The Contact Improv LA Jam meets every Sunday at Dance Home in downtown Santa Monica. Everyone is invited to drop in at anytime. The dance is $10-$15 or what you can pay. The first half hour of the jam is a guided, contact skill building warmup, followed by the opening circle at 7pm. Your second time is free!
Dance Home is located at 522 Santa Monica Blvd. in Santa Monica, CA 90401. It is on the South side of the street, between 5th Street and 6th Street. The entrance is immediately left of the door to Radio Shack. Enter and go up the stairs and there you are!
There is metered parking all around our venue.
Do NOT park at the 2 meters directly in front of our venue after 6pm. It becomes a bus zone at 6pm and you will be ticketed!
What is Contact Improvisation?
“Contact Improvisation is a dance form based on the communication between two or more moving bodies that are in physical contact and their combined relationship to the physical laws that govern their motion—gravity, momentum, inertia.”
- Nancy Stark Smith
“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 improvisation (or CI, or “contact”) has always been difficult to define, in part because it’s intentionally undefined, in part because it continues to evolve and change.
However, one definition might be that contact improvisation is a social dance that arises out of modern dance traditions. One of its central principles is a rolling point of contact between two (sometimes less, sometimes more) people through which both dancers give and share weight. It’s somewhere between tango, modern dance, aikido, wrestling, gymnastics, and none of the above, and usually takes place without music. People dance contact in any combination of genders, there are no “steps,” and it’s entirely improvised.
Contact improvisation is one of the most welcoming and friendly (typically) musicless dance forms that you can do. It’s for people of all body types, ages, backgrounds, and athletic ability. We at the Los Angeles jam pride ourselves on being friendly and open to newcomers - we love to see new people falling in love with contact improvisation, and we love beginners’ energy. The only rule is that each dancer is responsible for his/her own safety and comfort. For more information, visit Contact Quarterly.
Every jam is a little bit different. However, a typical jam experience at the Los Angeles jam might go something like this: The jam “officially” starts at 6:30 with an “opening circle,” which consists of a brief introduction and greetings. Sometimes, that will be followed by a class on some aspect of contact improvisation or by a “group warmup” for those who want to participate.
Often, individuals will continue to arrive throughout the evening. Most dancers take some time to warm up by themselves when they first arrive, using whatever routines work best for them. Over the course of the next two-and-a-half hours, people will join in and out of dances. Most of these will be duets, but occasionally—and often towards the end of the night—some contacters will dance in trios or larger groups. In between “partner dances,” many dancers will continue to improvise, stretch, and dance on their own.
Without music, it is up to the dancers to determine when they’ve arrived at an ending to their dance. There have been times when this writer has danced all night with only one or two others or has preferred to “solo” all night, but by and large, one can expect to have at least three to four different dances over the course of an evening. A short dance might last less than five minutes while a particularly long dance might last over thirty minutes. Now and then, a single duo or trio might dance together for the entire jam, but this is rare.
At the LA jam, we almost always end the evening with a “closing circle” and an exchange of names, after which, folks often go someplace nearby to eat or drink.
— James Ysidro
While a class can be helpful for developing sound fundamentals and learning certain advanced skills, you can start by simply doing. Show up at the LA jam and let people know that you’re new to contact improvisation. People will be happy to give you introductory instruction.
The Bring (or Be) a Beginner Night takes place once every month at the Los Angeles – Santa Monica jam, at which beginners are especially encouraged to attend, and we start the evening with a class/warmup suitable for all levels. Check the Facebook events page to find which Sundays are scheduled as Bring (or Be) a Beginner Nights.
What to Wear
Dress comfortably in clothing that allows a free range of movement. It’s probably better to have clothing without buckles, buttons, or large zippers, as they can be uncomfortable to roll over while dancing. It’s usually better to have clothing that covers the legs since you may be on your knees on occasion. Don’t worry about footwear; barefoot is generally the best option. (Although sometimes people have been known to dance in socks or dance shoes, socks can be slippery and dance shoes can accidentally squash toes, so you should be careful if you wear either.) I typically wear sweat pants, a T-shirt, and a long-sleeve T-shirt over that while warming up.
Avoid large dangly pieces of jewelry; they can get caught on or under something, which can be awkward and/or dangerous. If you need to tie your hair back, I recommend doing so with something soft — a scrunchy or rubber band instead of a hair clip.
Expect to sweat a fair bit, so you may want to bring a change of clothes. There’s filtered water at Dance Home, so there’s no need to bring any. Experienced contacters often wear Chinese kneepads, which are thinner than typical kneepads and allow more range of movement. However, you should be able to get through your first jam without any (and some long-time dancers don’t wear them at all). If you want to be super-prepared, you can order kneepads through the Contact Quarterly.
— Richard Kim
How to start and end a dance
There is no set etiquette for asking someone to dance. At the LA jam, the majority of dances probably start as the result of someone verbally asking someone else to dance. But dances also start in many other ways. Sometimes dancing next to an individual or duo will result in a dance, as will wordlessly making contact with someone who is already moving in a “dancerly” way. Sometimes, a chance collision between different sets of dancers will result in a change of partners.
Of course, just like asking outright, sometimes these methods don’t result in a dance. However, by and large, most people are at the jam to dance and appreciate any opportunity to do so.
— James Ysidro
A dance ends… when it ends! You and/or your partner agree on when to end the dance. There is no wrong or right time to end a dance, and no wrong or right way to end a dance. Be aware of when you might want to stop, be sensitive to your partner, and end the dance when you think it should end. Dances can last (and have lasted!) from ten seconds to all evening.
— Richard Kim