways, in a similar mode to Can Masdeu.

What is not possible to my mind after this reflective journey of the communities we visited two years ago, is a focus of isolation or sustainability that is disinterested in the wider politics and social situation of people around the monastery or indeed the region.

 

Core Group, Decision Making and Sociocracy

 

This reflective journey brings me back to questions raised in the Monastery of Dreams.  I am drawn more toward the value of having a strong core group before having a group vision. This gives a vital sense of trust and confidence in continuity and that the considerable contributions from people can be held and valued. A core group is not about hierarchy or power if done properly but about establishing confidence for those involved and those interested. For me, the group vision is something that should develop gradually out of not only the dreams of people but of the practicalities and realities of their lives and their commitments. The group vision also, I feel, needs to give value to how the local and wider community surrounding the intentional community could engage and benefit from its presence. In some places the need to create a coherent sense of group through group visioning is a vital part of the process of keeping a group together and creating a sense of identity, that may or may not be one deliberately counter-posed to what is imagined as mainstream, or ‘capitalist’ society. In reality, we cannot escape from the patterning in our very psyches of mainstream and capitalist society. But there are creative ways to recognise their influence and be more reflective of how they contribute or detract from living beneficially in community.

 

Map of the region at Cala Fou.

Map of the region at Cala Fou.

My interest is to learn more about the small number of dance based communities and read more about Sociocracy, which is widely recognised to be a means of decision making in non-hierarchical ways, that addresses the many challenges many communities have had with consensus decision making. I also am more curious about how we can use video to reflect on the challenges of visioning and group formation. I also feel that just the idea of visioning would benefit from visual anthropological scrutiny. Why is one sense, the most distancing of all senses, given preferential descriptive value in the process of deciding a common future?  Does the idea of ‘visioning’ give enough attention to the presence and bodliness engendered by dance and improvisation. Can we imagine another term, perhaps more sensitive or descriptive, of how a creative and improvisation based community, would want to start planning its future?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Screening within the CONTACT IMPROVISATION TRAINING INTENSIVE (May 2015, Freiburg)

Ecki Mueller, Alyssa Lynes and Bernd Ka teach a Compact Training Program in Freiburg with a small consistent group of dancers over the course of 4 months: This May, 2015, they decided to devote an evening to film and discussion as part of the CI Training.  They first viewed “Fall After Newton” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vMj3Coktu40)  and then “Five Ways In”.

Here are a few of their comments:

Ecki (one of the organizers of Freiburg CI International Festival): It’s very interesting to see which different questions these people come to the festival with and to realize how very different ideas and approaches or questions that people have and to make clear that an event like this is hosting all these different people with different worlds in their minds and what they bring to the festival. And specifically with this film, I feel like that you point very much to these individuals and really you go deeply in to their questions that they have in their life in a way-what the dance does to help them with this question that they have. And this opens a very wide range of different worlds behind this film. I think this is the quality of this film. Showing the different personal perspectives, questions.

Participant A response: There is one idea coming to me. It’s where Dani was selling her clothes and the other girl said that here we are a community that everybody feels like to be very open and very good but everybody wants to buy the new clothes to be the most beautiful. So this was funny.

I saw also in the festival that, OK there were all these questions, spiritual question, what I am doing and what is my relation to the other and to myself etc. but there is also ‘yes, I can do it!’ I feel also that a lot of people want to have a nice dance, to be able to do it well. So this doing well, being nice takes us always to another place.

Ecki: There are some people in this Contact community that don’t like to play this, to be nice, to take so much care of the other. There is some resistance against that. You can feel sometimes that they try to go against this hippy nice very smoothy thing. But I think it’s like 90 percent that like to go with the flow, be very nice, also to yourself. But we don’t provoke like the first generation, They provoked each other and risk like hell. We stay much more away from this. We are much more gentle. But still there are some people with this kind of first generation way who want to break patterns, to risk something, to confront people. But there are not very many. I think it’s good that there are some other minds with ideas as well in this community that fresh us up again.

Alyssa: I am thinking what you said about how people want to do it well.   Then the question is ‘what is doing it well for me?’ because it might be different than ‘doing it well’ for each of you. And this is striking to see “Fall after Newton” and then seeing “Five Ways In” today because I think they had a very different ‘doing it well’ and maybe each of us has a different feeling about that. That to me was very clear. They were really going for momentum over being smooth and fluid as Ecki was teaching this morning.

