Holding the Center. About ECITE 2016

Ilze Z?ri?a

There are many great people taking care for the development of contemporary dance as well as Contact Improvisation (CI) in Latvia. Still, feels like the development happens slow and has a certain heaviness in itself: enthusiasts are running out of strength and passion. They step back, other enthusiasts come instead and “fight” for few years. In 10 years Eco Village has been created and developed in Israel (Vertigo Eco Art Village, which was founded by Vertigo Dance Company in 2005). Everyone has its own speed, of course. But I still have this question – can we increase capacity? A special friend of mine says: “Passion is needed.” Do we miss it? Or organizing skills? Or may be center is missing? Common center to hold?

From August 19 till 28 I participated at European Contact Improvisation Teacher Exchange ECITE 2016 in Kerecsend, Hungary. It was organized by Eszter Gal, Eniko Szilagyi, Zsoka Nej, Peter Lipka, Richard Sarco – Thomas, Colleen Bartley, Peter Pleyer, Zoltan Nagy, Greg Chevalier, Tamas Bako, Timea Gyorke, Krisztina Ferenc. The event gave opportunity to meet mature teachers, who had developed CI together with Steve Paxton, like Peter Pleyer, Jonathan Megaw, Caroline Waters, Jo Blowers, Eszter Gal and young ones, who is still on the way towards their answer to the question “what CI is?” For “young ones” even spiritualism is a Contact Improvisation. For the “mature” – very simple “movement research where the point of psychical contact is a starting point for the research”. “

ECITE included short creative labs (meetings for 1-2 times) about such subjects, as “Back to the Roots of CI”, “CI and Trager Bodywork”, “CI in water”, “Mixed-ability”, “Self- organizing Groups & Ensemble”, “Trios & Groups”. There were also ongoing groups what kept researching different subjects in frames of “CI & Contemporary Physical research group”, “Open Process”, “Performance”, Teaching Exchange” all through the event. There were interviews where “Less experienced interviewed More experienced” and the other way round. Of course, JAM sessions in the mornings, evenings and every free moment were present and endless discussions about “how to be CI teacher in 2016” as well. Participants shared information about what’s happening in their communities in different countries in Europe.

Going to ECITE, I hoped to meet answers. Overwhelming amount of questions and challenges came instead, what have a chance to be worked on in a close future. Still there are also thoughts, what might support us in finding and holding the center.

JAM sessions is one thing what strengthens the community: besides the awareness of community, it’s a place where to sharpen skills, find fresh ideas, learn in different directions, attract practitioners from other countries. It creates a need to develop. Creative Labs can arise, which has a potential towards movement research and performance as a result.

Equally exhausting and exciting was experience of creative process without a clear facilitator. It was a good learning process, that may be does not bring immediate result in a research of creative ideas and movement, but allows to develop as CI practitioner not only in the studio but also in life. If not afraid and continue to look for solutions in difficult moments, then together you can start to build a pretty solid root system for the Thing, we all want to cherish and cultivate.

I was witnessing the commitment of three young ladies (Elisa Ghion, Caterina Mocciola, Anna Da Pozzo), who took the responsibility to organize ECITE 2017 in Italy. Humor, adventure spark and excitement shone in their eyes, even being aware of complexity of ECITE: each year, organized by another team, visited by around 60 Teachers with their own EGOS, belief, and principles.

At the end of interview to the young CI practitioner Kseniia Opria, Peter Pleyer wished her, “Keep the track!”. I think, it is a great wish to all of us in our way of finding and holding the center.


A short overview of history

In 1985 a small group of teachers came together to support each other and exchange their experience. It was called European Contact Improvisation Teachers Conference and took place in Amsterdam, Netherlands in 1985. Nancy Stark Smith and Margot Rijven were the organizers. Almost every year since then teacher meetings keeps happening in different European countries (Netherlands, France, Germany, Finland, Cyprus, Switzerland, Greece, Denmark). First time ECITE got its name (European Contact Improvisation Teachers Exchange) in 1995 when it was organized in Amsterdam, Netherlands by Natanja den Boeft and Weijke Koopmans and since then until now it has been just one year (2008), when ECITE did not happen because of CI 36 celebration in USA and different other countries where communities take care about CI development. Co-teaching, labs, jams, discussions, performances has always been a part of ECITE structure. It was needed to do little changes in 2007, when ECITE first took place in Moscow, Russia. Group then split in two halves because of the language issues and perception of ECITE. There was a group of teachers from Russia who mostly taught classes to each other and there was another group of teachers from Europe who continued to follow the structure what ECITE had – with the idea of exchange. In 2009 (Liverpool, Great Britain) ECITE organizers (Caroline Waters, Gesine Daniels, Mary Prestidge, Natanja den Boeft, Robert Anderson) started to think how to reorganize the structure in order to open more space to young and less experienced teachers.

In 2016 (Kerecsend, Hungary) several times the question “DO YOU READ?” was raised up because more experienced CI practitioners felt, the same and same issues and questions come up during the ECITE. A courteous amount of documentation about the history and development of CI has been created and it is worse reading them before we ask “the old new questions.”


Image: Alexandra Soshnikova and Leonardo Lambruschini. Photo by Shai Levy.

Ilze’s participation in ECITE 2016 was supported by State Culture Capital Foundation and Latvian College of Culture