Personally, I have been totally gripped by contact improvisation from the moment I was introduced to it. I adore the sensation of shifting weight and the danger of the dynamic and trust the art form creates between two people. The dance form appeals to my love of science, specifically physics. Contact Improvisation creates honest authentic dance, it brings a dancer back into their body, back into the moment, and really doesn’t allow any room for “over-doing.” My love and curiosity about contact improvisation is what lead me to suggest that Carrie and I research Steve Paxton. I quickly found out his interests are even more closely related to my own.
Paxton’s body work with the material for the spine is very much up my alley. I am very interested in the anatomy of the body and how its restrictions and configuration limits and expands movement, which is a concept that is very much of Paxton’s mind set. The exploration of the muscles surrounding the spine, the core of all movement, is an exploration I not only respect a lot, but I would like to experiment with myself. I really enjoy that his work focuses so much on bringing the dancer back into their body, back to the basics of movement. This aspect of his work makes it accessible and applicable for many different types of people: Trained dancers, elderly, children, disabled, ect.
I really respect the accessibility of his work. His work with the disabled shows the range of his work. He has worked with the cognitively disabled, the blind, the physically handicapped, the old, the young, and even trained dancers. His work allows any person to go through an exploration of their own body, and to reignite movement in a world consumed by material. For me, it is not his specific choreography that has been his great contribution to the dance world, but rather his unique process and the explorations he has worked with such as, Material for the Spine, his work with pedestrian movement in Satisfying Lover, his creation of Contact Improvisation and the exploration of the physics between two people, and over all the benefit of movement for people from every walk of life.
Without Paxton’s work, many types of movement may be taboo or considered non-dance. He broke the boundaries of “what is dance” and allowed pedestrian movement stand on a stage alone. Without him, one probably wouldn’t see walking in dance, and even gestural movement would be less accepted. There clearly has been a shift in the dance scene toward the awareness of the body and its limitations, and even more importantly respecting those limitations. This respect is very much initiated by Paxton’s work. This respect is the reason why at 73, Paxton continues to dance. He respects the limits of his body and lets this influence and feed his work. Without his influences on the dance community, the face of dance would look dramatically different.