Participant B: There are not so many places where there are 300 people and you can touch and be touched by everyone. At the end these things they do, its really a great thing.

Ecki: It was at the end of the week. At the beginning it might be more difficult for some.

CI Compact Training Program: (http://www.bewegungs-art.de/ ciiFreiburg@web.de)

Italy CI Fest (May 2015 – Amelia (Umbria, IT): What is your interest/question and how are you exploring it in this festival now?

Five Ways In Showing Discussion at: Italy Contact Fest: May 2015               http://www.italycontactfest.com/

Thank you to the ICF Team:

Leilani Weis, Leonardo Lambruschini, Mario Ghezzi for supporting this showing.

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Setting up–getting comfortable

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There were around 75 people at the screening including Lior and Alyssa.

  ITF Jam 2

Most people went directly into Jamming afterwards and 13 people stayed to create this discussion.

Alyssa:  We like to dig into a question after a screening, call it a discussion, call it research.  In different places the topic is different. It might be politics and War or community development. In this festival I’m interested in posing the question:

 

Participant A: I have a question about the way of life. If all people on the planet could live like a commune of Contact Improvisation, is it Utopia? Now, I don’t know. This question just appeared now. Maybe I will find the answer. This movie gave me great inspiration. To realize in this moment, I am here in this place, between people in the same like utopia situation and I have lots of emotions. Maybe later I will have more thoughts about questions, a sense about what people were talking about, but now I have many great emotions.

 

B: When I started meeting Contact Impro. Just a few years ago, I really fell in love with that. I really needed that. I had stopped ten years of psychoanalysis. And I felt somehow without one of my two legs. I had to find a new way to deal with the world without that big thing I’d been using to deal with the world. And I just fell in love with it. And I perceived there was something in it that was helping me deal with the world and somehow it was also helping me in going into a kind of utopian world for those few days or few hours. And after a few years now I think it is very nice but this is not a utopia and I keep it in my real world which is made of everyday life’s job whether I really like it or not, everyday relationships, friends, people you work with, boring things you have to do every day, annoying things you have to do every day.

I try to feel now festivals less and less like a utopia, a moon where I can go for a week trip and then come back. And I’m trying to bring Contact more and more into my everyday life, knowing that it’s not my job and it won’t be my job. And it will be my every day life style. But keeping these firm ideas I think it’s a good balance between the need of something always beautiful, always nice, always good.  I would love to be dancing everyday of my life but it just doesn’t seem my life. And this beautiful thing we are doing here so thanks to this festival and the other festivals this is an option to put more contact improvisation in to my every day life more than I do every day in my regular life.

 

dinner ITF 2

C: What he says answers to my thinking. It helps a lot what you just said. Because when you asked the question ‘what is your intention about this festival’ I was like hmmm, why should we have an intention? and Is a festival different from what is happening in general? and Is Contact Improvisation something different in a festival and something different in our lives? and Is being in Italy any different than being in Greece?, etc. etc. etc.   And so if you put an extra break in what I’m feeling that finally for me it’s important to do as you say, to not give much extra attention to what’s happening in a festival or in a class or jam but somehow find a balance in between everything because Contact for me is a way of life but my life is not only Contact, if that makes any sense. So I think that Contact can be applied to many different parts of my life. But it’s Contact and not Contact at the same time. If that makes any sense, I don’t know. I’m also a psychoanalysist for three years now and I think it’s the same thing actually so when I’m doing psychotherapy am I doing Contact? and when I’m doing Contact am I doing psychotherapy? Or when I’m doing modern dance, contemporary, or when I’m performing, or when I speak to my friend am I doing Contact? So I like to think it’s good not to give so many importance like the girl that was talking about how to be clear and simple. I like this idea also. To be simple with Contact Improvisation but being complex at the same time. That’s what I think.

And also I like the fact that we speak right now. It’s important. We all go to festivals and we don’t give time to just exchange some thoughts about Contact and I think it’s also part of the job.

