Flow and the Evolution of Contact

Have you ever watched Magnesium? It is probably on Youtube. The seminal performance that gave us contact improvisation. If you watch it and then watch a contact jam at a festival or a weekly jam somewhere in the world, you will probably not see the connection. One is a performance with an audience and one involves performing and there are people watching but not an audience in the traditional sense. The theme of where performance has devolved to in the CI community I will not touch right now.

What I want to ramble about now is flow. The early examples of CI that I have seen on video where rather flowless – bodies bumping into each other falling, flailing, hitting the ground loudly. See contemporary contact, flow, continual contact, and ease are much more apparent. Flow and ease are constant themes of discussions, classes and workshops.

But the Tool does not have to determine the Logic.

Flow has become so paramount because it is as far as you can get from the beginnings of CI. The pendulum has swung to the flow end. And many people like it there. Flow, flow, flow, flow, flow, flow, flow, flow, flow, flow, is the name of the sensual touch junkie game. Go to a jam and get your flow on. Though on Wednesdays at K77 in Berlin that is impossible and no one seems to mind. Maybe that jam is closer to the original idea of CI.

But really, who wants to stay with the original idea of anything? Cooking…certainly not. Housing…certainly not. Living in a cave cooking rabbits over open flame?!?

Ideas evolve and improve. The need for flow grew out of a need for sustainability and easy. Bashing one’s self about as they did in Magnesium hurts, is tiring and grows old artistically quickly. So the other end of the kinetic spectrum has developed over the past 38 years. But in that last sentence, there is an inherent problem.

CI should not be viewed as having a kinetic spectrum – flow at one end and bashing at the other. The frantic energy of Magnesium can exist but with a softer body state. Or a slow tempo with a very held body state. Something I try to open people’s eyes/minds/bodies to when I teach the 4 Winds into Contact.

What I am worried about in relation to CI is that is stuck in the flow world. That flow is the Paragon of CI. And that is why so CI is hard for so many people to watch. It is the same tempo and tension the whole time. No Sturm und Drang. That and most people training in it have no performance training. Well, they might perform at contact festivals, but (uh oh) that doesn’t count.

So go out there do contact. Flow and don’t flow. Find all the flavors in between and around and amongst.


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