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By encouraging presence and awareness of our own being with others through touch, CI is a transformative and revolutionary dance form.
By encouraging presence and awareness of our own being with others through touch, CI is a transformative and revolutionary dance form.
By encouraging presence and awareness of our own being with others through touch, CI is a transformative and revolutionary dance form.
208 backers pledged £6,005 to help bring this project to life.

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Five Ways In: A Documentary on Contact Improvisation

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It has been really remarkable how your posts on facebook and personal emails have led to such a buzz around the project. We want the buzz to go as far as it can. With more pledges we can make the website even better, employ an executive editor for a little longer and do even more justice to all your interest and potential of the project.

So we are setting a stretch goal of £6000 to cover all the creative eventualities and allow all those who want to contribute to do so and know that their pledges will be put to good use.

Contact improvisation is a practice that connects people without judgement through touch, improvisation and play. It builds community and confidence in creating connection in the wider society.  The potential of CI in building community is not so well known outside the dance community. With your support you can help make CI more widely known through helping us complete our documentary to the standard it can be submitted to film festivals and have an impact online on a dedicated  website.

We need your help to pay for the work we cannot do ourselves in sound design, colour correction and final editing. The three of us have  experienced profound changes in our way of relating in the world through practicing the form. We want to share the form with a wider audience.

There is not enough touch in our lives, help others to learn about and be touched by a dance form described as 'the art of relating'. 

'This is the first anthropological documentary to focus on the transformational qualities of CI. The last 18 months has been an amazing collaborative and participative filmmaking journey into the personal meanings of CI. Join us on the final stage to give our documentary the best start it can to contribute to wider personal and social change. Please support us by pledging and sharing this campaign with others. With your help we can research and bring the benefits of this form to many others. '

Alyssa Lynes, Sonja Bruhlmann & Mike Poltorak

From Right Centre: Alyssa, Mike (with deck chair fabric cap, so people could see me a mile off), Sonja and photographer, Philip at Freiburg 2012
From Right Centre: Alyssa, Mike (with deck chair fabric cap, so people could see me a mile off), Sonja and photographer, Philip at Freiburg 2012

The Concept

'This form is so hard to video and to articulate. You have done a magnificent job of not reducing the form and leaving it complex. ' (Martin Keogh 2013)

The documentary shows the journeys of five dancers through the week of the biggest European Contact Improvisation festival in Freiburg, Germany.  Jashana, Lior, Raquel, Camille and Johan reveal their personal motivations and the tranformation that Contact Improvisation (CI) has in their lives. Through their stories we learn about the history, politics and technicalities of the form, the benefits of dancing CI and how the practice of CI contributes to community building.

The opening jam at Freiburg 2012.
The opening jam at Freiburg 2012.

 Since it’s early development in the 1970s on the West Coast of the US, CI has expanded to much of Europe. Germany has one of the most active communities of dancers. We focussed on the personal and transformational journeys of five dancers at the biggest and first international festival, The Freiburg International Contact Festival in it's 13th year. Our documentary was initiated by an open invitation from the organising team to document the festival in which ever way we wanted, giving us total freedom for our project. 

We chose five people to reveal a broad range of backgrounds, age and experience to explore the philosophical, political, community, technical, spiritual and professional meanings of the dance form. Our five protagonists explore what CI means to them, both in relation to the week of the festival and as it relates to their prior experience and future aspirations. The joys and challenges of the dance form play out during an incredible week of improvised dancing.

Feedback so far has been excellent. Our original trailer above was selected for the premiere evening of the first Contact Dance International Film Festival in Toronto Canada in June 2013. 

Feedback screening at Freiburg 2012.
Feedback screening at Freiburg 2012.

  Nita Little, the performer, choreographer and teacher who participated in the emergence of contact improvisation as a form, ‘totally enjoyed ’ the first feedback version we screened at Freiburg 2013, and got ‘joy at the implicit humour in the cutting and images’. Detailed feedback from Daniel Lepkoff, one of the key people who developed CI in the 70s, has also guided our editing.  

Johan, Nita and Lior at feedback session.
Johan, Nita and Lior at feedback session.

At the Freiburg feedback session Ulli Wittemann compared our film to others on the internet in highly positive terms: 

 Since then and after screenings in London and Ibiza Contact Festival we have re-edited much of the first cut in response to feedback. Here is the new beginning for the film: 

WHAT IS CONTACT IMPROVISATION?

