REAson d'etre dance productions strives to provide artistic expression through movement, inclusive of age, ability, level background. We stage and program works based on Contact Improvisation so we can utilize the inclusiveness that can be a part of this dance form. Our vision is for both professional dancers and everyday people to be inspired and invigorated by Contact Improvisation. This mandate involves initiatives that work to dismantle racism and ablism and other "isms" as their existence hinders us in achieving our mandate. We are committed to examining the art form of contact improvisation and acknowledging its history of inequity, ablism and racism. We strive to engage in a continuing process of educating ourselves and acting for change.
We believe that increasing accessibility breaks down barriers to dance, creating a stunning humanity that is the heart of the artic aesthetic we reach for.
Our contact dance jams are the root from which all our programming grows. Our jams are a mix of performance, research, rehearsal, and incubator. A musician improvises, sweeping dancers into explorations of different themes. Teaming Contact Dance with exceptional live music deepens the form. People alternate between dancing and watching the performance. The jams build community. It's about relationships, with the quality of communication being the aesthetic measure.
Classes in functional movement help Contact Dancers move with ease and prevent injury. We see healthy movement as beautiful and reach for it as an artistic aesthetic.
The creative meeting of dancers and musicians at our Jams gives birth to ideas and collaborations that become main-stage professional works. Our productions use multi-disciplinary story-telling involving dialogue, music, and song, with Contact Dance at their heart. Professional dancers, ranging in ages, enable inter-generational story-telling that brings meaning to people's lives.
What is Contact Improvisation?
Contact Improvisation is a style of dance that cannot always be as clearly defined and its ambiguity and adaptability are often seen as one of its greatest attributes. Kathleen Rea, the artistic director of REAson d'etre dance productions will attempt an explanation here knowing that it will, of course, fall short.
"Contact Improvisation is a social dance involving touch, in which momentum between two or more people is used to create and inspire dance movements. Contact improvisation evolved from the exploration of a group of dancers in the early 1970's, including Steve Paxton, Nancy Stark Smith, Danny Lepkoff, Lisa Nelson, Karen Nelson, Nita Little, Andrew Harwood, and Ray Chung. Steve Paxton brought his former training in Aikido to the form, using the idea of "surfing" momentum to communicate, dance, and express. Dancers move and "stay-with" a constantly changing physical reality. In Contact Improvisation there are no set leaders and followers as in other social dance forms. Instead of having these roles set, the role of the dancer shifts from one to the other, sometimes leading, sometimes following, and all the variations in between these two roles. The form requires deep “listening” and responding "in the moment" to one’s partner. The dance form is practiced with or without music. Techniques include rolling point of contact, balancing over a partner's centre of gravity, and "listening" with one's skin surface. While there is technique involved in the form, the aesthetic I reach for is the quality of the relationship within a dance.
The form is potentially accessible to all people, including those with no previous dance training and people with physical disabilities. I say potentially because "-isms" such as racism and ableism historically have reduced or inhibited access. The -isms that are embedded in the broader culture in which Contact Improvisation is practiced, are acted out in Contact Improvisation communities. Another limit to access is the lack of consent culture in Contact Improvisation communities, both on the dance floor and off. Since the "me-too" movement there has been a growing understanding of the value of building and supporting consent culture in Contact Improvisation as well as some backlash against this movement.
Contact Improvisation is typically practiced in a jam situation in which a group of people gathers in person to improvise together.
During the COVID Pandemic, contact improvisers worldwide experienced a loss of touch due to COVID pandemic lockdowns. During this time, solo or non-touch practices were expanded. A solo Contact Improvisation practice involves using all the above relational skills in a relationship with oneself and one's environment. A non-touch practice involves using all the above relational skills at a distance and can involve using props such as ropes and poles through which momentum can be communicated.
Contact improvisers are currently exploring adaptations including dancing together virtually online or outdoors as well as expanded solo and no-touch practices. Others have already returned to group in-person jams in some countries. The pause or shift in the practice of Contact Improvisation created by the pandemic has been seen by some dancers as an opportunity to illuminate and address inequities that are part of the practice.
This definition of Contact Improvisation is my personal feeling of what Contact Improvisation is to me. Others will describe it differently, and this variance and diversity of opinions is for me one of the srengths of Contact Improvisation."