CN D Magazine

#6 june 24

From the Vault: How contact improvisation took root in France

Hélène Caillet, Claire Delcroix, Juliette Riandey

Contact improvisation is a movement practice from the early 1970s that aims to explore, through the freedom of improvisation, the possibilities of a dancing body in contact with one or more other dancing bodies. Created by dancer and choreographer Steve Paxton, who passed away earlier this year at the age of 85, this form of dance invites participants to collectively explore weight, momentum, inertia, gravity, and friction.

In 1978, Steve Paxton and Lisa Nelson led a summer workshop introducing the practice based on relationships of balance, strength, and presence with ‘the Other,’ to French dancers at the Centre International de la Sainte-Baume in Provence. At the end of the workshop, a number of participants, keen to extend the experience, decided to meet up again to pursue their artistic research together. Suzanne Cotto, Didier Silhol, Mark Tompkins, Martine Muffat-Joly, Edith Veyron, Anne Fournier, and Pierre Riou thus began working together under the name Atelier Contact. By 1979, the group was offering contact improvisation classes, workshops, and performances in Paris, bringing the practice to the capital. Following in the footsteps of Steve Paxton and Lisa Nelson, in 1982 they organized the very first International Contact Improvisation Symposium (“Rencontre internationale de contact improvisation”) at the same Centre international de la Sainte-Baume where they had met.

Within the Patrimony, Video and Editing department in the CN D, Juliette Riandey is head of Collections and Dissemination, Hélène Caillet and Claire Delcroix both work as archive librarians.

Atelier Contact collection
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