London Contact Improvisation (LCI) was formed in April 2001 by Robert Anderson, Kate Hilder and Joukje Kolff. At this time, whilst there were many contact improvisation (CI) teachers and dancers in London,. Our vision was:
· To regenerate a vibrant contact improvisation scene in London involving professional and non-professional dancers, artists, teachers and performers. · To see high quality, stimulating and innovative performance arise from the work. · To create opportunities for ongoing training in CI for dancers of all levels and abilities. · To include (rather than exclude) dancers with disabilities and adults of all ages, social and ethnic backgrounds. · To strengthen and diversify the dance community in London by introducing people with little movement experience to dance through CI. · To encourage broad and diverse approaches to CI and dance improvisation by promoting related body-mind practices, such as BMC and the Feldenkrais Method. · To support development of this artform by inviting teachers based in London, across the UK and overseas to share and develop their approaches with London based practitioners.
We decided to set up a programme of weekly classes and jams in order to provide consistent opportunities for training and practise. The format involved a two-hour class followed by a three-hour jam (open space for practice and improvisation) on Saturdays. We chose Moving East as the base for our activities. We were pleased to find such a supportive professional environment to work in where our aims and artistic values fitted well with the ethos of the centre. Our programme complemented other classes/activities such as aikido, yoga, contemporary dance based at Moving East.
There was no shortage of experienced CI teachers based in the UK with many professionals working in dance companies, academies and higher education. We were able to offer teachers from London and further a field a series of three or four consecutive classes to enhance the continuity and development of class material. The majority of our teachers are based in London but we are able to invite teachers from other parts of the UK and from abroad.
Our first three seasons of weekly classes and jams at Moving East were supported by grants of £5000. This enabled us to pay for publicity, space hire, teacher fees, travel costs and other running costs whilst our programme was becoming established. The first season (October 2001 to May 2002) was supported by Awards for All. The second season (September 2002 – May 2003) was supported by London Dance. The third season (October 2003 – July 2004) was supported by Arts Council England.
Since September 2004 the programme has been self-sustaining and we have been able to cover all costs from the income earned from participants fees to our events. We are currently in our 12th season of weekly sessions.
In our first season (2001 – 2002) there were on average 18 people attending the class and 16 people attending the jam. The numbers of people participating has been steadily rising over the years. In season 2003 – 2004 there were an average of 19 in the class and 18 people in the jam. In our current season (2012 – 2013) there has been an average of 30 people in the class and 45 people in the jam. It is interesting to note that the numbers of dancers attending the jam (to practise and improvise without instruction) now far exceeds the numbers of dancers wanting to learn in a class environment.
Perhaps this is testament to the way the jam can meet the needs of a wide and diverse group of dancers. The jam serves a number of functions. It offers one of the few opportunities in London for the practice of dance improvisation (often in collaboration with live musicians). The ‘contact jam’ has a history of nurturing a sense of community amongst dancers. It offers a mutually supportive environment where dancers can meet socially and exchange information, skills, inspiration and ideas for developing work. The open and non-judgemental nature of CI means that dancers can learn in a non-competitive environment alongside non-professional dance enthusiasts. This mix is very healthy for both groups. Many dancers from abroad attend when they are in London and the LCI weekly event is now well known within the international CI network.
Both class and jam are accessible to people with disabilities. People with hearing and visual impairments have regularly attended. Katy Dymoke from Touchdown Dance has offered classes each season specifically designed to integrate dancers with visual impairment. During past seasons a dance student from University of East London with muscular dystrophy has attended regularly.
Feedback from participants attending the class and jam indicates that the programme has supported their professional development by providing ongoing training, creating new performance possibilities, supporting their own teaching practice and by providing an opportunity to work with other professional dancers.
When asked if the class/jam at Moving East is important and if so why, the most common answers from our participants were: · providing a meeting/networking place and a sense of community for dancers · place for ongoing practice and the exchange of skills · place for exploration of new ideas for movement · place to strengthen and deepen CI practice in UK · one of the few places in London for dance improvisation of a high level
Alongside the weekly programme LCI has organised many intensive workshops. Well-established international teachers have been invited to give workshops at various venues in London (Chisenhale Dance Space, Moving East, Siobhan Davies Studios). These renowned artists have included: Rick Nodine (USA/UK) and Jovair Longo (Brazil) in 2001, Martin Keogh (USA) in 2002 & 2008, Shahar Dor (Israel) in 2003, Gabrielle Koch (Germany) in 2003, Eszter Gal (Hungary) in 2004, Pen Dale (Australia) in 2004, Karl Frost (USA) in 2005, Måns Erlandson (Sweden) in 2006, Ilka Szilagyi (Hungary) in 2007, Andrew Harwood (Canada) in 2007, Javier Cura (Argentina) in 2007, Kirstie Simson (UK) in 2008, Joerg Hassmann (Germany) in 2009 & 2011, Ray Chung (USA) in 2009, Angela Doni (Russia) in 2010, Lindsay Sworski and Joe Stoller (USA) in 2011. In 2012, Nancy Stark Smith (USA) was invited by LCI in conjunction with Roehampton University to give a series of workshops and study groups in London and Chichester.
LCI has also organised weekend-long National Jams on an annual basis since 2001. These have commonly been held at Chisenhale Dance Space. Teachers from the UK and abroad have participated in the facilitation of these longer duration jams. The jams have attracted dancers from other parts of the UK and abroad. In 2008 a weekend jam was held at CDS in conjunction with worldwide celebrations of Contact Improvisation’s 36th year. Kirstie Simson and Christian Burns led a workshop and there were 50 people in attendance over the weekend.
Over the last twelve years LCI has become an established part of London’s dance ecology. We provide consistent high quality training in Contact Improvisation and a supportive environment where dancers and non-professionals can meet socially and exchange information, skills, inspiration and ideas for developing work.