Marlboro College – Dance
ART 537 – Contact Improvisation
Spring 2009

Instructor: Kristin Horrigan         Class Time: MTh 3:30-4:50 pm
E-mail:         Class Location: Dance Studio
Office Phone: 258-9278         Credits: 2
Office Hours: by appointment  (M, W, Th, F)    Prerequisites: none

Course Description:
Contact Improvisation (CI) is an exploration of the movement that is possible when two bodies are in physical contact, using each other’s support to balance and communicating through weight and momentum.  CI was invented in the United States in the early 1970s and it has since spread all around the world, where it is practiced both as a social dance and as a component of post-modern dance performance.  In this class, we will learn basic skills and concepts to enter the practice of contact improvisation.  We will work to develop comfort with our bodies, to trust one another, to take risks, to make choices in the moment, and to understand the forces of physics as they apply to the body in motion.  We will listen to sensation, communicate through skin and muscles, develop reflexes for falling and flying, and find access to our own strength and sensitivity.

This course may be repeated for credit.  Students repeating the course will be given alternate assignments and will be asked to participate in the class in leadership roles. 

Course Objectives:

Upon completion of this course the beginning student will demonstrate:
• Familiarity with the practice of contact improvisation
• Increased understanding of how physical forces act on the body in motion
• The ability to give and take weight safely
• Improved comfort in and understanding of improvisation
• Increased body awareness
• General knowledge of the history of contact improvisation

Returning students will demonstrate:
• Improved skill in the physical techniques of contact improvisation
• Ability to synthesize knowledge of CI from experiential and textual sources
        and initiate exchange with others
• Increased understanding of technical, aesthetic, and sociocultural issues
        surrounding CI

Requirements:  Attend class
  Participate actively in the class community 
  Complete all assignments

Attendance Policy:
You must be present consistently to succeed in this class. Please arrive on time and be prepared to dance at the start of class.  Please bring the full attention of your body and mind to all activities and discussions.  Each student may be absent twice with no grading repercussions. A limited number of absences may be made up by making arrangements with the instructor. Each absence beyond the initial two will drop the final grade by a number of points (4) equal to the percentage of class time missed, and NO CREDIT will be given for the course if more than 7 classes are missed (even if some are made up).  Students are responsible for material missed due to absence.

Sitting Out:
If you are injured or ill and need to sit out, you must participate as an observer by making notes in your journal and contributing to discussions in order to get credit for attending class.

Please arrive on time to class.  Three late arrivals will be considered equivalent to one absence.

Dress and other details:  Appropriate attire includes loose and flexible pants and shirts (sweatpants, knits, etc.), and bare feet.  It is recommended that all students purchase kneepads (available from Kristin for $14).  For safety reasons, please remove all watches and jewelry, refrain from wearing pants so long that they drag on the floor, and do not chew gum.  Also, as contact improvisation involves close physical contact, please respect others by maintaining good personal hygiene: shower before class and wear clean clothes.

Required Text:
Novack, Cynthia.  Sharing the Dance.  Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1990.

Additional Reading:

Goldman, Danielle. “Bodies on the Line: contact Improvisation and Techniques of
Nonviolent Protest.”  Dance Research Journal.  39.1 (2007): 60-74.

Contact Quarterly back issues

Assignments for First Semester CI Students:

1. Keep a Journal
At least once a week, take some time to reflect on your experiences with CI through writing and possibly other media (drawing, poetry, etc.)  In your reflections, examine your discoveries, questions, and fears, as well as any connections you are able to make between contact improvisation and other facets of your studies and your life.  Your journals will be collected periodically and for review and response. 
Journal collection dates: Feb. 5, Mar. 2, Apr. 9, Apr. 30

2. Read Sharing the Dance by Cynthia Novak and other articles as distributed in class and be prepared to discuss on the dates listed.  Make a substantive entry in your journal before each discussion day to record your observations, questions, etc.
Discussion Dates:  Chapters 1-3 February 12
      Chapters 4-5 March 2
Chapters 6-7 April 2
Chapters 8-9 April 16
Additional readings April 27
3.  Attend 2 contact improvisation jams
Jams will be held on campus at least three times during the course of the semester.  Numerous other jams happen regularly in the local community.  At least one fieldtrip will be organized to provide transportation and entrance fees to an off campus jam. 

4.  Skim one or more issues of Contact Quarterly (available in the dance seminar room),
Read what interests you, make an entry in your journal, and be prepared to discuss when
the returning students give their presentations on CQ. 

5.  Read and participate in on-line discussions on the Courses site
Returning students will initiate dialog about issues relevant to the course on the Courses site.  Participation for beginning CI students includes posting at least two substantive comments during the course of the  semester.  Comments may be drawn directly from your journals if appropriate to the discussion topic. 

