On Balance

This connection has been made in many places far from the American counterculture where it was born. New York contact classes and jams often see representatives of contact's global growth—Dowling mentions recent visitors from Australia, Japan, and Uruguay—many of whom return to their home countries to teach and send their students back to the jam. "I'm interested in the fact that it's been taken up on so many continents," says Smith. "It's remarkable that it's still relevant, still useful to people, though in fact I'm not surprised. Maybe if you could do it alone in a room there wouldn't be so many people doing it." She describes the scene in Buenos Aires, where there are contact sessions five nights a week; with the economic collapse, participants have braved curfews to make it to the jam.

"You face your fears in a real way because your body's on the line."
photo: Jesse James
"You face your fears in a real way because your body's on the line."

Details

CONTACT QUARTERLY
www.contactquarterly.com.
Two issues per year. $15.

CHILDREN'S AID SOCIETY JAM
Mondays from 8:15 to 11:15 p.m. 219 Sullivan Street.
Admission $5.
Contact Jim Dowling, 718-768-3492, James.Dowling@Prodigy.net.

IMPROVISATION FESTIVAL NEW YORK
Through December 14,
various locations downtown,
539-2611,
www.movementresearch.org.

MOVEMENT RESEARCH CONTACT CLASSES
Wednesdays from 6:45 to 9:30 p.m.
537 Broadway, fourth floor. $12.
539-2611.
Teachers rotate monthly.

In the end, the secret of contact's flourishing lies in its ability to remain in the moment, without expectations for the future or attempts to recapture the past. Many practitioners have described its curious Taoist quality, the suspension of will required to respond to a partner in a spontaneous way. In the same way, without any strong thrust or grab by individuals, the dance continues. No one is making much money off its global popularity—there's no contact Jivamukti, no special sweatpants. Nevertheless, Smith is sanguine about her legacy. "As long as it's useful to someone, they're going to use it. The practice carries its essence . . . it seems to have something of a similar spark in all the ways people use it. It lights people up—and it is spreading."

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