Welcome to newcomers
So glad you’re here!
We hope these “frequently asked questions” help you join in.
What’s going on at the jam?
Contact Improv is a form of improvised dance started in Ohio at Oberlin College in 1972 and now all around the world. There’s no right way to do it. The only wrong way to do it is if you don't consider what going on for yourself and for others. Improvise and find what feels good to you.
Whom can I dance with?
From observing, you’ll see that people can dance alone, with a partner of any gender, and in a group of any size. People also change partners whenever they want, sometimes staying with one person for a long time, sometimes dancing with different people over the course of a minute.
So: you can invite anyone here to dance, for as long or short a dance as you want. And anyone can invite you to dance. But you don’t have to dance with anyone you don’t want to. To refuse a dance, just say, “no thanks,” or turn away, or don’t respond when they signal interest. It is always fine to say no. The single most important guideline of Contact Improvisation is “Take Care of Yourself.” Please read the page about physical and emotional safety and awareness.
How do I start a dance?
Approach people on the dance floor. In most cases you will likely get a “yes.” If someone doesn’t respond or in other ways indicates disinterest, that’s fine! Just try again with someone else. Here are a few ways to signal your interest:
Verbal – such as “Could I join you?”
Eye contact and smile – see if they respond
Mirroring – start dancing near in a way that matches their energy, and see if they respond
Touch – dance near enough to gently make contact on their hand, arm or shoulder
How do I do this kind of dance?
Don’t be surprised if you feel awkward or out of your comfort zone when first trying it. You are invited to listen to your own impulses and respond to your partner. Most often both of you will readily go back and forth between leading and following until it becomes hard to tell. It’s OK to make noises and to speak about the dance -- but please take other chatting outside the room.
After people get more comfortable many start to share weight. This can be small amounts of weight, such as leaning into each other, or full body weight, through lifts. Please be careful as you experiment with this, to make sure you and your partner stay safe. Find an experienced partner and get some guidance if you want to share significant weight or take part in lifts.
How do I end a dance?
To leave a dance, you can end verbally, (e.g. “thank you for this dance”), signal non-verbally (e.g. slow down, wave, bow...then smile and leave), or simply turn away. One graceful way to leave a dance can be to first join some other dancers as a group, so your partner has a new partner.
If you feel unsafe in any way and aren’t able to easily take care of yourself, please tap any dancer who seems experienced and ask for help. There are dancers here whose role is to be sure safety is maintained within this intimate dance form.