Recipe for a Contact Improvisation Jam warm-up

Davide Casiraghi
Nov 29, 2019
How to lead a warm-up before a jam? There are probably infinite ways. Here are some ideas.

These could be the very basic ingredients, the ones you want to make sure they don’t miss:
  • Wake up the sensations: to dive into our body and let all our senses become more vivid by giving them our attention.
  • Guide into movement: to let the dance slowly appear.
  • Guide into contact with others: to bring up the proposition of contact improvisation.
These ingredients can be mixed in any sequence and in any way.
Here are some recommendations on how to cook the ingredients:

BE SIMPLE
Every single ingredient requires some time. Try to not add too much material to your warm-up. It will be more difficult for you to explain, more difficult for the dancers to understand. Less is more!

MAKE SURE YOU ARE UNDERSTOOD
You can do a sound-check beforehand. Send someone to the opposite corner of the room, and check how loud you have to speak to be well understood.
Slow down your speech, and spell every word with accuracy.

USE MATERIAL THAT COMES FROM YOUR OWN EXPERIENCE
It doesn’t necessarily have to be original. Just make sure that it’s something that you can feel in your body, that you can explain in your own words. Everything will be easier then. Remember that most banal warm-ups are often the best ones.
You may also try to copy-paste that beautiful exercise you just tried during your last workshop with that great teacher. Chances are that it won’t work so well. You are taking the material out of its context, and proposing it in a different environment, where people are still may be trying to recover from a tough day. Do it at your risk, and always ask yourself: is it simple enough? Can I feel it into my body?

KEEP THE FLOW
Try to avoid interruptions. If you have to show or to explain something in detail, try to do it at the beginning, before starting.

FROM DOING-MODE TO BEING-MODE
People are living in doing-mode for most of the day. Before the jam, it’s important to switch to the being-mode. Listening, feeling, letting it happen are the keywords. Avoid exercises where you have to achieve a goal. Give proposals instead of directions. Be more questioning than affirmative.

KEEP IT EASY
If you want to insert an exercise, it has to be dead simple. Avoid frustration: it’s the opposite of a warm-up.
You might propose something more difficult (out of the comfort zone) if the jam is in the middle of a workshop or any longer period of dances, where the dancers are already warmed-up to a certain extent.

BODYWORK
It could be a great way to convey the basic ingredients (and something more). Just make sure you are not missing any of them. For example, make sure that the bodywork evolves into movement and contact. If you want to add bodywork in your warm-up, also make sure that it doesn’t take too much time (it often does).

TALK LESS, ENJOY MORE
Keep your explanations short and clear. Try to warm-up yourself as you lead the warm-up. As you dive more and more into self-awareness, words will become sharper and more effective, and you will be more connected with the other dancers, their needs and their difficulties.

A closing note
Am I experienced enough in CI to lead a warm-up? How do I know it? It’s not a simple question. Let’s put it in this way:
If you don’t feel the urge to join workshops and study CI, if you join jams just to socialize and move your body, then you are probably not ready to lead a warm-up.
On the other hand, if you feel the need to go deep into CI, you attended some workshops and many jams, you are probably ready. Go for it!

This article has been written by Daniele MariuzDavide Casiraghi has contributed to the editing and the Italian translation.