Sept. 2017

Krabbeln als neuer Fitness-Trend und die Arbeit Max Thun-Hohensteins im Wien der 1920er-Jahre:

Im Moment liest man immer wieder vom neuen Fitnesstrend, dem Krabbeln und in der Tanzwelt werden alle möglichen Animal Movement Bewegungsmethoden neu erfunden.

Schauen wir mal zurück in die Vergangenheit: Im Wien der 1920er-Jahre lebte der Bewegungsforscher Max Thun-Hohenstein, der seine - wie er es nannte - natürliche Bewegungslehre von den evolutionären Tierbewegungen (man würde es heute developmental movement patterns nennen) herleitete. In Wien war unter dem Namen Affen-Thun bekannte. Er unterhielt für seine Forschungen einen kleinen Zoo und in öffentlichen Vorträgen, in denen er seine Bewegungslehre praxisnah demonstrierte brachte er Tiere mit auf die Bühne. Der zeitgleich lebende Karl Kraus bezeichnete ihn als einen Verrückten, was aber eher darauf zurückzuführen gewesen sein dürfte, dass beide um die selbe Frau wetteiferten. Adolf Loos war einer der besten Freunde von Thun und unterstützte ihn in seiner Arbeit, die bis heute einzigartig und als Teil der damaligen Reformpädagogikbewegung anzusehen ist.

In der Reformpädagogikbewegung gab es viele ähnliche innovative Ansätze, die leider in der Folge vom aufkommenden Nationalsozialismus vereinnahmt wurden und erst in den letzten Jahrzehnten vor allem in der Tanzwelt wieder- bzw. neuentdeckt wurden und werden. Körperkontakt wie in der Contact Improvisation denke ich war aber zum damaligen Zeitpunkt eher noch ein Tabu-Thema. Es gibt eine sehr lesenswerte Dissertation zur Arbeit Thun-Hohensteins, in der mehr darüber nachgelesen werden kann:


August 2017

Contact Improvisation/or not:

Whether somebody is dancing Contact Improvisation or practicing something else rather depends on the mind setting of the dancers than the result that can be seen from outside. I collected some statements of the founders of Contact Improvisation according to this topic (source: Wikipedia).

Steve Paxton proposed the following in 1979: The exigencies of the form dictate a mode of movement which is relaxed, constantly aware and prepared, and onflowing. As a basic focus, the dancers remain in physical touch, mutually supportive and innovative, meditating upon the physical laws relating to their masses: gravity, momentum, inertia, and friction. They do not strive to achieve results, but rather, to meet the constantly changing physical reality with appropriate placement and energy.

Nancy Stark Smith: Within the study of Contact Improvisation, the experience of flow was soon recognized and highlighted in our dancing. It became one of my favorite practices and I proceeded to do flow for many years-challenging it, testing it: could we flow through this pass? Could we squeak through that one, and keep going. Regardless of those aesthetic choices, the central characteristic of Contact Improvisation remains a focus on bodily awareness and physical reflexes rather than consciously controlled movements.

One of the founders of the form, Daniel Lepkoff, comments that the “precedence of body experience first, and mindful cognition second, is an essential distinction between Contact Improvisation and other approaches to dance.” Another source affirms that the practice of Contact Improvisation involves “mindfulness, sensing and collecting information” as its core.

Elizabeth Behnke: The body in CI is accordingly not merely a physical body whose weight and momentum are subject to natural laws of gravity and motion, but a responsive, experiencing body. Here it must be emphasized that despite the use of the term “inward focus” ((in Novack’s account)), the cultivation of kinaesthetic awareness cannot be equated with an “introspective” preoccupation with private sensations; rather, the accent lies on sensing-through the responsive body, combining both “internal awareness” and “responsiveness to another”.

Steve Paxton insisted on this aspect with the concept of interior techniques involving in the dance practice a training of perception resting on investigations based on the sciences of the senses (physiology, experimental and ecological psychology, anatomy, behaviour sciences).

I very much acknowledge and consider this definitions made by the founders of CI and would like to add some additional thoughts: The descripitions made by their founders refer to the PRACTICE of Contact Improvisation. I think we need to make a decision between practicing CI (like in jam) and the LEARNING and TRAINING of and for CI. In the learning and training it is absolutely useful to learn technical skills and abilities in a very specific and not so much improvised way. Some examples of good training practices are the exploration of developmental movement patterns, anatomical release technique, partnering and lifting excercises, acrobatics and strengthening skills, falling and landing and more. Beside the training and sharpening of the sensorial skills it also makes sense to study specific shared movement patterns that obviousley appear in a Contact duet with the target to exercise it in specific and economic ways. The outcome of this learning and training process allows us to improve our response-ability to our partner as well as to our own body in an adequete and healthy way according to the risks of taking weight or falling. Even the training of Aikido (like the founders of CI did) Capoeria, Acro Yoga and in particular of any movement techniques that are based on an anatomically appropiate use of our body like Axis Syllabus can improve and support our abilities for CI in a very efficient way. But don´t forget, it is necessary to recognize that there is an difference in the mind setting of these practices compared to CI.

Lets take Acro Yoga as an example which I have been practicing for many years. Sometimes there could be seen the same movements in CI and Acro Yoga. In Acro Yoga the aim is to practice partnering movements oriented on poses. In Contact Improvisation the same pose (as seen from outside) could arise as a temporarely existing outcome of the ongoing flow of taking and giving weight and the following of the shared point of contact. The same shape arises as a product of a completely different mind setting. For sure there is mindfulness and bodily awarness and even some space to improvise in Acro Yoga. But the starting point for this improvisation is the other way around. As Danny Lepkoff once said, the form of Contact Improvisation arises from a question.

I have been asking myself why the founders of CI so strongly insist on their approach to CI even as they have been deciding to let it develop as an open form. I suppose one of the answers is that the group of CI pioneers intensively studied and worked with James J. Gibsons theories of ecological psychology like „The Senses Considered as Perceptual Systems“ (1966) or „The Theory of Affordances“ (1977). On the other hand Lisa Nelson mentioned that she has been influenced by the ideas of the Radical Constructivism developed by the Austrian born scientist Ernst von Glasersfeld. No wonder, Ernst von Glasersfeld has been the life partner of Lisa Nelsons mother.

One of the most significant benefits of Contact Improvisation for our society and our daily life is that we can learn that what is considered as right in this moment could be wrong in the next moment and that the right answer of a question strongly depends on its context.