an afternoon of movement research

unpolished thoughts 3/21/2019

I’m part of group that calls itself ¡DC Movement Research!

These days, there are usually about a half dozen of us getting together to follow the impulses of our curiosity into some kind of motion. Most of us enjoy contact improvisation, but when we meet on Tuesday afternoons, that’s not the agenda.

When we arrive, we usually have no idea what the agenda is. Unless someone has something on their mind that they really want to test out.

So we begin by asking each other, “What have you been thinking about? What have you been wondering about?”

We go around the circle asking this question and watch to see if an image of a group movement exploration begins to emerge.

Usually it does – but only half way.

For example, at our last practice, the initiating ideas went something like this:

I’m interested in balance. And how balance is all about losing and regaining balance. And how having more stability unlocks more mobility.

I’m interested in fascia, how it creates this web through the body, and no matter what movement you make, the web adjusts itself, so every movement you make rearranges everything.

I’m interested in sharing weight. Especially those positions where neither person could stay up if they weren’t supported by the other person.

What if we were some kind of web? What if we were tightly woven together and tried to move like a big web of fascia?

I’m interested in how the contact we make with surfaces – both the ground as well as each other’s bodies – relates to our ability to bear weight. I want to practice bearing weight on body surfaces we are less used to supporting our weight on.

These ideas and a bit of surrounding dialogue were enough to get us started, even though we didn’t know really what we were going to do. It was enough for each of us to individually feel comfortable with what we thought we might do.

Then we were in a tight clump.

I’m not sure what everyone else was thinking but I was the one who had been interested in supporting weight with different body surfaces. Somehow this translated into wanting to wrap myself into the messiest knot that I could with the maximum number of bodies.

For example, I might reach my leg between another person’s legs, pressing the outside of my knee against the inside of theirs, then hook my foot around the shin of the person behind them. Then I might twist my chest around and look for a hip or shoulder of another neighbor to hold onto.

I kept reaching towards people on the outside of our clump, trying to pull them into the center.

Everyone else was also somehow tangling, exploring, laughing, climbing and sharing weight. We found ourselves at times with only one limb on the floor or completely floating. Every once in a while someone we were carrying would shift, forcing everyone else to shift as well to avoid falling or even bringing the entire group down to the ground.

We did this for about fifteen minutes, then stopped to discuss what had just happened.

This is the moment in our practice when we might actually begin to define what we are doing. But to begin, people in the group just describe their experiences and then we notice which themes emerge.

For example, this time, several people contrasted the experience of being in the center of the clump or on the periphery. This reminded one person of a choreography where a group of dancers created a kind of box with their bodies and other dancers would climb over the “walls” to the outside and then become the new walls, a continuous movement of bodies from the center to the periphery.

We decided this could be something deliberate to put into the game and it was part of how we explored it when we got to the second round.

Over the course of 2 hours, we had maybe an hour of movement and an hour of discussion, but much more food for thought – and action! – by the time we exchanged hugs and went our separate ways.

That’s more or less how it goes each week at Movement Research practice.

The key words in the sentence above are more or less.

If you’re in the DC, you should join us sometime!

(If you’re not, why not find some crazy friends in your town and invent some research games of your own!)

Check out our website

Join our Facebook group


From our website – in the section “what we do”: here are sample descriptions of some of the other games we’ve played: 

Helpers bring a person to standing without help from subject

First exploration: Early 2018. Listed by Ken, 2018-03-20.

  • Subject as limp/passive as they can be, but not actively resisting.
    • (It’s not easy to be thoroughly passive, to not succumb to the tendency to help!)
  • What worked best was three helpers on one subject.
    • With practice we might be able to get to one-on-one?
  • Interesting to try various options for helpers coordinating
    • Eg not talking vs talking allowed

(In a prior session we played with one person moving a partner across the space – indoors, smooth floor – without the partner’s help, ending with the mover trying to lift the partner to standing without partner’s assistance.)

Modeling Walking

First exploration: 2018-03 with Margarita, Juliana, Seth, and Ken. Listed by Ken, 2018-03-27.

The model walks as easily as they can along a long path – 15 to 30 yards? – with three modellers walking behind and attempting to take on the walk of the model. The model traverses back and forth a few times, until the modellers feel they’ve had enough time to take in and embody what they see. Then they all do another pass or two with the model following the modellers, to see their take on the model’s walking.

We noticed a big benefit in having more than one modeller. That way, the model gets to see commonalities and differences in what the modellers noticed and were able to embody.

Getting a glimpse of your own way of walking can be quite surprising and illuminating!

Jenga Block Games

First exploration 2019-02-19 with Juliana, Margarita, Seth and Ken. Listed by Ken 2019-02-19

Juliana brought a set of Jenga blocks to practice, on which we based today’s games:

  • Do a finger-dance (partners mutually following a point of contact between the tips of the partner’s index fingers) but “touching” through a block balanced between the partner’s finger tips.
  • Balance on the balls of your feet on two piles of 4 blocks.
  • Walk on the balls of your feet across a path of 2-deep piles of blocks, trying to leave as many piles intact as you can. (Socks help, so the blocks don’t stick to your feet.)
  • Lying flat on your back, balance a block on the end of two other blocks that are held separately, vertically, in your two hands. Now do a complete roll from your back to your front to your back, while: keeping the third block balanced on the end of the other two blocks, keeping your entire arms from touching/resting on the ground, keeping your arms from touching each other, and keeping the blocks that you’re holding from touching each other.
  • Holding one block so it is vertical, balance another vertical block on the end. Keeping the second block balanced this way, go from standing to lying flat on your back without letting your arm touch the ground and keeping the second block balanced. Return to standing from flat on your back keeping the second block balanced.
    • Do the same with two blocks balanced vertically on the third that you’re holding. (This is surprisingly not so much more difficult than balancing just one block on the one you’re holding.)


Rhythmic communication

First exploration 2019-03-12 with Alex, Seth, Juliana, and Ken. Listed by Seth 2019-03-12

We explored this game two ways. In the first run through, all participants did the same thing. In the second run through, a special role was designed for one participant and we repeated the game until everyone had a chance to have that experience.

1st run-through:

Each player moves rhythmically, repeating some kind of movement, somehow. The players come into physical contact with each other, thereby transmitting the feeling of their rhythm into each other’s bodies. The giving and receiving of rhythms may lead to other rhythms, or the evolution of rhythmic patterns into something new.

(One particular pattern that emerged in the first run-through and then we experimented with can be summarized with the following direction to all players: “Touch every other player, then go down to the ground and come up. Repeat.”

2nd run-through:

This time one player is the designated “recipient” of the other players rhythms. This recipient is invited to do whatever they wish throughout the game, exploring what they find interesting while receiving the rhythms. The remaining players deliberately create a rhythmic experience for the “recipient” player by means of touch, sound or other means.

The freedom of the “recipient” to move as they please creates an element of unpredictability for the other players, above all if they are transmitting through touch – they are now working with a moving target! This aspect of the game may lead to an evolving rhythmic experience.


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