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Alex Postnikov // Teacher
IDOCs » Contact as out-of-control body practice
Long ago, I had a vision of CI as a field for exploring boundaries and limits. But it seems like no longer working model. I (and we) are seeking the ways to loose control. So my Contact Improvisation definition so far. A practice and research of re-integrating the “animal” part of human with “social” part in a more ecological way.
2019.07.21

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Contact as out-of-control body practice

Initially I came to ECITE 2019 with major interest and question about “novice” mind (or “beginner’s” mind). And suddenly the question transformed into a small model of how my interest works, and what I’m actually looking for in CI. And was looking for from the very first class, to be honest. The internal feeling is just the same.

Trying to reverse engineering. Beginner’s mind occurred to depend heavily on the state of “flow”. Or the “optimal state for experience”. And as Csikszentmihalyi noticed in his book, flow is happening when I’m having 100% of my abilities working to push something. Either inside or outside. And I dedicate completely myself towards some aim, until I actually loose “myself”. My “self”. Sure thing, as a human being, I can’t be interested in one thing - I always look for the opposite. In this case, it’s the balance of control, awareness, and loosing myself. As Arie Bursztyn noticed, “in the end, loosing control is a form of high level of control”.

Most important limits of control

So it came naturally that I’m actually looking for a limit of my control - and try to be around this border somehow. Thanks to the “Sensuality, sexuality and consent” lab, there was a lot of borders to be hit  :) And the major limits found so far are falling into several categories. 

  1. Limit of attentiveness. This a “meter” that is pretty hard to shift, it requires a lot of practice. Though in the end it brings most of fun. We focus on the details of body, on the details of movement - and get constantly amused of the things we have not yet noticed. 

  2. Limit of physical control. Desorientation is only one of the effects that is actually very much desired. That’s the reason why we give wait - to loose control of the situation. That’s what we as dancers do all the time, playing with speed to push to the limit, or the acrobatics. Loose control in order to get something totally new. 

  3. Limit of psychological control. This is the most interesting source. So I elaborate a bit more on this. 

“Not falling into”... 

CI started as a radical practice of exploring animalistic reflexes of human body. “Animal” approach, or “authentic” - these are very important words. And the animal research brings not only animal speeds and physicality, but all the other “bad” things together. Primarily, it’s sexuality and power/domination games. With sexual energy arising, we are on the border of loosing control all the time. It’s completely uncontrollable amount of hormones that are suddenly coming to the body and taking away conscious choices. Tango dancers have an incredible tool to tame this energy: when the music stops, dance is finished. 

Same with anger and domination - allowing to express restrictions brings lots of energy, and balancing on top of this energy without falling into it. It’s sometimes enough to allow myself to get a good grip of partner’s neck - and my level of interest to the dance dramatically increases. 

Somehow there’s one more thing that looks like one more big source of body interest: “togetherness”, and, more precisely, intimacy. Probably, it’s related to “grooming” or “shame louse-picking” that monkeys do. And there’s also a pitfall of loosing yourself totally into togetherness and “just listening”. But I must admit this does not work for me the same straightforward way, I can’t simply raise my level of togetherness. So, probably, it’s simply out of scopes of this model. 

Harvesting the model

OK, Let’s put it radical. Long ago, I had a vision of CI as a field for exploring boundaries and limits. But it seems like no longer working model. I (and we) are seeking the ways to loose control. So my Contact Improvisation definition so far. A practice and research of re-integrating the “animal” part of human with “social” part in a more ecological way. And again - this model of control is leading to the flow in Csikszentmihalyi understanding - and that’s the base place for the rest of exploration. I am interested in taking it into beginner’s mind state.

How to use the model? Right now it empowers me to ask questions “towards which limit do I want/need to go” in order to come to the state of flow. In the end, “Focus is sexy. Sexy is focus” (c) Mario Blanco. It’s more about starting the engine - and then it starts to carry. 

Model is battle-tested in the above-average state of internal interest. Next steps - test when I’m low in energy, and test on beginners. 


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