 

D: For me it’s about what CI brings to the individual and what the individual brings to the community. It’s different from Contact dance with a friend or someone in Greece. It’s different to come to a festival because you are always with people all day so CI is 24 hours. All of the experiences are CI, how we relate. For me I have to bring something or do something or help somebody or to make a service otherwise I don’t connect properly and this is very powerful I think with the dance. It brings, let’s say, confidence with who you are if you find your place among people and I mean to follow your need to be clear and sincere with yourself like ‘now, I want to be alone, now I want to dance, to start feeling more your needs in this structure of dance.   This brings me much more information as I grow older. In the beginning I was focusing only to develop dancing techniques and skills and now I am in this phase.

Lior, Victor, Alyssa ITF 2

E: I was very happy to hear that guy (Lemmer Schmid) at the beginning of the film who said that Contact is about a beauty that can’t be seen in a video. That’s something I’ve been looking for. I had done Contemporary dance before CI but that’s what I’m really attracted to in Contact. Of course there are many things, principals of the community and what you practice, but I think about what he said; the found humanity in Contact. The fact that we’re generating.. You cant just attended to that when you look at people dancing. Like with meditation you’re not the person who lives it. And I’m more and more interested in the dimension inside each moment.

I keep finding reasons to dig that emotion that is for non-contacters/non dancers in my experience. I think it’s a form that allows everybody to get in the activity and to feel, to live the essence of the activity from the very first minutes of practice when it’s wisely connected.

I would even say, over the years, I’ve been looking at many videos online of CI and I think many of them are counter-productive because maybe 85% of the time they are promotional and they insist on the visual and chiefly the acrobatic elements which for me is not the essence, well, –that’s part of it, that’s one of the dimensions of it. That acrobatics means different things for different people.

 

F: We have the possibilities to take workshops and then learn from the exercises and let you think that openly in the jams. It feels really good to learn to use my intention. I like the part about desire because I also have spent much time to think about my needs but it’s nice to think about desire. My desire was to put together the taking care of me and of the others simultaneously. It’s not about cognuity. It’s about presence.

It’s a little bit a challenge for me here.   One possibility is to think I am here so this is not a problem. But I think the political issue then it’s not ok. If I think about other people with wheelchairs it’s really difficult.  

ITF last 2

G: For me CI is something that has to do with entering neurological information. Let’s say, the neurological part is very easy.  Information comes to the center and electricity and the information goes form the center to the outside.   In this way we move. When we receive the information, we feel. So there are these two differences.   Very easy. There are a lot of nerves with these two highways of information. So, as I am studying anatomy for my job, in contact improvisation it is something you are receiving through contact with the eyes, with all your senses and perceiving. And when you have to improvise. From my point of view, improvisation means that you move without the willing, what you want to do. So it’s like Itay [Yatuv] said once. It’s like a big mistake. So CI is maybe a mistake. Yeah, because from my personal point of view, I’m doing really CI when I fail. When I am doing something that is unexpected, like an accident. Accidents are good from this point of view.

Everybody is talking about the center in the body. I never danced before I am studying CI since two years and I met some dancers and they always talk about the center. I study anatomy and I don’t know what is the center of the body.   We have different points of view. Neurological center is in the spine and the visual center is at the beginning of the bowel and I don’t know if it is the muscle or the pelvis but this is not a problem. But this is just a thought, something that I want to share. From my point of view, the center is the neurological system.

What is interesting is that we know we have two brains, the right and the left. But more interesting, from a functional point of view, we have the frontal and one is the posterior. Every information that comes to the center goes to the cortex and goes to the posterior part. Everything that I wanna do comes from the frontal part. In Osteopathy we say we should switch from the frontal to the posterior part and feel when you want to listen more.

So my personal point of view is that needs and desires is something that brings me out of this state or feeling. If I need or desire I am projecting me somewhere else and I am not here anymore and if I am here I have everything I want. I feel myself when something unexpected comes like a big mistake like Itay said.

 

H: I would like to add something. It’s very interesting all these important and philosophical elements but what really bring me back is the dance and co-creating with people in improvisation and this wonder at all of the possibilities of movement and interaction that can come out of being together and interacting. For me it is very much creative –that’s what brings me to the dance.

 

I: My question especially for the festival was What is really the point to be able to dance?. What motivates me to dance, to improvise? It’s not every time. I feel not every time.   I loose a good friend a few weeks ago.   I felt like I can never dance. It’s finished. I asked especially what can I do to come really into the idea to dance, to improvise.

In the morning we had this bodywork –which is something you do that is something you don’t do on your own. That is a way. Your body do something, not you do it. To come into this playful feeling again.

