Monday, January 12, 2009

Mazopalooza 2009

Ahhh! I am back from a 4-day contact improv dance event and feel fantastic. The event was Mazopalooza - two days of performance intensives, a Friday night performance for the public, and two days of jamming (open dance). It was a lush experience filled with enough movement opportunities to sate even the most hard core dancers, great teaching, a performance with music and lighting to satisfy the divas (like me), and roughly 20 hours of open dancing so that we could graze our way through as many of the 50-60 attendees as we desired.

The event is annual, and put on by the Mazomanie Movement Arts Center. Dancers come from an array of cities included in a regional organization called GLACIER, the Midwest's home for contact improv. Each year guest intructors are brought in to broaden the scope of our dancing, freshening our community. This year we were fortunate to have Gretchen Spiro and Steve Homsher from Tumblebones Contact Improv Collective in Boulder, CO. Their instruction was effective, and their presence was warm and welcomed.

On Stage at Mazopalooza '08

Strangely for me, I took no photos during the event. I had felt overwhelmed when I arrived and during our opening check-in I stated one of my goals for the event to be "to get out of my head and into my body." It seems that part of that meant leaving the camera alone and leaving myself in dancer mode. The photos here are from similar events.

I had many, many dances over four days. Some were slow and gentle as can be, and some fast and athletic (with bruises to show for it!), but all were satisfying because all of them were experienced in the moment. Contact improv is a unique dance form, typically done without music and drawing on the inclinations of the dancers feelings and desires. It is sort of the dance equivilent of Sami yoiking. A dance this morning with Dancer X may be slow and sensual if we are both so inclined, while a second dance later in the day may be percussive and edgy. The dances are pure improvisation - there are no steps, few rules, and energe on the fly. The dance unfolds in the fullness of time. It is not unlike martial arts sparring (except that generally no one gets hurt).

and she offers him a ride

I have written about contact improv here before, but it bears repeating. CI is egalitarian: There are no moves that only men do or only women do. Each dancer uses techniques that are avalable to her at that time. Small, frail, injured dancers may not offer a big lift to another dancer, and the same might be said of large, hale, injured dancers. Experience is a bigger factor in use of a move than is gender or size. Small dancers can be true powerhouses while larger dancers may not be able to fake technique using pure strength, or may not really be all that strong. All of which is perfectly ok, just a reminder that experience is key. Mazopalooza is one of the places where one can get instruction that can hasten that sort of experience.

My favorite role in the performance on Friday night was a duet with Mars, the motive force behind Mazopalooza. We learned we were dancing together at 10 AM. We had our first conversation on the subject at about 3 PM, where we tossed around some key concepts for what we would do: Big, and Edgy. We had a conversation at 5 PM and agreed on a piece of music I had on my iPod that seemed to fit the bill. We had exactly one run through at 5:45 PM. At 8 PM the curtain went up and we were third on the bill. From the moment we took our places, seated at the edge of the stage looking out at the audience and the music started, we had the audience in hand. The music was the Buzzcocks' "Ever Fallen In Love With Someone You Shouldn't Have Fallen In Love With" performed as samba by Nouvelle Vague. Our choices during the dance included yearning looks, clashes and retreats (sneaking to be together?) and coming to the very edge of the stage and looking out or down to evoke the risk of our theme. It is perhaps the best performance I have ever given, and Mars and I were both thrilled with our effort. It was taped, so if the video becomes available I will link to it here.

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