Contact Improv at Stage Seven

Update! Now held at San Diego Dance Theater!

However you listen to music, I’d like to invite you to listen to “Backstage With The Modern Dancers” by Great Lake Swimmers. This song from my own college years helped me identify a fantasy that, given that I went to a commuter school for a technical degree, would likely have remain unrequited had I not been introduce to this space. This dance jam has meant a fair bit to me. My being a complete amateur hasn’t seemed to matter in the least.

Justin Morrison (justindances@instagram) and Stage 7 (Now held at San Diego Dance Theater) have been hosting a Contact Improv jam for many years, though I’ve only started attending within the last year or so. Contact Improv is a form of dance that doesn’t stress any given form, style or choreography, but instead prompts you to improvise movement based on the music and the psychosomatic listening you develop while maintaining physical contact with your dance partners. It can be similar to Ecstatic Dance. When I’m feeling wry I describe it to friends as a cut scene in a sitcom where they would like to stress the point that ‘these are weird art people’. It’s a non-judgemental space without an audience or an intention of performance outside of being in the present moment that is the practice itself.

In my visits, I’ve been treated to a rotating cast of phenomenal improvisational musicians like Preston Swirnoff, Lexi Pulido and Kelly Einbinder. Let alone the authentic interactions of a delightful group of experimental dancers who move through a non-process (outside of a quick talk about registration, consent and donation) that appeals to dancers of all levels of experience.

Sean Francis Conway performs every first Monday of the month.

Personally, I’m in love with the idea of being in dialog between the dance of my partners and the music of these incredibly talented improvisational musicians. We’re all making new art here. Now. In this moment. Together.

I come here to dance, to listen to some of San Diego’s best musicians, to touch and be touched, to explore my own gender and role in verbal and non-verbal communication, to work through that ick between partners when I doubt my value and ability to be desired, to discover what type of energy might be created with a new partner, and sometimes even find solace dancing with my eyes closed by myself. I also come here because Mondays can be too quiet an evening that I just want to obliterate with booze. Some Art, Community and Exercise are better, especially when the whole experience is pointedly sober. I’ve spent most of my dancing life in bars, shady warehouses and large festivals, and let me guarantee you: This is a much much better experience. I also fought for a number of years at Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gyms, partially in response to growing up queer in the country. I’ve found this to be an excellent place to unwrap some of that trauma and work on openness and trust, submission and a lack of control. To let go of that defensiveness that can be down so low in my subconscious and instead build something collaboratively just for the sake of beauty.

I still catch myself trying to lead a dance more than I’d like, being too greedy in life and ruining the moment by imposing my expectation. Luckily, everyone seems to understand that mistakes might be made and this is a special place to grow as a listener in music, dance and human relation.

Contact Improv is now held at San Diego Dance Theater every Monday from 6:30 to 9 with a $10 contribution.