The Boulder Contact Improvisation Lab fosters a close community space, despite the large group of dancers who participate in the group. The founders of the group insist that the group be called a lab, not a jam because it is a place for dancers to experiment to deepen their sensory experience as they interact.

I’ve been to the Contact Lab many times and each time am greeted with a meaningful experience that does not allow words to get in the way. Though we can speak and vocalize as we dance, we are not permitted to engage in casual conversation on the dance floor. Instead, we communicate with our bodies. Sometimes I lock eyes with someone across the room or simply brush a hand over someone’s shoulder. Other times I am lifted and spun on someone’s shoulder. If I could describe the Lab in one word, it would be playful. No movement is right or wrong and no dancer worries what their movements look like. The dance is all about experimentation and creating meaningful communication for the self and others.

 

Photo Credits: http://dumit.net/contact-improvisation/

Before we begin the lab, there is an opening circle where we can voice anything that needs to be said before the beginning of the lab. This could give voice to injuries, emotions or anything that might enhance your experience in the group. There is also a closing circle at the end of the lab. In the closing circle, we often connect with the people around us using words, movements and sounds to communicate our experience and then take turns sharing in the larger group. At the end of the lab, everyone always feels close and connected. Despite the large group, the space feels like an intimate community.

Because we are working with each other’s bodies, there need to be boundaries in how we interact. The guidelines outline how dancers must know their own personal limits, know how to react if someone is invading their boundaries and know when someone is trying to push them beyond their abilities. They also state that contact improvisation is not a place to pursue a sexual relationship.

The group tends to begin smaller than it ends. Anywhere from 10-15 people begin in the group, but by the end, there are often 30-50 people on the floor. The age range for the group is varied. Dancers range in age from 20s-60s. Most of the dancers are on the mid to older end of this spectrum. The cost to attend is operated on a sliding scale of 5-10 dollars to cover renting the space. The Lab is on Sundays from 10am-12:30 pm and is either offered in the Avalon Ballroom or in the Boulder Circus Center. Both venues are spacious and easily accommodate large groups of people.

Here is a video example of what goes on in a typical contact improvisation lab:

Julia Bartlett is a Massachusetts native who traded the ocean for the mountains. She is currently a graduate student at CU Boulder pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing. She seeks to make her MFA interdisciplinary by taking choreography courses as well as writing workshops. She has created dances that have involved locking herself in closets, slashing lipstick all over her body and becoming a nature spirit. Her work has been performed at CU Boulder and the Riverside Events Center. She is also a certified Reiki practitioner and is building her practice in Boulder.