 

J: Why Contact? Why am I practicing Contact? That question I like, really. My answers are not very clear but I am always thinking in global terms.   How is the consciousness in each of us? How is this work in contact playing with you? One thing I like is political -how for us is a special thing and how it allows us a space for a special sensitivity and meet our awareness with others.   Like imagine our community–what type of things that happen in Contact that make us feel so good dancing as to wish our society would be like that. That’s what I’m interested in. Especially being in a country where there is not much space for contact, what of this way of thinking also in others and in interaction can be in the big picture and what amount of that can we bring back from here?

 

K: For me, it’s not a question I relate and then I answer- that’s in myself every now and then in this environment. First of all, it’s extra intense, more than in a jam or a workshop for just one day. It’s being with a family for a whole week. It’s very intense. For me a jam, it’s not so easy. It’s demanding on the body, physically and metaphorically speaking.  I relate to this challenge, every time I want to get into the jam or come out. It’s very much intense. It’s an amplifier of life and it’s quite moving. But I feel challenged by this situation and I find myself in these festivals a few times a year.

I like Lior’s way of speaking about it too, like the vibing.   It’s not a specific question but it’s something I come back to. I don’t know if I could live with this intensity, this extra awareness for a lot of years. For me it’s enough as it is. It’s fine. I need to work my way through, with my space and my moments to be alone for a while. That’s my question, I place myself in this place of challenge, to fly, to fall. A taste of not thinking and just moving, being surprised by a moment of a jam, you know that. You know that feeling of gravity, that magic- just being aware of gravity, the center, being in the moment.

 

L: The word, ‘connect’ is mixing around with ‘Contact’. Connect; Contact. And I’m interested in how we connect and specifically the beginning. Earlier today before the film there was a discussion of how we begin a dance and it’s still with me. How do we begin a connection outside of movement or with movement? And how do I challenge myself to be accessible to different kinds of connection? What you said resonated with me (referring to early point about people who use wheelchairs). How accessible are we as a community?   So that question of how do I begin a dance. Do I say today I’m going to begin a dance with only people I don’t know, that I’ve never spoken to, like a pre-decided score or do I just roll and see what happens.   I’m just curious. I think we all find different ways to begin a connection and when we discover we are in a pattern of beginning with similar ways do we stay with the pattern or challenge it and try a new way?   I was thinking of this today.

I think Jashana talks about loneliness in a festival and I think this is a common feeling when you are in a big group of people. This is when I feel most alone.   I feel disconnected when I’m with so many people that I should connect with.

itf steps 2

A lunch screening at: LONDON & VENICE… DANCE!! with Alyssa

Researching Contact Improvisation

LONDON & VENICE… DANCE!!

Sunday, May 3 at 3:00pm

C.T.R. (Centro Teatrale di Ricerca) Giudecca 621, Venezia

Organized by: Carla Marazzato & Monica Giacomin

IMG_20150503_162730578

After the film we had a short sharing of how the film resonated.

In this photo: we are with our eyes closed for one minute to find the thought, image, statement, moment we wanted to share.

* Carla first saw the film at a screening Alyssa hosted at Earthdance in January.  Carla was there as an artist in residence for two weeks.  Afterwards we spoke and she shared how she felt really excited to share the film at London & Venice Dance.  It was wonderful that this idea became a reality.

Here is the link to the work she did when I first met her at Earthdance: (http://www.earthdance.net/blog/2015/02/06/artists-residence-carla-marazzato-and-laura-colomban)

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A lunch screening at: LONDON & VENICE… DANCE!! with Alyssa

LONDON & VENICE… DANCE!!

Sunday, May 3 at 3:00pm

C.T.R. (Centro Teatrale di Ricerca) Giudecca 621, Venezia

Organized by: Carla Marazzato & Monica Giacomin

IMG_20150503_162730578

After the film we had a short sharing of how the film resonated.

In this photo: we are with our eyes closed for one minute to find the thought, image, statement, moment we wanted to share.

* Carla first saw the film at a screening Alyssa hosted at Earthdance in January.  Carla was there as an artist in residence for two weeks.  Afterwards we spoke and she shared how she felt really excited to share the film at London & Venice Dance.  It was wonderful that this idea became a reality.

Here is the link to the work she did when I first met her at Earthdance.