Dancing in Columbus: Contemporary

  • Photos by Eric Wagner
By
From the February 16, 2012 edition

Walk into Room 213 of Pomerene Hall at Ohio State on a Friday night, and questions will likely ensue.

Why are these people rolling around on each other? Is he going to hurt her sitting on her back like that?

It’s dance. A Columbus Contact Jam, to be exact.

These Friday night sessions are free and open to the public, although since the events began last fall most of the participants have been university dance students.

This postmodern style is called contact.

Rules are: 1) Take care of yourself and your partner. 2) Don’t stop touching.

At the jams anyone can dance with each other, but usually performances happen in groups of two. There’s often no music; the action is inspired not by sound but by touch.

One person moves; the next person moves. Once they’re good at it, the dancers move as if they’re following choreography, but it’s all spontaneous. It’s like watching two barely entangled leaves tumble on a fragile gust of wind.

Eric Nordstrom leads this dance. The MFA dance student teaches contact at OSU. He started the jams last fall as a way to supplement his classes and to spread the art of contact to the general public.

Contact has been around for only about 40 years, but improvisation jams are taking place more and more around the world, he said.

Dancers at the OSU jams come here for various reasons. It improves their dancing, they said, their body awareness, their relationship with the floor, their relationship with each other.

Some non-dancers love contact too, Nordstrom said, especially people who have a kinesthetic approach to life, he said. “It weeds out the jerks,” he said.

Indeed. The lessons of contact dance read like an “All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten” poster:

- It’s all about balancing the pressure other people put on you and learning when to move on to the next step. You can handle more weight than you think you can.

- Small movements are just as, if not more, powerful than grandiose statements.

- Giving what you receive directly correlates to the success of the structure you are trying to create. Giving equally creates the most stable relationship.

- Two bodies work better together when they listen to each other and aren’t afraid of each other. Actions are louder than instructions.

- The next move is never predictable. Let go of “thinking ahead,” “the plan” or “the right answer.”

-There’s no such thing as a wrong move unless you are intentionally trying to hurt another person.

- Massages after workouts are awesome. Do them after every jam.

- Life’s a dance. If you’re lucky, it involves meaningful contact.