Researching Contact Improvisation

Lior Ophir

Lior (Israel) teaches and practices CI internationally. He wanted to have beautiful dances, develop professionally and survive the challenge of being with three hundred people.

Sonja Brühlmann

Sonja Brühlmann (Switzerland) is a community dance and theatre practitioner, teacher and Contact Improviser. Her work evolves around the application of dance and theatre for personal and social transformation. She works in educational and social fields with people from all areas of life, children and adults, often people in times of transition or on the margin of society (unemployed, disabilities, refugees). She organises residential CI research events (Touch&Play) and regular CI labs. In these events the focus is on the investigation of the richness of CI from many different angles: physiological, artistic, psychological, philosophical, and spiritual.

I love diving into the state of improvisation. I find this altered state of playfulness, spontaneity and directness of connection deeply nourishing. I joined this film project because I felt that the CI festival Freiburg is a great hub and platform of dance and lovers of CI from all around the world. I wanted to dive into the question of what is CI and what does it mean to the people that practice it.

Personally having experienced the many benefits that CI can have, I wanted to show it’s value within a festival and raise the question of whether our practice has an impact outside the festival context on a personal, social or political level. Further I wanted to make a documentary that can inform a broad audience about CI. The journey so far has been wonderful. We were lucky to find five beautiful individuals that gave us insight into their motivations, visions, experiences, pitfalls and joys.

The conversation about CI began and continued outside the festival. Mike and Alyssa have been two very inspiring project partners, both experienced CI researchers that have practiced and thought a lot about the implications of this form. We have further involved our local CI communities in London and at ECITE in Bern to find out about people’s curiosities, interests and wishes for a film about CI’.

Alyssa Lynes

Alyssa Lynes (US) is a dancer and teacher of many styles of dance, and an English language teacher. A dancer her whole life, she grew up in Boston, Massachusetts until she attended Sarah Lawrence College in New York. There she began studying Contact Improv (CI) in 2002 and ultimately received a BA in Contemporary Dance four years later. She stayed another 6 years in NYC where she continued training in CI, release technique, and Salsa. While there, she received her Masters in Education and worked as a freelance dancer and bilingual school teacher. An intensive CI training with Nancy Stark Smith in 2010 catapulted Alyssa on a CI devoted trip to Europe, and she has resided there ever since, training and working as a free-lance dancer and teacher of Contact Improvisation, Contemporary Dance, English and Spanish. Alyssa is a founder of Contact Improvisation Kollectiv Freiburg, and is currently a member of the CI Freiburg Jam Team. She has taught at CI Jams at Earthdance (MA, US) where she was a Diversity Committee member (2009). In Europe she has taught at festivals such as Contact Meets Contemporary (DE), Ibiza CI Festival (SP), the French International Acrobatic Convention (FR),  in Touch & Play Festivals (SP & UK) and at the Israel Contact Improvisation Festival.

‘I have always been interested in culture and anthropology, communication styles and interpersonal dynamics. This has led me to live in many places throughout the world, and train in non-violent communication, teaching and learning languages. Over the past 10 years the Contact Improv community has continued to be a place for me to develop my current interests, explore meaningful questions, and experience authentic vulnerability and play. I view CI as an excellent way to support one another in developing awareness, embodying the power of expression and listening, and connecting with others beyond culturally learned blocks, prejudices, and ‘isms.

In 2010, I began to explore the medium of video as a way to capture expression through dance and share it with a larger more varied audience. I was excited to co-direct ‘Five Ways In’ because it reveals personal processes within the larger 300-person context of a CI festival culture. I hope that this film will promote further questioning and reflection about Contact Improvisation as a form for personal and community expression and communication in multiple contexts.

I am personally interested to continue to use CI and learn how others use it in CI communities, in non-CI community development workshops, in creating choreography & performing Contact Improvisation. I believe ‘Five Ways In’ can inspire continued research and interest in Contact Improvisation as postmodern dance and as an effective form of non-violent communication.

Mike Poltorak

Mike Poltorak (UK) is a medical and visual anthropologist based at the University of Kent. His collaborative philosophy of film making was inspired by two years of research on traditional healing and mental illness in the South Pacific island group of Tonga where he learned the importance of the relationship between filmmaker and subjects to creating a film with integrity and utility for the community.

His fascination in the healing power of touch and longstanding love of dance and movement came together fortuitiously when he discovered CI in Sweden in 2009.

