Making Contact: Preparing for Intimate Partnering Work

Try these exercises in preparation for intimate partnering work.

Photo by John Kane

If you’re feeling nervous about the “touching” part of partnering work, try these exercises from contact improvisation teacher Jen Abrams, who has taught at Dance New Amsterdam and other studios around NYC. They are intended to get dancers used to being close to and in touch with a partner. Note: Have a teacher supervise to make sure everyone feels comfortable.

Stand behind your partner and embrace him or her, allowing your bodies to touch. Take 10 deep breaths, trying to breathe in sync. Then, switch places, so you’re in front. Take 10 deep breaths. Next, embrace front to front, again taking 10 deep breaths.

Lie on the floor together and spoon. Again, focus on breathing together and feeling your partner’s body move. After a few minutes, swap places. Try to breathe through the whole surface of the body—not just the belly or the back. “Spooning is one of the most intimate things I’ve ever done with a dance partner, and yet it’s straightforward and not scary,” Abrams says. “If you do this for five minutes at the start of every rehearsal, you’ll have a sense of your partner’s body and your connection will be stronger.”

Place your hands on your partner’s body and ask your partner to begin to improvise movement. As your partner moves, try to keep at least one of your hands in contact with him or her at all times. The objective is not for your partner to shake you off—instead, you’re following their movement with your hands. “If you’re genuinely trying to follow your partner, your hands will land in all sorts of places,” Abrams says. “This can give you a sense of having touched your partner’s whole body.”

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