Led by Richard Parker for the ABMT 22nd October 2022
Richard hosted and led us in a two hour workshop which was attended in person in Cambridge, and online. This workshop took place in the afternoon of our ABMT Autumn meeting, 22nd October 2022. It was free to attend and open to non-members.
Most striking for us as biodynamic bodywork and massage therapists, were the commonalities between contact improvisation and the methods we use for connecting in therapeutic work. Richard guided us in techniques which used “reaching” to make contact, and we were guided to a place of being present with ourselves and the other, while we were working with a partner. We were told to be observant of the breath, and the whole being, of ourselves and our partner. Richard told us to “see what was there” and that we were “seeing” though the touch. This is very much how we feel as biodynamic massage therapists, seeing or listening with our hands, as well as the rest of our senses.
We started with some movement work to music, and going into group interaction, and then touch in partner work.
Some of the partner work followed a leader/follower pattern, and it evolved into movement and touch where there was no leader or follower, just an awareness and working together of the two.
Richard told us "leaders must also follow" — that is, to be a good leader, we must take the other with us, and follow them in our awareness. We led and followed with our index fingers connected, or with our hands holding contact on specific parts of our partner’s body — on safe contact areas such as shoulder, back, side, upper chest. This was followed by contact improvisation which was more free, using our whole body, head, shoulder, back to connect with and follow each other in relationship.
Workshop feedback included the following responses:
- “placing the hand with intention allowed for an easing and softening of the area, and also a greater awareness,”
- “I feel grounded and in touch with the biodynamic massage training,”
- “I feel more breath and flow in my body,”
- “it’s really apparent how much of a dialogue it is at different levels,”
- “I felt we were acting out a drama, or sharing a story in movement,”
- “we were back to back and we just fitted like a glove,”
- “I was very struck by the immediacy of intimacy and how that's rather absent in our culture… particularly as a man that is very moving.”
It was a powerful, grounding and meditative space which we found ourselves in by the end of the workshop.
Richard talked about different ways forward with contact improvisation, for those who would like to take it further. In the London area, teachers and events are to be found here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/20320344886. There is a Facebook group for Cornwall: https://www.facebook.com/groups/300773789972081 and for Plymouth: https://www.facebook.com/groups/398110216923078. Richard is putting on a residential weekend in February in Totnes, and will be running a summer camp for 5 days in Wiltshire. Richard also teaches locally in Southampton. More information about Richard’s work can be found here: https://www.contactimprovcamp.co.uk .
Richard discussed the difference between facilitated workshops and the unfacilitated type of workshop called “Contact jams.” The unfacilitated workshops may feel less “safe” because they are not held by anyone. A dance partner may stay for a while and then move on, and this can leave some of us feeling “why did they leave me?” or we might find ourselves alone, not sure what to do, or feeling “why is no-one dancing with me, am I not good enough?" These, Richard says, are feelings which can get in the way of the pleasure and depth of connection of the contact work. At a facilitated event, the participants are all held and this will suit many people better.
Finally, here is a message from our outgoing Membership Secretary, Debbie Rothwell, who has dedicated 12 years to the role:
"Contact Improv Dancing! What a perfect ending to my days as Membership Secretary. The session at the AGM on Saturday was beautifully held by Richard. He gently led us through the process of connecting to our own bodies before encouraging us in contacting another starting with the gentle placing of hands to gradually moving into partner work dancing with mutual awareness at some points just touching fingers and then because it felt safe connecting with more body contact. Wonderful dancing and moving changing partners feeling different energies with people both very familiar and others just met that day. As biodynamic massage therapists it was familiar territory to us and yet fresh and new and heartwarming to know that an afternoon of contact improv can deeply connect us to other humans in the space of 2 short hours."
At the AGM, Debbie was presented with a card, a gift, and all our thanks on behalf of ABMT members and ABMT committee members. We are sorry to lose Debbie from the committee, and are so grateful for everything she has given for these past 12 years.
Written by: Ruth Baigent, Vice Chair and Treasurer, ABMT