The anthropological value of the documentary for him is born of the depth of collaboration and involvement of the filmmakers, the attention to contemporary cinematography and editing, and the research potential of the documentary. Anthropological documentary for him is one part of a journey of research and engagement, which aims at social change. The collaborative and feedback based process he follows has led to two films, ‘Fun(d)raising’ (a film about Tongan comedy) and ‘ One Week West of Molkom’ (a collaborative documentary on volunteers at the ‘No Mind’ festival in the community of Angsbacka in central Sweden). His most recent video experiment on Contact Improvisation was with Johan Nilsson and Irene Sposetti on a contact improvisation performance at that festival.

This followed several years of experimenting with video and contact improvisation at three ECITE (European Contact Improvisation Teacher Exchange) meetings in Finland, Ibiza and Bern. ‘Five Ways In’  build on previous anthropological knowledge on CI and has been informed by anthropological research and involvement in the form for many years.

Personally, I was inspired by the transformational impact the form had on bodymind integration. As a visual anthropologist, I was inspired by the ‘shared anthropology’ and feedback methodology of Jean Rouch. ‘

Visual Media

‘ The video camera also played a crucial role in developing contact improvisation. It provided constant feedback to dancers, showing them what the dancing that they were sensing internally looked like for an observer. Videotapes contributed to development of a shared movement vocabulary within and improvisational structure’ (Novack 1990:  78).


There are many interesting questions surrounding the use of photographs and video in researching and representing contact improvisation that we would like to explore.

As Novack says video has been used from the beginning of the creation of the form. It continues to be used in many different ways as the wide variety of video on CI on YouTube attest.

One question is how is a festival remembered either through video documentation and/or photographs.

As a participant what is the difference between looking at Patrick Beelaert’s photographs of Freiburg 2012 and the video we shot. As I look through his photos from that year I see how often his and my attention focussed on similar events and people, how I was curious at the gaze of his camera as he captured the gaze of mine.

What for example is the difference the quality of memory of seeing Raquel in this image and seeing a still of the same event?

Another central question Lemmer mentions at the beginning of the film.  Can video actually capture a quality of relating that is so central to so many people’s experience of CI? This question may relate more to assumptions we hold about film, that it can capture reality.

If we let go of that assumption then video becomes less about capturing reality than creating a co-created representation that serves particular purposes.

We would like to open up those purposes, intentions and possibilities to further research and invite you to use the film and then feedback to us your experiences.

To contribute to this theme please go to our feedback section.


In many CI festivals there are performance evenings. They are a contrast to the usual evening jam where the attention is rarely on only one or more performers.  In our film we showed scenes from several performances from the performance night that evening. Jess Curtis’ performance with Lea Kieffer was the first to appear after his interview about what he saw as the benefit of performance. We also see scenes from Camille’s performance towards the end of the film. Johan and Lior also participated in key performances during the performance evening, but they did not feature in the final film. They somehow did not contribute to the filmic narrative we were building about the experiences of the five during the festival. They did not feature strongly in what Lior and Johan shared in the final sharing circle that heavily informed our structure for the film. We are interested in the contribution of performance evening to the experience of a CI festivals more broadly, Freiburg Festival in the particular.

How do they actually contribute to how a festival is experienced and how the form is taught, shared and then used outside the festival context? Performance does not only take place during the evening event. Any dance event outside the sports hall, is also in a way a performance, that can be witnessed by those not in the festival. The class in nature for example was witnessed by many other people near the lake at the time. Few people however, were interested enough to enquire what was going on. Sometimes dancers will be explicitly inclusive with people in public spaces and invite them to participate. These are particularly interesting and serve as a unique space for CI to be shared across barriers typically not crossed in most dance performances.

To contribute to this theme please go to our feedback section.

CI and Community


Thank you all our supporters who funded us through kickstarter for the final stage of the process. We couldn’t have finished the project without your support.


Our Key Supporters 


London Contact Improvisation

Thomas_U, Freiburg


InterKinected was founded in 2012 by Contact Improvisation teacher René Alvarez. The mission of InterKinected is to investigate and promote Contact Improvisation, through organization and sponsorship of classes, jams, festivals, intensives, laboratories, films and showings.

Teater K

Teater K works with social change and visions for the future. We see contact improvisation as a beautiful practice that holds many of the things we wish to see more of in the world.

Craig Ritchie

I know little about CI but conceptually I find it really interesting.

Eva Culek

CI interests me as I find it very pleasurable. Through it, I easily enter the realms of non-verbal communication. Using movement, dance, and gesture, CI provides a framework in which I can communicate without the cages of words.


