What happens when I dance Contact Improvisation without gravity?

Davide Casiraghi
Dec 09, 2017
A chronicle from a 10m deep water CI experience

My journey in water dance started in 2014 when my friend Marisa Cecchetti, a free diver and CI dancer invite me to dance in Y-40 in Montegrotto (Italy), the deepest thermal pool in the world.
At that time I was very committed to CI for 6 years, I was living by the sea in Trieste (Italy) and I've been practicing free diving for two years almost three times a week.

Arrived at the pool, before start to dancing, we did some free-diving warm-up for the breath, and to awake our mammal diving reflex, and then we start experimenting dances at the depth of 10m deep, for time-lapses that vary from 1.5 min to 2.5 min.

In that early dances, the first thing that I've noticed was that we were missing a proper warm-up, that the breath one was not enough to open up the kind of sensitivity I was in use to embody after a proper CI warmup.

So the question that has left me that experience was:

What is an appropriate warm-up for a water dance?

In the early days of experimentation, the first thing I've noticed was the absence of ground as we are in use in the dance space.
This brought me to a clear question:

How can we relate to the gravity without the dance floor under our feet?

Basically the ground offers as a base where we can create our grounding, to offer to our dance partners a structure that provides a safe and stable support to our partner.

I love Joerg Hassmann's definition of CI: a social dance where there is listening and weight exchange.
In the water, the weight exchange is missing.

So, how can we adapt our CI dance to these new conditions?

After some time spent in this dilemma, I was researching with another friend Benjamin Ibry, and in the thermal bath where we were that day we chose to step in the water doing a slow walk on the ramp.

I start observing how my singular body parts were relating to gravity. Walking slowly I found time to perceive how the body parts still out of the water were falling to the center of the hearth, and the one submerges in the fluid were falling up, in the opposite direction. The next question which came was:

How can we play with these two opposite forces?

I love to refer to these two forces as Newton and Archimede, and imagining that I can have a trio with them. And they have a clear and constant point of contact, the water edge.
Steve Paxton said that our first dance partner is the ground, so in the water, we have constantly two dance partners.

When we are completely submerged in the water we are completely floating up, with Benjamin we found out that for superficial water dances, deflating part of the air of our lungs and pushing one limb out of the water allow us to sing in an effortless way, opening up many movement possibilities and prolonging our dance time. Even more than save completely all the air without losing any bubble, like I was trained in the freediving course.

This because doing this we reduce the gap between Archimede and Newton. 

What happens if we shift our dance 10 meters deeper?

It's not the same if we speak about deep water dances, this happens at the depth of -10m, and to keep the most air possible is a crucial factor.
This specific depth is chosen because normally in free-diving, the weighing is done considering to be neutral at -10. At these levels, the sum of Newton and Archimede is 0 and we play in the absence of gravity. Actually he finds out that the sink slightly opens up more possibilities.

Now after two years we have collected many exercises and we keep experimenting, in 2018 we are organizing the first deepwater dance festival in Y-40 a small festival created with the intention to gather people that love to research these water topics.