EXHIBITION | Acts of Contact Improvisation
02 July 2019 — 07 July 2019

Stephen Petegorsky © Steve Paxton and Nancy Stark Smith duet (1980) against the wall, from left to right Lisa Nelson, Danny Lepkoff and Christina Svane


Gestes du Contact Improvisation [Acts of Contact Improvisation] is a traveling exhibition from the Musée de la danse curated by Romain Bigé to inhabit the grey area between the black box of the dance studio and the white cube of the museum. In Ljubljana, the exhibition is presented in the Temporary Slovene Dance Archive at +MSUM and in the Bunker theatre at The Old Power Plant (SMEEL) from July 1st to 6th 2019.


The exhibition is a part of Contact Improvisation Festival Dance in the City 2

Organisation: Moave psychology in movement


About Contact Improvisation

Contact Improvisations is originally the title of a piece that was created in New York in 1972 by a group of athletes, gymnasts and dancers led by choreographer and improviser Steve Paxton to investigate the multifaceted aspect of touch. What happens when skins meet? How can we tune to each other? What do we do when we don’t know what we are about to do?


Since those first questions were asked, this piece where movers were jumping at each other, testing collisions, lifts, and touch, evolved into an experimental dance form, practised by thousands of movers all around the world. In many cities of Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas, strangers meet skin-to-skin in improvised jams, spacetimes of investigation of the athletics and intimacies of touch.


Dance in copyleft

One particularity of Contact Improvisation is that its initiators decided not to copyright the form and to let it be reinvented, taught and researched by anyone who would feel called to it. This anarchist stance was one key of Contact Improvisation’s success and wide spread, but it is also a structuring feature of the practice itself: dancing partners vow, in each dance, to be in service of the relation they co-construct and to suspend, as much as they can, the hierarchic roles that gender, skin colour, class, age, and physical and cognitive abilities, often introduce in human relations.


A political practice as much as a choreographic adventure coursing through five decades, Contact Improvisation holds a promise to renew our sensory maps and our imaginations for collective action.


Touching, Undoing, Not-doing, Falling, Writing

From the oustide, Contact Improvisation looks like puppies playing together, sex, napping, acrobatics. From the inside, contacters live in a world of spins, plunged in a bath of tactile and weight sensations. Together, they negotiate: not-knowing what they are about to do, discovering each other through touch and movement.


The exhibition aims at making felt these external and internal gestures that contacters live from the inside. It is articulated around five gestures: Touching, Not-doing, Writing, Falling, Undoing. These five gestures map the practice: they allow for looking at its history, and to envisage its present. For this comparative to be held, the exhibition is never without dancers: we show films, dance magazines, we propose recordings of dancers guiding pocket practices, but most importantly, we are practising. Every day of the exhibition, on view, dancers alternate workshop and jams where, meeting strangers skin-to-skin, they will experiment with the basic sensations of weight, touch, and moving-together with another body.


The exhibition showcases video works by VideoDa (Lisa Nelson, Steve Paxton, Stephen Petergorsky, and Nancy Stark Smith), Cathy Weis, Ishmael Houston-Jones and Fred Holland, as well as Contredanse (Florence Corin and Baptiste Adrien), together with a selection of Contact Quarterly magazines (currently edited by Nancy Stark Smith and Lisa Nelson), drawings by Nancy Stark Smith, and audio recordings of Steve Paxton and Živa Jerman. It was curated by Romain Bigé for Boris Charmatz’s Musée de la danse in Rennes with the help of the designer collective g-u-i and the museum’s team. In Ljubljana, it was recreated thanks to the work of Živa Jerman, and the support of the Bunker and Rok Vevar’s Temporary Slovene Dance Archive.