Contact Improvisation

Hallie Aldrich and Eryn Rosenthal, by Dan Pappas (

Hallie Aldrich and Eryn Rosenthal, by David Papas (

Contact Improvisation



(Also see

Dance and Democracy:
Movement Improvisation and

Liberation Pedagogies.)

This fun, laboratory-style class will investigate the fundamentals of Contact Improvisation (CI), a dance form that evolved in the early 70s as an experiment in democracy. CI involves a heightened sense of listening, sensory perception, and attuning of physical reflexes, as well as a careful attention to weight, momentum, orientation to gravity and physical connection or contact with one’s partner. Informed by developments in modern dance, improvisation, the martial arts, as well as political currents of the time, it can become highly acrobatic once a mastery of basic concepts has been achieved. CI is like a jungle gym but with humans instead of plastic or metal equipment; through its focus on the center of gravity, experiential anatomy, and principles of physics such as counterbalance, plumb lines, trajectories and friction, students will build a strong sense of balance, core, and an embodied relationship between center and limbs. Over the course of the semester, students will also gain agility in movement invention and creative, game-based spatial problem solving.

Bradley Teal Ellis and Eryn Rosenthal, by Natalia López Muñoz

Bradley Teal Ellis and Eryn Rosenthal, by Natalia López Muñoz

Work in this class will also foster a grounded sense of weight and presence in solo, duet and group composition, useful for performance majors in theater and dance. Through an embodied investigation of roles and habits in self-other relationships, the course also carries strong thematic connections for students in gender and cultural studies; architecture and visual arts; politics, anthropology, physics, psychology and journalism.


Teacher Bio:

Choreographer Eryn Rosenthal is an active member of global Contact Improvisation (CI) research and teacher exchanges. She has performed and taught CI and other forms at the Freiburg International Contact Improvisation Festival, the In-Touch Festival in Barcelona, the Market Theatre Laboratory in Johannesburg, as well as throughout South Africa, Europe and the US. Eryn has worked with choreographer Sello Pesa, poet Elizabeth Alexander, and documentary theatre pioneer Anna Deavere Smith, among others, and she collaborates internationally and locally with artists, architects and activists. Her ongoing series The Doors Project investigates transitions–political, social, intimate–through site-based performance in different doorways around the world. Eryn holds a BA in Comparative Literature from Yale University and an MFA in Dance from the University of Michigan, where she also studied in the Ford School for Public Policy. She is delighted to be back at U-M as a King-Chávez-Parks Visiting Professor and Artist in Residence for Dialogue-Building, Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives.

© Eryn Rosenthal, 2014-18. Please cite with link to this page.