About dance improvisation

Magnesium, 1972

black and white, DVD, 9’ 30’’
performers: John Faichney,  Steve Paxton, Chris Peck, Curt Siddall, Peter Walsh, Doug Winter and others
camera: Steve Christiansen
production: Videoda / Contact Collaborations, Inc.

In 1972 Steve Paxton and the group of students from Oberlin College studied the unconditioned reflexes of the body triggered by the physical contact in momentum, falling, rolling on the floor.  Magnesium was presented in January and became the first public attempt at what was soon to be named contact improvisation. Paxton wrote: “[…] the communication possible through touching was, and still is a profound experience. Likewise the movement which resulted from contact improvising – a non-rationalized, intuitive movement leading to unforeseen phasing, positions and gambits – was relief from years of willful technical applications.” The film ends with a five-minute sequence of standing, introduced to draw a distinction  in the scale of movement. It is the small dance, simple excersise created by Steve Paxton, based on the exploration of the minimal reflexes which oppose the force of gravity and thus enable the body to sustain the vertical position. Observation of this invisible dance is an important feature in the construction of the movement awareness and can be performed by anyone, as a starting point for the recognition of the relation between the body, the forces of gravity and space.

Chute, 1979

black and white, DVD, 9’ 36’’
participants: Steve Paxton, Danny Lepkoff, Barbara Dilley, David Woodberry, Laura Chapman, Nancy Stark Smith, Mark Petersen, Emily Siege, Nita Little, Leon Felder, tim Butler, Curt Siddall, Tom Hast, Mary Fulkerson
script/narration: Steve Paxton
camera: Steve Christiansen
montaż/ editing: Christiansen, Lisa Nelson, Steve Paxton
production: Videoda / Contact Collaborations, Inc.

Chute is a recording of the rehearsals for the first public demonstation of contact improvisation, organized at the John Weber Gallery in New York (1972). Steve Paxton believed, together with the invited dancers, that one, having at his disposal only the body and the floor, „could learn to handle the forces involved in physical interactions between two people who permit each other the freedom to improvise”, such as gravity, momentum and inertia. The film and the commentary, created seven years later, analyze the elementary problems met by the dancers: how to fall safely? How to broaden the perception with the signals sent by the senses? How to use the memory of the body not anticipating at the same time the consequent movements while improvising with the partner?

PA  RT, 1983

color, sound, DVD, 45 min. 35 sec.
performers: Lisa Nelson, Steve Paxton
music: Prywatne części  / Private Parts Roberta Ashley’a/ Private Parts by Robert Ashley (Lovely Music, Nowy Jork)
text and voice:  Robert Ashley
music  “Blue” Gene Tyranny, tabla:  Kris
camera: Penny Ward
recorded at: Danspace, St. Mark’s Church

PA RT is an improvised piece by Lisa Nelson and Steve Paxton, performed in the years 1978-2002 in both Americas, Europe and Australia. Text and music were written by Robert Ashley; they constitute the first and the last part of the TV opera Perfect Lives. Its structure consists of the consecutive elements: solo, duet, solo, duet. Interactions between the performers are open-ended and not preconceived – as well as their relation with the space, music, text. Paxton admitted that his involvement in this project did not have much in common with contact improvisation and it allowed him to develop his solo improvisations in the direction that slightly differed from the one taken in 1972. Lisa Nelson, at the same time, was expanding the exploration of the senses in the course of the performaning and in percepting dance. She described her method as „tuning scores”. The recording of the performance from 1983 will be the first public display of it.