Johan and Irene practice shoulder spins.
Johan and Irene practice shoulder spins.

Strict definition of CI is resisted by those who practice it, and as the publication Contact Quarterly states: 

Since it is essentially a dance of investigation of weight, touch, and communication, it adheres to no single definition or pedagogical certification program. All practitioners ultimately participate in the defining, disseminating, and development of the form through their own practice and discovery.'

For the sake of appreciating the history of the form an early definition by Steve Paxton and others is quite useful:

'Contact improvisations are spontaneous physical dialogues that range from stillness to highly energetic exchanges. Alertness is developed in order to work in an energetic state of physical disorientation, trusting in one's basic survival instincts. It is a free play with balance, self-correcting the wrong moves and reinforcing the right ones, bringing forth a physical/emotional truth about a shared moment of movement that leaves the participants informed, centered, and enlivened'. (Paxton et al Contact Quarterly  Vol. 5:1, Fall 1979) 

It was this aspect that made Contact Improvisation a core part of the syllabus of many dance schools. Video and contact improvisation have been connected from the beginning of the form. The early experiments in contact improvisation were recorded and have been used to inspire new developments in the form (eg Fall after Newton, Magnesium). There is much footage on people dancing CI and performances available to buy and see on the internet. However, while video has continued to be used to capture moments of dance, record performances and events there was little enquiry into the lives of people dancing the form.

OUR INSPIRATION

Jashana was most interested in the use of CI for social transformation.
Jashana was most interested in the use of CI for social transformation.

We were moved by the potential of contact improvisation for personal and social transformation. All three of us had experienced real changes in our lives because of practicing the form.  Through a focus on developing presence and a bodily listening to our own and others impulses CI fosters a body based communication where touch is central. 

This contrasts strongly with contemporary society where touch is typically restricted to particular kinds of relationships.

 One of the founders Steve Paxton, famously argued that contact improvisation was about physics not chemistry, and yet for many the dance form delivered profound insights into the dynamics of interpersonal relationships and connected them globally through travel and festivals.  

We were interested in the contemporary questions people were asking about the form: Is CI a lifestyle, a spiritual practice, a tool for community building and decision making? This is where an anthropological approach, focussed on knowledge of the history and culture of the form coupled with a curiosity of what was meaningful for people doing the dance form became central. We wanted to address the questions not in the abstract, but in relation to real people at an event where these questions were present. We also wanted the editing of our documentary film to have an integrity and a form that was inspired by the philosophy of contact improvisation. How to capture the experience of CI in a festival was one of our key challenges?

The resources table at the festival.
The resources table at the festival.

‘The documentary is a form of research for all those involved with it.  Academically, I was very much inspired to  update in a documentary the increased internationalism of the form hinted in Cynthia Novack’s excellent ethnography of contact improvisation ‘Sharing the Dance’ published in 1990. Anthropological documentary, for me offers a more participative and public anthropology than text based ethnographies. Personally, I have been dancing the form for four years and I wanted to do justice to the personal stories and wider context of CI in everyday life.’ (Mike Poltorak-Co-Director)

WHY FREIBURG CONTACT IMPROVISATION FESTIVAL? 

Contact improvisation in Europe has become strongly embedded in summer festivals. Freiburg International Contact Improvisation Festival was the first and biggest of all these festivals. Tickets to the festival famously sell out hours after they are made available on the 1st April. One of the organisers, Barbara Stahlberger, invited our co-director Mike Poltorak to document the festival as had been done for the previous twelve years. After initially proposing a very basic documentation of the festival he realised over months what a unique opportunity there was to make a full length documentary that really captured the contemporary form.

The Documentary Team: Sonja, Alyssa and Mike
The Documentary Team: Sonja, Alyssa and Mike

'I realised I could not do it alone and so I asked two good friends whom I had met at previous teacher’s festivals and who had a long history and knowledge of CI to join me. We became three co-directors and discussed each step of the process of making the film. The documentary is very much the product of the unique collaboration of the three of us ( Mike Poltorak-Co-Director)'

PROJECT SUMMARY: WHY FIVE PEOPLE?

Lior dancing with Sveta in the opening jam.
Lior dancing with Sveta in the opening jam.

