What is Contact Dance?
Artistic Aesthetic


REAson d'etre dance productions strives to provide artistic expression through movement, inclusive of age, ability, level background. We stage and program works based on Contact Improvisation so we can utilize the inclusiveness that can be a part of this dance form. Our vision is for both professional dancers and everyday people to be inspired and invigorated by Contact Improvisation. This mandate involves initiatives that work to dismantle racism and ablism and other "isms" as their existence hinders us in achieving our mandate. We are committed to examining the art form of contact improvisation and acknowledging its history of inequity, ablism, and racism. We strive to engage in a continuing process of educating ourselves and acting for change.

We believe that increasing accessibility breaks down barriers to dance, creating a stunning humanity that is the heart of the artistic aesthetic we reach for. 

Our contact dance jams are the root from which all our programming grows. Our jams are a mix of performance, research, rehearsal, and incubator. A musician improvises, sweeping dancers into explorations of different themes. Teaming Contact Dance with exceptional live music deepens the form. People alternate between dancing and watching the performance. The jams build community. It's about relationships, with the quality of communication being the aesthetic measure. 

Classes in functional movement help Contact Dancers move with ease and prevent injury. We see healthy movement as beautiful and reach for it as an artistic aesthetic. 

The creative meeting of dancers and musicians at our Jams gives birth to ideas and collaborations that become main-stage professional works. Our productions use multi-disciplinary story-telling involving dialogue, music, and song, with Contact Dance at their heart. Professional dancers, ranging in ages, enable inter-generational story-telling that brings meaning to people's lives.

REAson d'etre dance productions is disability lead and has a disability focus. The current artistic director has a learning disability and Autism. A high proportion of our creative teams include mixed abilities including creative leads, project leads and collaborators with disabilities.

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What is Contact Improvisation?
Contact Improvisation is a style of dance that cannot always be as clearly defined and its ambiguity and adaptability are often seen as one of its greatest attributes. Kathleen Rea, the artistic director of REAson d'etre dance productions will attempt an explanation here knowing that it will, of course, fall short. 

Kathleen says:
"Contact Improvisation is a social dance involving touch, in which momentum between two or more people is used to create and inspire dance movements. Contact improvisation evolved from the exploration of a group of dancers in the early 1970's, including Steve Paxton, Nancy Stark Smith, Danny Lepkoff, Lisa Nelson, Karen Nelson, Nita Little, Andrew Harwood, and Ray Chung. Steve Paxton brought his former training in Aikido to the form, using the idea of "surfing" momentum to communicate, dance, and express. Dancers move and "stay-with" a constantly changing physical reality. In Contact Improvisation there are no set leaders and followers as in other social dance forms. Instead of having these roles set, the role of the dancer shifts from one to the other, sometimes leading, sometimes following, and all the variations in between these two roles. The form requires deep “listening” and responding "in the moment" to one’s partner. The dance form is practiced with or without music. Techniques include rolling point of contact, balancing over a partner's centre of gravity, and "listening" with one's skin surface. While there is technique involved in the form, the aesthetic I reach for is the quality of the relationship within a dance.

The form is potentially accessible to all people, including those with no previous dance training and people with physical disabilities. I say potentially because "-isms" such as racism and ableism historically have reduced or inhibited access. The -isms that are embedded in the broader cultures in which Contact Improvisation is practiced, are acted out in Contact Improvisation communities.

Another limit to access is the lack of consent culture in Contact Improvisation communities, both on the dance floor and off. Since the "me-too" movement there has been a growing understanding of the value of building and supporting consent culture in Contact Improvisation as well as some backlash against this movement.

Contact Improvisation is typically practiced in a jam situation in which a group of people gathers in-person to improvise together. However, it can also be practiced as a solo or at a distanced. A solo Contact Improvisation practice involves using all the above relational skills in a relationship with oneself and one's environment. A non-touch practice involves using all the above relational skills at a distance and can involve using props such as ropes and poles through which momentum can be communicated. During the COVID Pandemic, contact improvisers worldwide experienced a loss of touch due to COVID pandemic lock-downs and during this time, solo or non-touch practices were expanded.

The pause or shift in the practice of Contact Improvisation created by the pandemic has been seen by some dancers as an opportunity to illuminate and address inequities that have historically been part of the practice. These are that the practice has been a very white and non-disabled body practice and originated through the appropriation of Aikido and includes all the "isms" that are embedded in the societies where it is practiced in. These issues although illuminated by the Pandemic have of course have been ongoing since the origins of Contact Improvisation. Some organizations and Contact Improvisation practitioners are working to address these inequities.

This definition of Contact Improvisation is my personal feeling of what Contact Improvisation is to me. Others will describe it differently, and this variance and diversity of opinions is for me one of the strengths of Contact Improvisation." 

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- Creation and production of dance performances, dance films, festivals, dance workshops and dance jams.

- Mentoring of artists.

- provide scholarships to those in need

- Educate the public, through events such as audience creator chats and creative process blogs that give an inside view of the artist's process.

- provide inclusive training and programing

- Anti racism and anti ableism education andinitiatives

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1999: REAson d'etre dance productions (RDDP) founded.

2009: Incorporated.

1999: Inaugural Wednesday Dance Jam. Running every Wednesday for 20 years, it's the creative heart from which all RDDP programming emerges.

2002: "Flux". First collaboration with musician live on stage; a Now Magazine "Top Ten Show". Inspired Kathleen to include live music as a key to RDDP programming. 

2004: "Lapinthrope". Dance film, screened at 14 festivals. Fully embraced storytelling in a fable of a woman who grew up with wild rabbits.

2008: "Long Live". Theatrical story-line, live original music, large inter-generational cast. Nominated for three DORA's. 

2013: The inaugural Contact Dance International Film Festival which had run every two years since its inception. The 2021 redidtion was ru nvually due to teh COVID pandemic.

2015: started Axis Syllabus series to help dancers move with greater ease and prevent injury. Influenced Kathleen's choreography, which now strives to includes movements that work with a dancer's body.

2016: started EVERY BODY Can Dance Jam, providing a place for people to dance using wheelchairs, inclusive of all abilities. Fully embracing the accessibility inherent in Contact Dance.

2016/2017: Kathleen creates "Men's Circle", a stage production that tells the story of men in a therapy group. This piece involved script writing and theatrical direction. Truly multidisciplinary story-telling with Contact Dance at its heart. 

2019: The Person of Colour Contact jam is started lead by Leslie Heydon

2019/2020: Kathleen Rea and Vivian Chong create "Dancing with the Universe" that tells the story of Vivian losing her site and discovering herself as a multidisciplinary artist This Production was COVID canceled and will be remounted in spring of 2022.

2020: Stared the outdoor PROPinquity Dance Jam in which dancers interact with props in an outdoor setting.

2021: Preamreid "Five Angels on the Steps" danced by Kathleen Rea, choreogrpahed by Newton Moraes with lighting by Sharon DiGenova.

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