Contact improvisation (CI) is a dance technique in which points of physical contact provide the starting point for exploration through movement improvisation. Contact Improvisation is a form of dance improvisation and is one of the best-known and most characteristic forms of postmodern dance.
The first performance work recognized as Contact Improvisation is Steve Paxton's Magnesium (1972) which was performed by Paxton and dance students at Oberlin College at Warner Main in Warner Center. Five months after Magnesium Paxton led the first Contact Improvisation performance series at the John Weber Art Gallery in New York City where dancers performed Contact Improvisation in marathon fashion on mats.
Practice and theory 
Contact Improvisation (also referred to as "Contact" or "CI") is practiced as both a concert and social dance form. In the performance context, Contact Improvisation is used either as a dance practice end-to-itself or as a dance research method for identifying new set choreography. Regularly meetings (often weekly) of practitioners that take place world-wide are called "jams," in which participants participate and watch as they choose over the course of some hours. Dancers practice both known CI technique and conduct new dance research with different partners or groupings over the course of a jam session. The name "jam" is used in keeping with its use by contemporary musicians, who come together to spontaneously explore musical forms and ideas, with some group agreement about structure and duration of the exploration. While there is now an established CI Fundamentals technique, CI dance vocabulary is not closed, so all who practice the form contribute to the constant expansion and greater understanding of the dance form's vocabulary, which is exchanged and taught among practictioners world-wide via regional jams, classes, week-long festivals, both print and online publications and, since its inception, via video in a process of dancing/watching/refining. While CI dancers usually stay touching or in physical contact for much of a dance, a CI dance can occur in which partners never touch yet there is a clear "listening" and energetic connection/intention that creates the "contact" of their shared dance.
CI practitioners may also draw on other Somatics and New Dance approaches such as:
- Action Theater
- Alexander Technique
- Body-Mind Centering
- Cognitive science
- Feldenkrais method
- Kinetic Awareness
- Laban Movement Analysis
- martial arts, especially Aikido, T'ai chi ch'uan and capoeira
- Newton's laws of motion
- Skinner Releasing Technique
When used as a choreographic technique, movement sequences that emerge during Jam research or rehearsals may be adapted and set to form a part of set choreography, or a score (a set of rules or limiting factors and transitions) may be employed to give dancers a structure to navigate through a performance. CI Scores can have few or many rules, (less rules are referred to as more "open" scores, more rules or closer to set choreography are more "closed" scores).
See also 
- Grand Union
- dance improvisation
- Judson Dance Theater
- Choreographic technique
- List of dance style categories
- List of contact improvisation festivals
Further reading 
- Novack, C, J. (1990) Sharing the Dance: Contact Improvisation and American Culture. University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0-299-12444-4
- Pallant, C. (2006) Contact Improvisation: An Introduction to a Vitalizing Dance Form. McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 0-7864-2647-0
- Tufnell, M. and Crickmay C. (1999) Body Space Image : Notes Toward Improvisation and Performance. Princeton Book Co. ISBN 1-85273-041-2
- Encounters with Contact; Dancing Contact in College (2010); Edited by Ann Cooper Albright, with Katie Barkley Kai Evans, Jan Trumbauer, David Brown and Rachel Wortman. Oberlin College Theater and Dance. ISBN 0-937645-13-3
- Barrios Solano, M. (2004) Posthuman Performance: Dancing within Cognitive Systems. http://dancelab1.dance.ohio-state.edu/~barrios/cord.html
- Paxton, S. (1997) in Fall After Newton. Videoda / Contact Collaborations, Inc. (video)
- Stark Smith, N. (1987) in Fall After Newton. Videoda / Contact Collaborations, Inc. (video)
- Touchdown Dance (2002) Contact Improvisation http://www.touchdowndance.co.uk/graphic/contact_improvisation.html