 We were interested in the personal process and meanings of CI and being at a dance festival. We chose five people to reflect the internationalisation of the form through personal recommendation, contact and discussion of how they could capture and reflect different interest and experience of CI. Five people seemed an appropriate number of people to get to know in a one hour documentary on a week long festival. By the end of the festival those criteria faded as their experiences, meanings and process became central to organising the structure of the documentary. 

 The five protagonists of the documentary are:

Jashana in conversation with Jess Curtis on the politics of CI.
Jashana in conversation with Jess Curtis on the politics of CI.

 Jashana (Hawai’i) is a political activist and has been deeply involved in community development through ecovillage networks. She was interested in the politics and transformative aspects of the form.

For Lior the lake was a place of reflection and morning practice.
For Lior the lake was a place of reflection and morning practice.

 Lior (Israel) teaches and practices CI internationally. He wanted to have beautiful dances (whatever that means?), develop professionally and survive the challenge of being with three hundred people.

Raquel in Jess Curtis' intensive.
Raquel in Jess Curtis' intensive.

 Raquel (Brazil) is  a dedicated dancer and was a volunteer at the festival. She was curious in the community aspects of CI and was in search of some clarity in the dance in her everyday life.

Camille finding inspiration before the One to One sessions.
Camille finding inspiration before the One to One sessions.

Camille (France) is a sports teacher and had only started dancing CI recently. He was interested in developing sensitivity and the ability to give weight to people smaller than himself.

Johan at the improvisation in nature.
Johan at the improvisation in nature.

 Johan (Sweden) uniquely links dance with nature through his work as dance teacher and biodynamic gardener. He was particularly interested in developing his teaching and breaking down patterns.

Jess Curtis demonstrating in his intensive.
Jess Curtis demonstrating in his intensive.

 While the narrative was driven by our five protagonists, we also paid attention to other key events and aspects of the festival to give an ethnographic sense of the festival. We meet other international teachers and commentators of the form: 

Many other individuals also comment and give insight into the festival and dance practice. All the music in the film was improvised and performed at the event.

Musicians Anir Leben and Irene Sposetti performing at an evening jam.
Musicians Anir Leben and Irene Sposetti performing at an evening jam.

WHO ARE WE?

Mike Poltorak (UK) is a medical and visual anthropologist based at the University of Kent. His collaborative philosophy of film making was inspired by two years of research on traditional healing and mental illness in the South Pacific island group of Tonga where he learned the importance of the relationship between filmmaker and subjects to creating a film with integrity and utility for the community. His fascination in the healing power of touch and longstanding love of dance and movement came together fortuitiously when he discovered CI in Sweden in 2009. 

The anthropological value of the documentary for him is born of the depth of collaboration and involvement of the filmmakers, the attention to contemporary cinematography and editing, and the communicative potential of the documentary. Documentary for him is one part of a journey of research and engagement, which aims at social change. The collaborative and feedback based process he follows has led to two films, ‘Fun(d)raising’ (a film about Tongan comedy) and ‘ One Week West of Molkom’ (a collaborative documentary on volunteers at the ‘No Mind’ festival in the community of Angsbacka in central Sweden). His most recent video experiment on Contact Improvisation was with Johan Nilsson and Irene Sposetti on a contact improvisation performance at that festival. 

This followed several years of experimenting with video and contact improvisation at three ECITE (European Contact Improvisation Teacher Exchange) meetings in Finland, Ibiza and Bern. ‘Five Ways In’ is anthropological because it aims to build on previous anthropological knowledge on CI and has been informed by anthropological research and involvement in the form for many years. 

Personally, I was inspired by the transformational impact the form had on bodymind integration. As a visual anthropologist, I was inspired by the ‘shared anthropology’ and feedback methodology of Jean Rouch. '

Alyssa at the closing jam at Freiburg 2013.
Alyssa at the closing jam at Freiburg 2013.

 Alyssa Lynes (US) is a dancer and teacher of many styles of dance, and an English language teacher. A dancer her whole life, she grew up in Boston, Massachusetts until she attended Sarah Lawrence College in New York. There she began studying Contact Improv (CI) in 2002 and ultimately received a BA in Contemporary Dance four years later. She stayed another 6 years in NYC where she continued training in CI, release technique, and Salsa. While there, she received her Masters in Education and worked as a freelance dancer and bilingual school teacher. An intensive CI training with Nancy Stark Smith in 2010 catapulted Alyssa on a CI devoted trip to Europe, and she has resided there ever since, training and working as a free-lance dancer and teacher of Contact Improvisation, Contemporary Dance, English and Spanish. Alyssa is a founder of Contact Improvisation Kollectiv Freiburg, and is currently a member of the CI Freiburg Jam Team. She has taught at CI Jams at Earthdance (MA, US) where she was a Diversity Committee member (2009). In Europe she has taught at festivals such as Contact Meets Contemporary (DE), Ibiza CI Festival (SP), the French International Acrobatic Convention (FR),  in Touch & Play Festivals (SP & UK) and at the Israel Contact Improvisation Festival. 

