Thinking Touch in Partnering and Contact Improvisation: Philosophy, Pedagogy, Practice

What happens when artists take touch as a starting point for embodied research? This collection of essays offers unique insights into contact in dance, by considering the importance of touch in choreography, philosophy, scientific research, social dance, and education. The performing arts have benefitted from the growth of an ever-widening spectrum of tactile explorations since the advent of contact improvisation (CI) in 1972. Building on the research proposal CI offers, partnering forms such as tango, martial arts, and somatic therapies have helped shape the landscape of embodied practices in contemporary dance. Presenting a range of practitioner and scholarly perspectives relevant to undergraduate students and researchers alike, this volume considers the significance of touch in the development of 21st century pedagogy, art-making, and performance philosophy.

Dr Malaika Sarco-Thomas is Programme Co-Leader of the BA Dance at the University of Chester, UK, where she choreographs and writes about improvisation and contemporary performance. Her key publications include a special issue of the Journal of Dance and Somatic Practices 6.2 and Performance and Interdisciplinarity: Contemporary Perspectives (2018). Since 2010, she has been teaching and curating contact improvisation through international platforms, such as Contact Festival Dartington and Contact Improvisation Malta, and the performance series touch + talk. Her background in contemporary dance and her ongoing study of the Japanese martial art aikido inform her approach to scholarship and creative work.

“This volume is a wonderfully interdisciplinary and international collection of essays that brings creative movement and contemporary dance in dialogue with somatics studies and the health sciences. It is clear that touch is a vital component of the human condition and that dance provides the opportunity to explore intentional touch as an expressive dynamic of communication. Many of the writings here argue that, although it is critical to understand how power is negotiated through touch, it is also crucial not to lose that bodily connection. The ideas presented in this book have the power to shift our worldview, teaching us the importance of physical contact in our twenty-first century world.”
Ann Cooper Albright
Professor and Chair, Department of Dance, Oberlin College, USA; author, How to Land: Finding Ground in an Unstable World (2019)

“With this book, Sarco-Thomas has opened our eyes to an intriguing nexus of embodied knowledge: the inextricable entanglement of touch and thought. The essays offer a broad brushstroke on the question of how ‘mind’ can be sensed, felt, read and communicated through touch. Sarco-Thomas’ choice of contributors speaks to the breadth and depth of her experience within higher education dance and within trans-disciplinary circles, as well. These contributors are veterans of movement practice – embodiment scholars who partner with the reader as they bridge the gap between word and flesh, thought and feeling, mind and body. Each essay probes the mysteries of touch through a unique approach to practice research. Accessible and affirming, the collection speaks volumes about touch – so elusive and taken for granted, yet lying at the heart of all that we know and love in the world.”
Glenna Batson
Co-author, Body and Mind in Motion: Dance and Neuroscience in Conversation (2014)

“This book provides the most thorough and multifaceted study on touch as embodied contact, connection, and partnering in contemporary dance to date. Emerging from contact improvisation, and branching into somatic research as well as tango, fourteen essays juxtapose experimental choreography with empirical investigations of embodiment, process philosophy with the phenomenology of the flesh, and insights from neuroscience with medical and ethical discussions. While it shifts ground and registers and swaps voices from choreographers and dance practitioners to researchers and scholars with seasoned and state-of-the-art approaches, this book remains faithful to the quest of thought born in, through, and from touch, and what implications this can have for dance and beyond. A rich resource for anyone who wishes to seriously investigate the poetics and politics of touch in performance and everyday life.”
Professor Bojana Cvejić
Author, Choreographing Problems (2015)

Dorte Bjerre Jensen

Maria Paz Brozas Polo

Brandon Calleja Shaw

Jess Curtis

Joe Dumit

Carolien Hermans

Corinne Jola

Nita Little

Charlie Morrissey

Vanio Papadelli

Raffaele Rufo

Malaika Sarco-Thomas

Biliana Vassileva

Ilya Vidrin

Lucia Walker

Scott Wells

Rebecca Zammit

Buy This Book

ISBN: 1-5275-5363-9

ISBN13: 978-1-5275-5363-7

Release Date: 14th October 2020

Pages: 325

Price: £64.99