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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Freiburg, 2011

Dancing with a lab state of mind.

At the teachers meeting we had several lab sessions. One of them, initiated by Jorg, was a self directed lab where we all danced in the space and discovered our lab questions from within the dance, rather than from a predetermined plan. As the dance unfolded we all investigated our own unspoken questions together. What developed was a committed, focused, shared dance space where we researched our personal interests of the moment. Trusting that everyone was following their own interest enabled me to delve into my desires and questions completely, without hesitation or doubt. The door to the studio was
open and several people witnessed. One of them asked the other, "What are they doing?" and the other replied, "I think they're doing a dance about inclusiveness."

Viewing the dance.

As I write this now, I am sitting in the office adjacent to the studio. Through the window I see two people dancing with large, yellow handles capped to their heads. There are tiny cameras inside recording their faces as they dance. This is a project developed by one of the videographers who wants to make a video of the danced face because so much of the enjoyment of CI is personal and subjective and not necessarily evident in the movement of the body.

Notes written in the bathrooms.

How long can I wear this shirt before it smells too bad?
Can you have a rolling point of contact for the next 24 hours?
Did you call your mother today?

Freedom and responsibility.

The organizers invite the teachers to initiate projects. They invite us to give feedback and are transparent about their working methods and decisions. With this freedom comes the responsibility to manifest our ideas, rather than expect someone else to do it for us. This can be as simple as creating an idea for a study lab, or as complex as making changes to the structure of the schedule or the arrangement of the space. Everyone must agree to go ahead with the plan or be ready to work hard for changes. This feedback mechanism, the constant meetings, circles, check-ins can be tedious but ultimately empower everyone to feel like a part of the festival creation. The leadership style of Barbara, Benno, Eckie and Dani is not too tight, not too loose. We enjoy freedom and also the underlying wisdom that they have acquired from their 12 years of making Freiburg a home for CI.

Egalitarianism embedded in everything we do.

The organizers of Freiburg are profoundly integritous because they weave the values of CI into every aspect of their festival. Everyone is able to practice CI, regardless of age, ability, sensibility. And at Freiburg, everyone’s voice is heard. Ecki held a meeting at dinner one night, inviting anyone who wished to ask him questions about the festival. One rainy day the children were stranded in the gym and were disrupting classes. Apparently there were more children this year than ever and Ecki asked all the teachers in a circle, "What do you suggest we do?" After much discussion a committee was formed and we all agreed
to accept whatever the committee decided was best. The ability of the organizers to let go and allow others to facilitate demonstrates a deep trust they have, and also a sober understanding that a festival of this scope could not happen without the engagement of all the teachers, volunteers and participants.


There is space for every facet of CI here. Art. Community. Composition. Play. Exploration. Experimentation. Somatic Research.
Therapeutic Touch. Social Dance. In many contact events I have felt a strong leaning toward one aspect of CI or another, excluding many people's interests. At Freiburg I feel that there is space for all the aspects of CI to reside. For example, one evening Karen gave a history talk in studio 3 while the marimba warmed up the jam in studio 1 while a video on CI from Belarus was screened in the kitchen.

The Circle.

After 4 days of teachers meetings with 40-50 participants, another 200 arrived for the festival. At the opening circle we spent 25 minutes watching everyone stand, announce their name and hometown, then sit again. It was an electric moment where every detail of how people stood and vocalized was heightened by the sheer number of people in the room. Some declared their hometown in English and other’s in their native language. Some spoke with pride (One man hollered "Basque" and some people applauded) and other’s spoke with self-consciousness. The voices echoed in the large hall and the spaces between each announcement were ripe with anticipation, vulnerability and a sense of global connection.

Choreography of the gymnasium.

The hall is separated by curtains which rise and fall depending on the activities. On the 2nd day the three separate intensive classes each ended with open dancing and then the curtains rose to allow for a full festival jam. When the curtains rose the mind of each class remained distinct as if there were ghost curtains. Jorg’s class was following slow rolling points, Karen's class was full of frisky, light energy and Ray’s class was somewhere in between. Eventually the dances merged and mingled. The broadening of the space created a sense of possibility and mental expansion.

Spontaneous performances.

A trio in snorkel gear and underwear emerged at lunch and danced through the tables. Their eye masks fogged and they swam away disoriented.

In the 2nd big circle a group of facilitators announced the possibility of spontaneous performances as a trio of little girls all
in pink slid on their backs in the middle of the circle in unison.