 ‘I have always been interested in culture and anthropology, communication styles and interpersonal dynamics. This has led me to live in many places throughout the world, and train in non-violent communication, teaching and learning languages. Over the past 10 years the Contact Improv community has continued to be a place for me to develop my current interests, explore meaningful questions, and experience authentic vulnerability and play. I view CI as an excellent way to support one another in developing awareness, embodying the power of expression and listening, and connecting with others beyond culturally learned blocks, prejudices, and ‘isms.

In 2010, I began to explore the medium of video as a way to capture expression through dance and share it with a larger more varied audience. I was excited to co-direct ‘Five Ways In’ because it reveals personal processes within the larger 300-person context of a CI festival culture. I hope that this film will promote further questioning and reflection about Contact Improvisation as a form for personal and community expression and communication in multiple contexts.

I am personally interested to continue to use CI and learn how others use it in CI communities, in non-CI community development workshops, in creating choreography & performing Contact Improvisation. I believe 'Five Ways In' can inspire continued research and interest in Contact Improvisation as postmodern dance and as an effective form of non-violent communication.'

Sonja (in green) dancing at Freiburg 2013.
Sonja (in green) dancing at Freiburg 2013.

 Sonja Bruhlmann (Switzerland) is a community dance and theatre practitioner, teacher and Contact Improviser. Her work evolves around the application of dance and theatre for personal and social transformation. She works in educational and social fields with people from all areas of life, children and adults, often people in times of transition or on the margin of society (unemployed, disabilities, refugees). She organises residential CI research events (Touch&Play) and regular CI labs. In these events the focus is on the investigation of the richness of CI from many different angles: physiological, artistic, psychological, philosophical, and spiritual.

 ‘I love diving into the state of improvisation. I find this altered state of playfulness, spontaneity and directness of connection deeply nourishing. I joined this film project because I felt that the CI festival Freiburg is a great hub and platform of dance and lovers of CI from all around the world. I wanted to dive into the question of what is CI and what does it mean to the people that practice it.

Personally having experienced the many benefits that CI can have, I wanted to show it’s value within a festival and raise the question of whether our practice has an impact outside the festival context on a personal, social or political level. Further I wanted to make a documentary that can inform a broad audience about CI. The journey so far has been wonderful. We were lucky to find five beautiful individuals that gave us insight into their motivations, visions, experiences, pitfalls and joys.

The conversation about CI began and continued outside the festival. Mike and Alyssa have been two very inspiring project partners, both experienced CI researchers that have practiced and thought a lot about the implications of this form. We have further involved our local CI communities in London and at ECITE in Bern to find out about people’s curiosities, interests and wishes for a film about CI’.

WHAT HAVE WE DONE SO FAR? 

A dance improvisation in nature.
A dance improvisation in nature.

This is great! I watched it with my partner who is not into contact and he was shocked and inspired! Thanks.’ (Melody Shantala Secco 2013)

 Feedback has been central to the collaborative process of making our film. Through feedback we understand better what we have understood from the footage we have put together and how our collaborators and audiences understand it. We have screened full length feedback versions to audiences in Germany, Ibiza, London, UK and Mannedorf, Switzerland.  Most recently we screened the feedback version at the Israel Contact Improvisation Festival 2013,  EarthDance's new year's jam and in Amsterdam, as part of a workshop at UvA linking anthropology, contact improvisation and visual methodologies.

We also asked for written feedback.
We also asked for written feedback.

At the Freiburg Festival this year we screened to almost all the three hundred participants and teachers. We also gave out feedback sheets for people to give their response to key questions of what particular scenes they resonated with. Feedback was very positive as you can see from the video above but it also identified key things we needed to address. Many people wanted to know more about the characters. Some wanted a clearer beginning.

We also screened to a mixed group of contact dancers and people not familiar with the form and documentary directors and producers in London. Feedback here focussed on how we needed to make clearer at the beginning what was most interesting about CI for a non-dancing audience. 

