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Experts in Contact Improvisation Dance Form Hold Conference at Juniata

(Posted June 2, 2008)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Gathering at Juniata College to perform, teach and practice a dance form described as "moving massage" or "a combination of swing dance and wrestling," a group of dancers, educators and scholars will celebrate the dance form Contact Improvisation on the 36th anniversary of its founding from June 8-18 at various facilities on the Juniata campus.

Titled "CI36," the conference combines an intensive three-day training session from Monday, June 9 through Wednesday, June 11. The training session is intended to allow the dancers (or "contactors") extended work sessions to refine techniques, develop new work and practice. There are beginning and advanced classes, taught simultaneously at four locations.

The training sessions in contact improvisation will be taught by experts from around the world. Masters from the United States include Nancy Stark Smith, of New York City, Nita Little, of Santa Cruz, Calif., Ray Chung, of San Francisco, Calif. and Nina Martin, of Marfa, Texas. International instructors include Andrew Harwood, of Montreal, Canada, Martin Hughes, of Melbourne, Australia, Mary Prestidge, of Liverpool, England, and Benno Voorham, of Stockholm, Sweden.

The six-day celebration portion of the conference opens Thursday, June 12 and runs through Wednesday, June 18. The conference features a full schedule of classes, lectures, lab sessions, films, discussion groups and performances. In addition, a team of 30 international curators are collecting videos, films, artifacts and documents to create a reference archive. The archive will be donated to the Lincoln Center Performing Arts Library after the festival.

The Juniata campus will host these activities in a variety of locations and performance spaces, including both gyms in the Kennedy Sports and Recreation Center, performance spaces in the Halbritter Center for the Performing Arts, Ellis Hall and outdoor spaces in the campus quadrangle.

Contact Improvisation was founded in 1972, by Steve Paxton, a dancer and educator who taught at Oberlin College and Bennington College. Paxton will lecture and teach sessions at the Juniata celebration event.

Contact improvisation, explained simply, is a dance technique that begins with physical contact, which then becomes the starting point for improvisational movement. The dance discipline has been used in art, dance and theatrical productions. It also is used in sensitivity training and dance therapy.

Juniata's Gravity Project and the college's theatre department use contact improvisation extensively in many of the theatrical productions staged at Juniata. Contact improvisation can be performed in concert or in a social setting. The social dances are called "jams," where participants can join in or watch as they choose. The dance is often performed in duet, but it can also be performed in groups or solo. Solo dancers use physical objects, such as floor, walls or a chair, as the point of contact.

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.