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Aggressive Snuggling: From the Politics of Touch to the Poetics of Touch
I have recently started studying Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and I see many parallels to Contact. Like CI, in BJJ it is absolutely necessary to commit all my attention to the task at hand because of real physical risk. One of the aspects I love about BJJ and where I see a very real difference from CI, is the incredible clarity of boundaries. When a person "taps out" a little tap on the shoulder or leg or really anywhere that can be reached, means: stop doing what you are doing, let go, physically come apart and start again. Also, before engaging in any touch, there is a customary high five then fist bump. The cues are not a suggestion of agreement, these cues are clear: yes, I agree to engage, and: no, I no longer agree and we are now stopping.
Often boundaries are muddy in Contact Improvisation and there are many reasons for this including systemic hetero-patriarchy, white supremacy, colonialist ideas of "freedom" and ableism. CI culture can include clear boundaries but in my experience it does not and this excludes many people particularly many women and femme presenting folks, queer folks, gender fluid folks, people of colour and folks of different abilities. I want CI to be a place I can invite my community but it is currently not. Perhaps by adopting some of the explicit consent codes of BJJ, we can address some of the issues around consent and boundaries that exist inside the CI community. And do so with care and openness.
I want to stress the importance and the place for the politics of touch to precede the poetics of touch. I believe that we can begin to work on this and at the same time have a good time learning some fun skills from another partnered movement practice (BJJ).
Here's a list of some of the things we will definitely do:
- Ask for and receive consent before touching anyone!
- Develop and practice both a physical and a verbal start and stop signal.
- Practice saying yes and saying no and meaning it.
- Practice hearing yes and hearing no and responding to it.
More skills we will work on:
- play with different levels of compression and weight
- extreme squeezing, how do we dial up and down our tone?
- improvising from BJJ "positions"
- mount, guard, half guard, side guard
ArtistBio: Eroca Nicols