In response we have made our focus on the five protagonists clearer. We are currently finishing the final edit, working with all the feedback to create an edit that both satisfies the need for clarity from those not familiar with the form and the preserves the  humour for those who know the characters and are familiar with the festival or the form.

WHY DO WE NEED YOUR HELP?

We need all your help and support!
We need all your help and support!

 We have done all the research, filming, editing and consultation so far on our own time and money. We need your help to finish the film and fund the post-production costs for things we cannot do ourselves. Sound design, colour grading and building an interactive website requires professional expertise. We have the help of an excellent Sound Designer, Maiken Hansen and advice of the editor, John Murphy (both graduates of the National Film and Television School in the UK). 

 We need £5000 to pay for: 

• Sound design 

• Colour correction

• Executive editing

• Web site design 

• Applications and promotion for film festivals 

• Material and travel costs 

 Support over our request will help develop the use of the documentary to communicate and research the form. It will also help to making the web site more expansive and will help to include more footage of the film. It will also support us to travel to film festivals and promote the use of the film to research contact improvisation. We would also be able to organise more screenings and research events. We are already planning one day events in London that will combine dance, the presentation of academic papers and film screenings.

PLEASE SUPPORT US TO HELP MAKE THIS RESEARCH, TEACHING, AND COMMUNICATION TOOL BECOME A GLOBALLY ACCESSIBLE RESOURCE.

Feedback drawing from Freiburg 2013.
Feedback drawing from Freiburg 2013.

Risks and challenges

Our challenges are now technical. We have all the footage we need and also have a close to final cut. We also have found the professionals to help us realise the final part of the process.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge £5 or more About $8

    Our heartfelt thanks on our ‘Five Ways in’ Facebook group and on our website when it's live. We'll give you a big hug when we see you.

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    Pledge £10 or more About $16

    The first ten people to pledge get a free CI class at Moving East on a Saturday, gratefully offered by London Contact Improvisation (http://www.contactimprovisation.co.uk/london.html) + our thanks on Facebook and on our website. We'll give you an extra long hug, and when we dance with you at the jam or festival we promise to whisper how well you can follow the point of contact ;-)

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    Pledge £20 or more About $33

    Digital Download of Film (Playable on your computer)+ thanks on Facebook and website. We will send you the link to the HD quality finished version of the film downloadable from VIMEO when it is finished. The quality will be much higher than if it is on DVD.

    We see the documentary as a research tool through 'video elicitation' and feedback into how CI is perceived and experienced. We look forward to learning what you discover and including it on our website.

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    Pledge £50 or more About $82

    ‘Supporter’ credits in the final film + digital download + link on our website to your website. You will appear in the closing credits of the film in gratitude for the support you have given.

    We promise to attempt one improvisation move of your choice from the documentary when we see you. We will compliment your dancing in the highest possible way by saying you dance Finnish style (lots of flying), in Finnish. You can also have that in writing. But we will not pay for chiropractic treatment, but definately the sauna.

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    Pledge £75 or more About $123

    A one hour class or consultation or conversation with Alyssa, Mike or Sonja + supporter credits+digital download + link on our website to your website or blog.

    Depending on where you are in the world, we look forward to giving you a dedicated session in person or on skype to learn CI, to discuss CI and politics or whatever you are interested in. Alyssa has some great gossip about the CI scene, she can't really tell you. But she can nod yes or no, in response to any juicy questions you have.

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    Pledge £100 or more About $163

    ‘Key Supporter’ credits in the final film + digital download+ copies of all publications and advanced invitations to all events we organise with the film+dedicated paragraph and link to you or your organisation on our website.

    You will appear in the closing credits as a 'Key Supporter'.

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    Pledge £200 or more About $327

    Two VIP tickets to our first film festival premiere + ‘Key Supporter’ credits in the final film+ one hour class or consultation +copies of all publications and advanced invitations to all events we organise with the film+ Digital download of final film + research access to previous cuts and advanced access to new footage online.

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    Pledge £500 or more About $817

    A half day workshop in your institution or organisation on a theme related to CI or filmmaking+dedicated screening+two VIP tickets to our first film festival premiere + ‘Key Supporter’ credits in the final film + one hour class or consultation +copies of all publications and advanced invitations to all events we organise with the film+ Digital download of final film + access to previous cuts and advanced access to new footage online.

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Funding period

- (36 days)