We organize every year a contact jam in Konstanz at the lake of Konstanz. With the profit we support social and artistic projects like yours.

Dharma Door Retreat

Dharma Door is an embodiment and somatics retreat located in Underhill Vermont, USA. Dharma Door specializes in contact improvisation, yoga, authentic movement, acrobatic yoga, and the study of Body Mind Centering. We are committed to offering high quality events with master teachers on a sliding scale basis. Come and enjoy the majestic mountain view and celebrate your authentic movements and breath.


Wendy Lai

Toni Bruhlmann

Nick Poltorak

Norbert Mörchen

Michael Kellenberger

Abbi Jaffe



Our Supporters 

Fionnuala Murphy

Christopher & Anne Ellinger

Victor Sanchez

Melanie Uhlmann

Thomas Frey

Jeff Wallace

Colleen Bartley

LSG Touch

Leah Siepel

Christian Swenson

Rosemary MacAdam

Patrick Collaud

Jared Williams

Brad Johnston

Paul Kempener

Idelle Packer

Francis Michael Kenny

Carolyn Lynes

Lauren Baxter

Nita Little Nelson





At one point during our campaign we were the most popular dance project on Kickstarter (8th January 2014)

 The wonderful ‘one hundred’

Thank you to the 100 backers  who supported us through buying an advanced copy of the film.

We encourage you to organise screenings with your friends. We look forward to your feedback.


In order of first name:



Arye Bursztyn

Andrej Andrejev

Anir Leben

Ady Elzam

Anna Kovasna

Alan Miller

Albert Quesada

Adriana Pegorer

Ari Kriegsman

Aurora Westfelt

Anna Jussilainen

Ambreen Hameed

Aleks D

Andy Lawrence

Abraham Heinemann

Anthony Calvitti

Anna Neuber

Alexandra Bayeva

Andrea Arlid


Ben Lee

Bernardo Vollmer

Bernhard N

Becci G


Carolyn & Philip Lynes

CJ O’Reilly

Chris Orth

Christine Spang

Charles Hopkins

Caroline Gatt

Catia Simionato

Catarina Gottardo

Charles Dietrich

Caterina Foà

Carly Tennant

Camille Desmarest

Cristie Reich




Daniel Gallichan

Daniela Peluso & Miguel and Dimitri Alexiades

Debora Balardini

Dario Chillemi


Emma Groetzinger

Eldar Baruch

Eda Elif Tibet

Erica McDowell



Florian Busch

Franc Biffone

Filippo Serra




Gerry Quevreux


Guillaume Laplane


Günter Klinger


Itay Yatuv

Igor Shteynberg

Irene Schueller


Jane K. Cowan

J. Akiyama

Julien Pothier


John Cummings

Jenny Fries

Joerg Pietsch

Jess Curtis

Johan Nilsson

Justin W

Jenny D


Katie Keeble

Kelly Bitov

Kristian Salikoski

Kiori Sherwood-Kawai

Kerstin Lofvander

Katiestar clare

Kelsey Hobbs

Katy Dymoke


Lea kieffer

Lior Ophir

Lukas Fittl

Lena Nygren

Linda and Norman Groetzinger

Laurence Clapdorp

Lutz Johannssen

Lisa Varghese

Leslie Lawrence



Marc Herren

Michael Hurd

Manuela Blanchard

Moti Zemelman

Mileen Borgonjon

Melissa Guerrero

Monica Almagro

Mark Dannell

Maria Peirano

Matthew Webb




Nathalie Cadet

Neige Christenson

Noe Phillipson

Nico Tassi

Nancy Stein

Natalie Maria Clark

Natalia Bonet


Oliver Paganini

Oliver Seary


Paul Spielman

Peter Aerni

Paula Rubert Gasau




Richard Kim

Riccardo Parenti

Ruth Krause

Rafa Cardoso

Reka Komaromi

Reuben Ross



Saskia Chaplin

Shoko Kashima

Simon W.

Stefan Haefliger

Susan Arnsten-Russell

Scott Skinner

Sanford Lewis

Silvia Sfligiotti

Suzanne Brown

Sophie Varlow

Sue Lauther



Tara Rynders

Tom Payne

Thor Diesendorf



Ulla Mäkinen

Udi Oz






Wigs Bateman Steel

William Godwin



Ylva Sørlie




The Five

Contribute a new theme

If there are new research themes not covered by the ones in this section, please tell what you think they are and how the documentary does or doesn’t engage with  them.


To suggest a new theme please go to our feedback section.