I’m just back from a beginners introduction to Contact Improv held by Fong Force in a dance studio in Hong Kong. As a non-dancer I enjoy just being in a dance studio, it seems like such an unlikely place to be I’m surprised they admit me. I went to the workshop to get the basics on something I’ve seen used in various workshops to great effect but nothing I’ve had explained to me. At the time I felt like we were doing a series of physical exercises but 24 hours later when I slow down I can still feel the effects working in me. I will explain these more in Contact Improv 2 tomorrow.
When I stopped and saw Fong roll I visually recognised his free-style which I do not expect to come easily to my body. Watching him and some of the more experienced contact dancers move with grace was very inspiring and I tried not to let that put me off…this isn’t a dance to impress other people, instead I tried to stay with my attraction to their freedom of movement.
We began with some roles, trying to roll from our torso rather than push with our hands and later push with only our arms and legs in a way that goes through the whole body affecting the direction of the role. I found it tricky to let the movement flow, my limbs being distinct from my torso and all the unconscious movement happening while my level of awareness is in my head. And this is OK, we are making friends with ourselves and our bodies as they are now, learning and change come after much practice. It is difficult to do things that our muscles are not used to. I thought of my time learning Alexander technique and how when you go slow your body is making so many movements you are not aware of.
Then we tried walking and slowly ‘falling’ to the ground. The experienced dancers lead with their heads and their shoulders neatly met the ground. We tried doing the same from seated, leading from the top of our heads and flopping over to the side, then from a ‘upside down dog’ leading with our tail bone to come up. After my time doing Feldenkrais here in Hong Kong the term for ‘tail bone’ in Cantonese is recognisable so I’m learning something. And I’m glad of yoga for my flexibility but so enjoying the animalistic nature of this process, just being a body hitting the floor. Next time I must wear thicker pants, my hip bones aren’t used to being rolled around on the floor so much, I came back to find myself bruised! Being much taller than everyone else in the group I provided challenges for us to all work with and Fong had excellent suggestions for me especially for the floor work where I feel less able to move around – suggesting I stopped taking so much care of my partner, roll around and let the process happen.
Then we worked in pairs, rolling, skimming and later applying weight carefully. Another challenge here, while weight being applied to me feels like a deep relaxing Thai massage putting my weight on others doesn’t come naturally. With my height I feel as though my centre of gravity is less predictable and with little experience I find it hard to trust that I cannot hurt someone. But as we practiced even us new ones grew in confidence and we were draping our weight over each other and moving with more grace than I’d anticipated.
So let go, keep connected, stop or go, listen to yourself and the other and over time learn to go with the flow. A fun afternoon, I will be back.