MARCH 15-22,  2018

Preparing the Healthy Risky

Research Catalysts: Shavon Norris & David Brick



Shavon Norris and David Brick catalyze questions of how we come to practice: the rituals that prepare us for dancing together and that shape what our practice may lead to. How do we hold space for the healthy risky? How can our practices of Contact Improvisation be a conscious laboratory of experience that shapes our thinking and helps us apply our experience and insight beyond our own skin?

Contact Improvisation exercises intelligence and awareness— we have the opportunity to practice thinking with our whole body in relation to other people and so it is always a social and cultural practice as well. Contact Improvisation can be a practice of empathy— being changed by who and what… is not me, is not my story, is not what I already know.

In this way practicing Difference can be more precious than practicing Consensus. How do our differences in identity, training, background, experience, ability, age…. become shared resources in our practice? Can we empower our ability to be affected and changed by each others differences for everyone’s benefit? Instead of perfecting and rehearsing narratives of who we are with each other, can we open up our narratives with a sense that there is more to come— that what we have yet to see might be illuminated in us from light refracted through others? Ultimately can we shape our approach to Practice so that insight flows from our intimate experience towards broader actions of justice and joy.

What is the practice and ritual of acknowledging fullness? Reflecting on it as we prepare to move with others. What is the practice of acknowledging our depths and creating space to ally? Commune. Shift. Breath. Hold. Break. Build. With self. With another. How do you access your vulnerable and fragile? Your pleasure and delight. How do we hold space for the healthy risky?

CIGR is a unique opportunity for a residential in-depth practice of the form with a concentrated number of experienced practitioners. Our intention is to use this common language to research different areas of our expertise as dancers, body-workers, teachers, humans, citizens… Contact Improvisation, in this “Ground Research”, is not the answer to any question that we may ask: it is our way of communicating together to refine our inquiries.

As CIGR evolves, the one constant element that continues to be successful is the experience of an enlivening encounter of committed dancers. As Gretchen Spiro states, “The delight of getting to dance with other very committed (advanced) dancers.” We expect that a large part of our research material and direction will come straight from our shared physical practice.

We believe that gathering experienced dancers to work together before jams improves jams and brings a higher degree of experience and investigation into the CI culture. These exchanges work from a model regularly used in Europe and are an effective way in creating stronger bridges between working CI practitioners. We hope that the energy and excitement generated at CI Ground Research will inspire other CI communities to create research exchanges that couple with their public jams.



Shavon Norris is an artist, educator, and facilitator. She uses movement along
with text and sound and imagery to reveal and highlight the stories living in our bodies. Her work explores our relationship to our identities, our experiences, and to others. An examination and celebration of what we feel, think, and believe.  As an artist her work has been presented at venues including the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival, PIFA, Temple University, the National Constitutional Center, Art Sanctuary, and at Joyce Soho. As a performer Shavon has worked with Silvana Cardell, Leah Stein, Merian Soto, Jumatatu Poe and Pig Iron Theatre Company. As an educator Shavon has taught over 5,000 students. She has worked locally and nationally with adults and children trained and untrained in performance. As a facilitator, Shavon focuses on creating a container that encourages individuals and the community to examine their learning and experience. For Shavon, all of the work is about finding ways to Light us up. Lift us up. And Shift what needs transforming. She loves all of what she does.

David Brick is Co-Director of Headlong- a platform for performance and art research and Director of the Headlong Performance institute. He collaborates broadly in creating performance, participatory installations and community. The experience of growing up in a Deaf family continually informs David’s interest in the body as an active manifestation of culture. Moving between Deaf and hearing worlds, especially as he has begun to lose his own hearing, provides a vantage for seeing the body and its perceptions squarely at the crossroads of action and thought, imagination and necessity, individuality and community. Most recently, along with visual designer Maiko Matsushima, David initiated The Quiet Circus, a 15-month performance residency at Philadelphia’s Washington Ave Pier ( The agency of audiences, participants and creators were engaged in creating an ongoing work that lives in the experiences of those who touched it. This project included collaborations with Philadelphia Contemporary, Grace Farms, Bartram’s Garden, Fairmount Water Works, RAIR, and The Andalusia Foundation, among others.