Contact Improv Providence

Journal of dance, improvisation, performance, and contemporary movement arts, is the longest living, independent, artist-made, not-for-profit, reader-supported magazine devoted to the dancer’s voice.

Founded in 1975, Contact Quarterly (CQ) began as a forum for discussion of the emerging dance form contact improvisation. Serving as a meeting ground for a worldwide network of contact improvisers, CQ quickly grew to include writings and interviews on postmodern and contemporary experimental dance, somatic movement practices, improvisational dance, mixed-abilities dance, teaching methods, creative process, and performance. – Contact Quarterly

Visit the Contact Quarterly online.

What is Contact Improvisation?

Contact Improvisation is an evolving system of movement initiated in 1972 by American choreographer Steve Paxton. The improvised dance form is based on the communication between two moving bodies that are in physical contact and their combined relationship to the physical laws that govern their motion—gravity, momentum, inertia. The body, in order to open to these sensations, learns to release excess muscular tension and abandon a certain quality of willfulness to experience the natural flow of movement. Practice includes rolling, falling, being upside down, following a physical point of contact, supporting and giving weight to a partner.

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.

—early definition by Steve Paxton and others, 1970s,
from CQ Vol. 5:1, Fall 1979

Contact Improv Providence Agreements

Safety is our shared responsibility. 

We each have a responsibility to care for ourselves. 

We each have a responsibility to care for and listen to each other.

Physical Safety

Physical risk is inherent in the practice of contact improvisation.  Be in the habit of checking in with your body before and throughout the classes and jams.  Get to know your skills; do not attempt things that your unique skill set does not support.  Always have your landing gears (limbs) free. Do not lock, grab or otherwise immobilize your partner’s limbs.   

Emotional/psychological Safety 

Be respectful of your own emotional and physical boundaries and the boundaries of others. If you are unsure, ask! You may not know what these are until one is crossed.  We work together to create an environment that promotes all people’s ability to be present in their wholeness; we practice honest and direct dialogue with ourselves, others and the jam facilitators .  It is your right and responsibility to maintain your own boundaries in a dance and communicate physically and/or verbally to change or leave a situation that does not suit you.  If something isn’t sitting right with you or you have any safety concerns, it can be very helpful to communicate it and we encourage you to do so and seek out jam facilitators if the need arises.  It is never too early or too late to communicate or ask for support!


We come together with the intention to practice the dance form of contact improvisation.  Contact improvisation can be intimate and even sensual at times; all the more reason to have clear intentions that this is dance, and not something else.  Contact Improvisation is not a place to look for sexual partners, it is not a place for overt sexual behavior or language. Each person’s tolerance for sexual expression within a dance is different. We deeply value and practice consent. Do not pursue sensual dances unless you know your partner and have received consent. 

Understanding growth

Contact Improvisation can be challenging!   Embracing challenges can expand our relationship to ourselves, to physics and to others.   Practice noticing where you are along the scale of growth at any given moment: comfort- challenge-danger.  This is a valuable practice to notice the sometimes subtle differences between physical/emotional challenge vs. danger.  When in doubt slow down, breathe, check in with yourself and ask, is this challenging me in a way that feels safe? I am interested in this challenge?   

Physical health

If you are sick or think you might have a contagious illness, please do not come to classes or jams.  If you have any open wounds, even small cuts, please cover them with a secure bandage. If you have injuries, please communicate any limitations or information that will help others dance with you safely during opening circle.  

What to expect…

when you come to class

Classes will develop + challenge our instincts and creative impulses as we practice safely sharing weight, offering and receiving physical information and expanding/understanding our individual movement capacity.  Classes will cover skills such as falling, flying, rolling point of contact, spherical orientation, non-verbal listening and communication. If you are new to CI, class is a great place to start as it will introduce many skills that are fundamental to Contact Improvisation.  Class builds with a progression of material, please arrive on time.

when you come to a jam

Jams are a focused time for the practice of Contact Improvisation. Each jam will begin with an opening circle at 7pm where we introduce ourselves, review safety guidelines and also share our seeds for the jam. The facilitator for the evening will offer a brief improvisational score to connect us as a group and lead us into open dancing.  During open dancing you are welcome to dance on your own, change partners, join a dance, leave a dance, dance in groups, witness, draw or write notes. There will be many different levels of skill present at the jams, some coming from other movement backgrounds as well. This practice time is open to all bodies, abilities, ages and skill levels.   If you are new to Contact Improvisation we recommend you also come to class as is enriches our movement practice. 

Values Statement

*Contact Improvisation was originally formed and practiced by predominantly White American, trained dancers /movers. Since its inception, the form has spread and is practiced today on every continent with the exception of Antarctica. Many women, queer folks, Black, Brown, Non-normative bodied movers and allies have and continue to lead the work of challanging principles and practices in CI culture that perpetuate oppressive and exclusive conditions. 

CI Providence welcomes people of all skill levels, abilities, races, cultural backgrounds, and ages and works towards creating a space where all people can show up as their whole selves, find expression and build skill in the collective practice of Contact Improvisation. We recognize that power imbalances create barriers for people belonging to marginalized groups to connect and show up fully. We are committed to addressing those imbalances directly and compassionately as they show up in the space and do not tolerate racist, sexist, homophobic, ablist or otherwise oppressive attitudes or behavior. If there is any way we can make it more accessible to participate, please let us know.  

116 Calverly is handicap accessible.

How do we stay flexible in our bodies and in our thinking?

Every person and every moment is unique. Assumptions and expectations can often get in the way of responding to the present moment as it unfolds. This form asks us to constantly adjust our bodies and our thinking in relationship to our own experience and our environment.