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What Is the "Underscore"

Let's start with what it isn't: The Underscore is not a secret, a clique or an exclusive, complicated practice. If you have experience with Contact Improv, you can do the Underscore! In fact, many aspects of it will seem familiar, as it is a way of identifying and describing some of the states/phases we typically experience in many jams.  We invite you to come and immerse yourself for the evening.

Nancy Stark Smith began developing the Underscore in the early nineties. The score observes states that occur in the practice of Contact Improvisation and follows the stages of arrival, development, and resolution that naturally tend to occur at Contact Improv Jams as well as in other improvisational contexts, hence the name suggests the underpinnings of our practice.  Many people find that the Underscore allows them to "drop" into the dance more fully, supporting a rich experience of the dance.

Nancy has created symbols (she uses the term “glyphs”) and names to represent each part of the Underscore. The research continues with each practice, and so these symbols reflect an ongoing imperfect representation which has many more subtleties and variations that can be found in the doing.  Nancy’s book, “Caught Falling” includes all the glyphs she had defined at the time of publication.  Additional glyphs have been added since that time, and more are in development.

We ask that everyone follow these guidelines:

-       Attend the entire Underscore.  That is, be there when it begins  and stay until it is complete (10:30p.m.)  This supports and honors the container we co-create.  We ask that you consider yourself "in" the score for the duration, whether you are dancing, witnessing, taking a water break, or anything else. Your focus on staying present to the form with the other dancers is a crucial part of that container.

-       No talking.  After the initial verbal check-ins, we do not speak again until the "Thanksgiving" time of sharing reflections of individual experience. Sound may occur, but no speech, please.  Keep in mind that the Underscore is a focused practice.  Sounds in the room affect everyone present, so please strongly consider that your sounds might have a negative effect on others even as they are pleasing to you.  Of course, emergency situations may require talking.

-       Participate only if you’ve heard the talk-through.  We offer the talk through each month, so you will have other opportunities to participate.  If you can never arrange your schedule to be on time for the talk-through, please let us know so we can make alternate arrangements for you to get the necessary information before you participate.