6.  Attend Marlboro Dance Concerts
No Small Feat: A Tribute to Dana Holby, Feb. 7, Whittemore Theater
Bread and Puppet Theater, date TBA, Dance Studio
Plan Performance: Katherine Partington, Apr. 24 and 25, Dance Studio
Plan Performance: Daniel Orkwis, May 1 and 2, Persons Auditorium
Attend one or more of the above; make note of your attendance in your journal and comment on any connections you are able to observe between your studies of contact improvisation and the movement you see in the performance. 

Assignments for Returning CI Students:

1. CQ Project
Based on the number of returning students we will divide the back issue set of CQ up into sections.  Working with a partner, you will read the issues of CQ in your section and give a presentation to the class on your observations about trends/themes that you observe for this time period.  With your partner you will also write up a report of several pages on your findings that includes both a discussion of trends/themes that you noticed as well as an annotated list of the five articles you found most interesting/useful.

2. Take a leadership role in On-Line Discussion
Post discussion topics, observations, and substantive comments to the on-line Courses discussion board and help to facilitate conversations among classmates.  Stay abreast of the discussions on-line and participate actively at least once every 2 weeks.

3. Organize and Facilitate at Least 3 CI Jams on Campus
As a group, establish times for the jams in conversation with the class and community.  Reserve the space. Publicize the jams.  Hold the space during the jam through both conscious participation and active facilitation.  You may divide the tasks, but please share the work equally.  I would like everyone to try his/her hand at jam facilitation during the semester. 

4.  Attend at least 2 contact Jams
      On or off campus.  Include discussion of jams on-line and in-class.

5.  Attend Marlboro Dance Concerts
See at least one of the performances on the list above.  Include concerts in your on-line and in-class discussion.

Fieldtrip (Optional)
EARTHDANCE, a home for improvisation, 252 Prospect St., Plainfield, MA
April 19 – Leave Marlboro at 2:00 pm, Before-the-Jam Class 3:30-5:00 pm, Contact Jam
5:00-7:00, Dinner 7:00-8:00, Return to Marlboro around 9:30pm.
Can be used to make up 1-2 missed classes.

Other jams:

4th Sunday of every month, 1:00-2:30 Class before the jam, 2:30-4:30 Contact Jam, Luminzstudio, 74 Cotton Mill Hill, space #346, Brattleboro, VT

Wednesdays 7:30-9:30, Contact Jam, 25 Main St. 4th Floor, Northampton, MA
(ask Kristin to contact the jam organizers to make sure the jam is running)

3rd Sunday of every month, 3:30-5 class before the jam, 5-7  Contact Jam, Earthdance,
Plainfield, MA

1st Sunday of every month, 7:30pm Improvisation Jam with Live Music, Earthdance,
Plainfield, MA

Grading for First Semester CI students:
Quality of Participation 35%
Progress 25%
        Journal 20%
Other Assignments: reading responses, on-line posts,
                    concert attendance 20%

Grading for Returning CI students:
        Quality of Participation 35%
Progress 25%
        CQ Project 15%
On-line posts   15%
Other Assignments: Jam organization/facilitation,
                concert attendance 10%

This syllabus is subject to modification by the instructor at any point during the semester.

Class Calendar:

January 25 Brattleboro CI jam
January 26 first class
January 29 class
February 1 Earthdance Improvisation Jam with Live Music
February 2 class
February 5 Journal Check
February 7 Alumni Dance Performance: Tribute to Dana Holby
February 9 class
February 12 Reading Discussion Day
February 15 Earthdance Contact Jam
February 16 class
February 19 class
February 22 Brattleboro CI Jam
February 23 CQ presentation #1
February 26 guest teacher
March 1 Earthdance Improvisation Jam with Live Music
March 2         Journals Due, Reading Discussion Day
March 5         class
March 9         CQ presentation #2
March 12 class
March 14-29  Spring Break!
March 15 Earthdance Contact Jam
March 30 class
April 2 Reading Discussion Day
April 5 Earthdance Improvisation Jam with Live Music
April 6 class
April 9 CQ presentation #3; Journals Due
April 13 class
April 16 Reading Discussion Day
April 19  Earthdance Field Trip!  (College Jam)
April 20 class
April 23 class
April 24 & 25  Plan Performance: Katherine Partington
April 26 Brattleboro CI Jam
April 27 Reading Discussion Day
April 30 Journals Due
May 1 & 2 Plan Performance: Daniel Orkwis
May 3 Earthdance Improvisation Jam with Live Music
May 4 Last day of Class

Last modified: Monday, December 19, 2011, 9:18 AM