Contact Improvisation Dance – Open letter

by Cunt Incognita, VITTU in Tampere, Finland — she=he

This is an open letter I wrote, after feeling angry, disappointed, uncomfortable and frustrated at the regular Sunday session of “Contact-Impro” taking place at the Cable Factory in Helsinki.

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Contact Improvisation Dance is liberating, creative and fun. It’s exploring movement, balance, weight, physical contact and communication, involving two or more persons at the time. Try it out!



Hello Juha and everybody else taking part in the Contact Improvisation community,

First I would like to express appreciation for the efforts made by everyone keeping this alive, and then..

I would like to share some thoughts and feelings that came up during the improvised exercises lead by Juha on Sunday, February 14th, in Kaapelitehdas, Helsinki.

I had some uncomfortable experiences with how this training session was performed, and am hoping with this open letter not only to share these thoughts and feelings with you, but also to start a discussion within the community on questions touching the topics on how Autonomy, Trust, Safety and Self-expression are realized at any given CI event.

I’m not a dancer. And I participate very irregularly in these sessions, maybe 3 or 4 times per year. The training session before the jam this Sunday got started when Juha entered the studio, and gave us instructions on what to do. After having had exercises with our eyes closed, where we had had random physical contact with others in the space, we sat down in a large circle and were told to look as many persons in the eye as possible while taking turns saying our name.

Then we moved on to doing an exercise in pairs where we were told to treat our partner as laundry. Washing the laundry, a laundry that was “very dirty” according to Juha.

During the instructions of the laundry exercise, Juha was saying “dirty laundry” and “naughty laundry” and encouraging us to take out some of our aggressions on the other.

I reacted strongly to this type of wording, and at the end of the training we had a closing circle where Juha was speaking for a while. Saying that we are “not married” to our partners and that we can separate and break off physical contact, and that we don’t have to force ourselves to have contact. And then Juha, after being the only person speaking in the closing circle, announced that the training session was over.

I was very emotional, and I asked some of the others how they had felt about the “naughty laundry” comment, to which one replied that it was “inappropriate” and another said “weird” and “out of place”, so I came up to Juha and said that I hadn’t appreciated the comment, since I thought that it had given the exercise an unwanted slippery, mainstream, sexual twist. Juha’s response to this was: “of course”, and that it was supposed to give that extra “sexual spark” to the space. My face was twitching, and my mouth was wide open with disbelief, since the very thing that caused me discomfort had been done on purpose to create a “spark”, without any consideration of the different experiences that these words might cause, and no space made to discuss it after.

I’ve been at other contact impro sessions where I have expressed the importance of clarity and transparency in relation to the common rules of the place. When a person unfamiliar with this art form steps into the space, the habitual reflex is to adapt and conform. When something is very new and unfamiliar it is very easy for us to give up our autonomy: “When in Rome..”

It should be expressed clearly in the beginning of every session that everyone has the right to step out of an exercise at any time, and break off contact or reject contact with anybody at any time without having to give any reasons for why. That we should listen to ourselves as much as possible and respect ourselves and our own feelings.

When this wasn’t said in the beginning of the training, I had a feeling of discontent throughout the session, since to me it felt as if we weren’t there on equal terms. I felt strongly that there was a “teacher/student” relation there, and that it was difficult to express dissatisfaction or affect what was going on. Sort of the same feeling you can get when stepping inside a library – everybody goes quiet.

The person leading the exercises has a responsibility to share and make known the culture of the space. Telling people to listen to and respect their own boundaries, as well as telling them that it’s okay to speak out if there’s something feeling strange about how the exercises are conducted. Even when this is encouraged and spoken out loud, not many would grab that opportunity to react or change anything, but at least there’s a bigger chance that something such could happen.

The way the training was held, I felt like I had lost all autonomy and self-expression, and my disappointment was great when at the end we weren’t given a chance to give feedback. I felt like I was a puppet awaiting instructions, silently obeying.

I felt, because of the structure of the training, that I missed out on the joyfulness, safety, trust, harmony, CONTACT & SPONTANEITY I feel should be a part of any CI meeting.

So, again, what is important to me, is to, before starting the exercises, make clear what the common rules are, and encourage everyone to speak out when there is discomfort — to ask for and create space for feedback (contact, dialogue) if not throughout, then at least at the end of the training.

Curiously awaiting any kind of response,
With love, and the sincere hope that this spontaneous contact,
and dialogue, can create a difference in the community,

Cunt Incognita, aka Milla


Anti-Sexist Therapy (#7 … )

by Cunt Incognita, VITTU in Finland — she=he

To see the previous blog post on this matter, click here.

I keep on asking questions, even though I’m fairly cynical and worn out by now. I feel bitter about the past and present. I feel bitter about a love so abused.

This guy calls me borderline when I try to address sexist behaviors. Why?

Hello Daniel. I think you are bullshitting people about wanting to do anti-sexist work, since I’ve — frankly — haven’t noticed any of it in the way you’ve been relating to me. You call my reality and my experiences with you “distortion”, and you label me “borderline”, and you’re saying i have “manic depression”.

Yes. Hell yes. Your sexism drives me crazy, and I don’t understand why it’s so difficult for you to take some responsibility for that. To own that you have some shitty behavior that you need to change, and that you need to look over that behavior (now), and change those behaviors (now).

I don’t understand why you, who sit naked with me and chat with some other person about what we’re doing over the internet, without asking me or the other person if we’re okay with this, why then you would have any problems with discussing when and how and where I can meet and have a talk with you about this. Why you think it’s cool to behave like this in your social network, but you don’t think it’s cool to talk about it in the same network.

I don’t understand why sexism is such a cool thing for you to hold on to, and why you lie to all the women you’ve been relating with intimately, and why you’ve been treating us badly. I know this is a generalization, but 4 out of a whole bunch, I would see as a pattern strange to ignore! I don’t understand that at all. And I don’t understand why you are in a group, supposedly dealing with fucked up male socialization, and you do workshops about the stuff, without asking the guys in the group, and you still keep treating me in a way that makes me think that you see me as an inferior being, and that you have a right to hurt and damage whoever you want, cause any other opinion on what you do is “crazy”. I don’t understand why you just don’t come out in the open with your ideas, and stop clinging to a group who – in theory, at least – do not seem to share the same core values that you seem to hold dear and true.

What’s your reason for not having this talk on your facebook wall? I would like to understand your reasoning behind this.

I have given my reasons for why I would like to have this talk on your Facebook wall. I would like to hear the reasons for why you disagree.

Today’s song: Madonna – Borderline