Gunter, a teacher, interrupted this 250 person circle dressed in some traditional German, small town attire: big tie, suspenders and hair slicked to the side. He introduced himself as Heinz. The organizers, taken aback, allowed him to speak. Heinz said that he had seen contact for the first time at Freiburg last year and was fascinated but had no one to practice with (he lived alone with his grandmother and surely couldn’t tell her) so he took a book out from the library and practiced the principles with a punching bag. He pulled out the bag and demonstrated rolling point, counter balance, the small dance and even flying. Then he announced that although he was late to register, he would like to attend the festival, pro-rated, and would like to begin
by having a one minute dance with everyone, which would take at least 3 or 4 hours. He would begin with Jorg, who had no idea this was planned. They proceeded to dance all the principles of contact in one frenzied minute which culminated in Jorg spinning Gunter horizontally on his head, and of course, a ferocious wave of laughter and applause.

SPCP with Deborah Hay, 2011


The north sea is frigid. I'm allergic to the heather, growing all over the dunes. Scotland is cold in August: 58 in the day and 40 at night. The caravan is barely heated. It rains everyday. I have the kind of cough I used to always have when I lived in New England but the place is so gorgeous, I just don't care.

Apparently this land was a military base after WWII and was craggy, dry, full of sand dunes. Now it's the most verdant place I've ever seen. Some people claim it's a miracle. Others say the grasses fixed the earth with nitrogen and was it ripe to become fertile.

We're staying on a huge swath of land owned by a private foundation called "The foundation," devoted to ecological experiments, eco-architecture and meditation. I'm not sure how this place fits within the town of Findhorn. Everyone here is very Earthy but not too annoying or cultish. Still, all the buildings and structures have plaques like "family house" - "children's playhouse" - "biomass boiler" - "windmills" - "office of personal and spiritual affairs" - "weaving studio" - "sanctuary" - "singing chamber" - "art barn" -"ecologia office." It's strange and kind of reminds me of the village in the 60's British TV series "the prisoner" except this place is not sinister, just very planned and wholesome. People here hold hands before doing dishes.

I just found out that Annie Wilson's family is from nearby Inverness! I also learned from Sally that many Scots were displaced to the US, houses burned and they were put on ships. All to make space for sheep.

Did you know that the hood of a car is a bonnet and the trunk is a boot? Did you know that a bobby pin is a kirby grip? That being gassy is called having bad wind? We say silly goose, they say silly sausage.


One night we sat around and told each other our funding stories. The Europeans mostly got arts grants and the Americans mostly begged their friends. But Deborah said this is slowly changing, particularly that Europeans are becoming more comfortable with writing letters to their communities.

We have a German speaking Italian from a town near Austria and a Swedish speaking Finn from the West of Finland. I'm learning more about how these borders are so fuzzy from all the wars. And so many people feel caught on the wrong side of a border.

We have two pregnant women, a Norwegian and a Sri Lankan from Wales. We have two women with babies and husbands who take care of them all day, a New Yorker and a Parisian who speaks almost no English.

My favorite is Sally, my roomie from Leicester, UK, who is the best performer and wears pink pajamas.

One night we had a camp fire and sang songs from our countries. Deborah is a party animal.

Things I'm learning about indigenous peoples from the participants: The Maori dances are taught to white kids in NZ schools because they have a treaty, (Simon performed one at the camp fire) but in Australia no one learns Aboriginal songs because the whites decimated the Aboriginal population and there's no peace between them. The Laplanders are well integrated in Norway but I forgot to ask the Swede and the Finn how they're doing in those countries.

Deborah Hay

Deborah keeps saying: "Remember to move your fucking head." because it's the best way to be able to shift our perceptions. We're not allowed to close our eyes. We're not allowed to relax. We need to stay a little toned all the time. And we need to "remember to move our fucking heads." She really says that all the time, but otherwise is very very nice.

She insists we never fall, succumb to gravity or move sequentially. She actually said her work is the opposite of David Dorfman which is hilarious to me because my beaux danced with Dorfman for 13 yrs!

Deborah is amazing. Just watching her move, she glows! Her feedback is direct, kind, but uncompromising.

She claims to have had a role in inspiring Steve Paxton to develop contact improv based on their wild parties and dancing all night in the 60's. I believe it!

I think not

Our piece is called "I think not." There's very little specific movement content, only spatial pathways, singing and riddles. Spatial pathways performed while meditating on riddles and perceiving our bodies moving through space, using our eyes.

One day we practiced walking in a spiral with everyone witnessing on the round. It was hard not to be affected by all those people watching.

The dance is impossible. In one section she asks us to "dance our music" while singing a UFO song while trying to cover the whole space. In another she has us moving on a grid (which is hard to track in the round), doing one movement per direction while talking in a fake voice in a fake language in a conversational tone while hiding the fact that we're moving on a grid.

There is no separation between me and you because my perception of you is happening through my senses in my body and vice versa.

I'm trying to allow my perceptions to determine my movement, not my creative mind.

We are instructed to practice this dance everyday w out warming up. Ready, fire, aim.

There's no sound in outerspace, but we still must sing a song from outerspace.

Dancing in the round is dizzying.


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