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Course Information

Instructor Info:Sara Coffin
Term: 2012F
Meeting Info: Monday Wednesday
01:00 PM - 02:20 PM Music and Dance Building MAIN
01:00 PM - 02:20 PM Music and Dance Building MAIN

Contact Improvisation is a duet form of movement improvisation where two people move together in a playful physical dialogue, communicating through the language of touch, momentum, balance and weight support. From this seemingly simple premise arise rich embodied investigations of such issues as trust, touch, support, focus, permission, initiation, safety, verbal and non-verbal communication and shared power. This dance form also invites equal access to people of all physical capacities, it is usually practiced in leaderless/democratic structures, and it remains continually curious about different movement vocabularies and possibilities. Ever since its inception in the 1970's, Contact has significantly influenced modern/contemporary dance. This course will serve as a research laboratory in which students will study the practice, evolution and philosophy of this contemporary dance form in motion in the studio. They will work to develop awareness of inner sensation, which is key to finding spontaneous fluidity of movement in relation to a partner, and they will practice basic components of the form such as rolling, falling, spiraling, playing with balance, counter-balance, jumping, and weight-sharing. No previous dance experience is necessary.

Course Objectives:

Course Content

This course is designed to give students an overview of the dance form contact improvisation. Principles of weight sharing with active listening will be introduced and students will engage in creative moment-by-moment movement invention in both solo and duet form.

Each class will begin with a guided proprioceptive warm-up to wake the senses and engage the body’s kinetic chains in a supple manner. The warm-up will focus on exploring one’s skeletal landscape and learning to initiate head-tail, upper-lower and cross-lateral movement patterns. Concepts such as yield, tensegrity, and coil and release will be explored in the form of body puzzles and solo improvisational scores. 

 Such preparations will lead to the practice of various skills such as rolling smoothly, falling safely, being upside down, moving comfortably in and out of the floor, and supporting and giving weight effortlessly. A creative point of view from which to partner from will be explored and a balance of skill development, partnering practice and open dancing will be offered.


  • To be able to move in and out of physical contact with ease
  • To be able to actively listen and negate another dancer’s tone and movement propositions
  • To be able to creatively engage in either solo, duet or group improvisational scores with and without direction
  • To be able to dance with a focused attention and intention, conscious of the safety of yourself, others around you and the room
  • To be able to participate fully and without direction in open improvisation forms (i.e. open dancing, round robins, and jams)
  • To be able to verbally articulate your physical and intellectual practice of this form
  • To be able to demonstrate technical skill in the following areas:
    • Rolling on the floor
    • moving into and out of floor with fluidity
    • falling into the back space
    • following a rolling point of contact
    • counterbalance and extending/reaching into space
    • bridging (two people leaning in towards one another)
    • partnering with and without the use of hands
    • allowing yourself to be supported by your partner and vice versa
    • developing efficiency as both an over and under dancer
    • moving three-dimensionally through space in a bipedal, quadrupedal and octopedal fashion
Evaluation Criteria:

Course Requirements:

  1. Journal Responses: Students are required to keep a weekly journal based on their reflections and observations in class. Periodically during the semester students will be asked to write a journal response to specific written questions about the dancing in class.
  2. Contact Jam Attendance: Students are required to attend at lease one contact jam during the semester within the Five College Dance Department or at Earthdance Workshop and Retreat Centre in Plainfield. Jams will be scheduled early in the semester to give you multiple opportunities to attend. Your participation and reflections must be recorded in a journal entry.
  3. Required Concert/Event Attendance:
    1. Fall FCDD Lecture: “Somatic Inquiry and The Socially Conscious Body” with Martha Eddy: October 15, 7:30pm, Franklin-Patterson Hall, Hampshire College
    2. Smith College Faculty Dance Concert, November 15-17, 8:00 pm, Theatre 14, Mendenhall Performing Arts Center, Smith College

Highly Recommended Concert Events (must attend at least 1event below):

  1. Utopia Parkway / A new work by Angie Hauser and Chris Aiken, September 20-21, 8:00pm, Hallie Flanagan Theatre, Mendenhall Performing Art Centre, Smith College.
  2. Five College Dance Concert: November 15-17, 8pm, Smith College
  3. The Tempest Replica/ Kidd Pivot, Crystal Pite, Sunday November 18, 7:00pm, UMass, Fine Arts Center Concert Hall
  4. Bare Bones Undergraduate Choreography Concert, December 7-8, 8:00 pm, Scott Dance Studio, Smith College
  5. MFA Grad Event: December 13, 7pm, Scott Dance Studio, Smith College

Class Attendance: Your evaluation will be based on your participation in class, openness and ability to incorporate the information given. Consistent attendance is essential to your success in this class and only through presence and practice will your ability to grow as a dancer is achieved. There is no make-up work for missed movement technique class in the department of dance.  For Hampshire College students you will be allowed two absences before your evaluation will be affected, for FCDD students you will be allowed two absences before your grade is affected (1/2 a letter grade) and three tardy marks will count as one absence.

Lateness: Please arrive to class on time and prepared to move. If you arrive after class begins you will be expected to observe, take notes and participate in discussions. It is your responsibility to confirm that your attendance has been marked correctly and you will receive 1/2 an absence for being late. You should turn in written observations at the end of observing a class.

Premise for Evaluation

80% Quality of work in class, participation

15% Journal Assignments

5% Lecture/Performance Response


Additional Info:

Safety and Wellness

Because this class involved physical contact you must cover any cuts with a sturdy bandage and clothing. If you get an abrasion of floor burn during class, stop what you are doing, clean and dress the injury before you continue dancing.

Please let me know of any injuries you have.


  • Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes that you can move in (for example: sweat pants and t-shirts, not tights, spandex or shorts).
  • Do no wear street clothes or shorts to class.
  • Wear layers to take off and put on depending on the activity in class. (Note: A lot of exposed skin can inhibit sliding on the floor.)
  • You will mostly be dancing in bare feet, but socks may be worn during the warm-up only.
  • Keep hire tied back and off your face.
  • Keep your toenails and finger nails trimmed.
  • Do not wear jewelry that can cause injury to yourself or others.

 Highly Suggested Materials: Kneedpads, if required I can submit a group order for those interested.