Some 2.5 years ago, I found myself in the middle of the Black Rock Desert at the Burning Man Festival, taking shelter from the sweltering midday desert heat by drinking coffee at Center Camp, the center compass point of the circle-shaped city, and watching couples do a form of dance that consisted of unchoreographed movement in which they leaned into, rolled off of, folded into, flipped over and under each other in a slow, sensual kind of nonverbal partnership.

I decided right then and there, “I need to learn how to do that.”

Two weeks ago, I was at a house party in Oakland where a friend of mine was performing a music set. A couple of women accompanied my friend’s music via dance, doing an alternating series of complicated acrobatics and beautifully simple maneuvers together in perfect synchronicity with the music.

My partner turned to me and said, “Damn, I want to learn how to do that.”

So… contact improv dance.


(Image via counterpulse.org)

We went to a drop-in class this past Saturday afternoon. It was a blast. It was everything I thought it would be — fun, exhilarating, challenging, sweaty, addictive. We learned to let ourselves tip off-balance and fall into, and away from; we learned to lean our weight into another person and let that guide our own and each other’s movements; we learned to dance without thinking. It was amazing. I am always thinking.

Then my partner torqued wrong on an old knee injury and wound up on crutches for the next two days. So, there’s that, too — how do we dance without thinking, but thinking just enough to avoid agitating the parts that shouldn’t be agitated that way?

And how do I dance freely with strangers and keep my own boundaries intact?

Lots and lots and lots to learn.