Dec 18-21: Workshop with Nancy Stark Smith and Mike Vargas

Contact Improvisation, Embodiment, and Collaboration

December 18-21, 2014 (Thursday-Sunday), Boulder CO
In this workshop we’ll be engaging with the dance improvisation work that Nancy Stark Smith and Mike Vargas are currently exploring using Contact Improvisation (CI) as a base. This includes CI technique and practice, improvisation scores (including the Underscore), compositional awareness (including Mike’s 86 Aspects of Composition), contemplation, discussion, and detailed listening practice.  
NSS and Charlie Morrissey, Moscow, 2010.  Photo: Ilya DomanovLike scaling Mt Everest, pursuing States of Grace is a pinnacle—elusive, ever-present, fantasized, in our minds, and in our bodies. “States of grace” is what can happen when all the balls are in the air at once: solo dancing, contact improvisation, non-CI improvisation, contemplation, composition, listening, performance/art, mystery, and humanity.
We’ll experiment with ways to tune our dancing and awareness so we can improvise more consistently with ease and clarity—embodied, articulate, generous, innovative, ready, artful, and human, with and without live music.
Simple, complex, simple.
The Underscore on Sunday is the culminating vehicle for our discoveries. 
Participants should have have intermediate-level experience in contact improvisation. Although levels in CI are difficult to assess, your CI practice should comfortably include: fluency with falling, rolling, weight taking and giving, being upside down, dancing with disorientation, following a point of contact, working with subtlety (and exertion), and improvising in physical contact. Minimum of 2 years CI experience suggested. Other background in dance and improvisation a plus.  


  • Thursday, December 18: 5:30-8:30pm
  • Friday, December 19: 10:00am-5:30pm; Underscore Talk-Through 6:00-7:30pm
  • Saturday, December 20: 10:00am-5:00pm
  • Sunday, December 21 (Boulder Circus Center): Community Underscore 3:00-6:30pm
  • Sunday, December 21 (Nomad Co-housing): 7:00pm Potluck dinner 

Thursday through Saturday will take place at the Solstice Center (302 Pearl St).  The Sunday Community Underscore will take place at the Boulder Circus Center (4747 26th St) and the Sunday potluck will take place at the Nomad Cohousing (1480 Quince Ave).

Community Underscore with Nancy Stark Smith and Mike Vargas (music)
Talk-through: Friday, December 19, 6:00-7:30pm (Solstice Center)
Underscore: Sunday, December 21, 3:00-6:30pm (Boulder Circus Center)

(Included in the Workshop.  Some additional spaces will be available for those not in the workshop.)
92Y, NYC. M. Vargas, Y. Li, J. Chien.  Photo: J. Akiyama
The Underscore is a long contact/improvisation/composition/jamming score that Nancy has been developing since the early 1990s as a framework for dance improvisation practice and research.  It guides dancers through a series of “changing states”—from solo relaxation and sensitizing to gravity and support, through group circulation and interaction, contact improvisation (CI) engagements, opening out to full group improvisation, and back to rest and reflection.
The Underscore is a vehicle for integrating CI into a broader arena of improvisational practice, for developing greater freedom dancing in spherical space, and for integrating kinesthetic and compositional concerns while improvising.
The 3.5 hours will include periods of small, quiet internal activity and other times of higher energy and interactive dancing. The 20+ phases of the score—each with a name and a graphic symbol—create a general map for the dancers. Within that frame, they are free to create their own movements, dynamics, and relationships—with themselves, each other, the group, the music, and the environment. 
The Underscore talk (required for participation in the practice) will give some background and outline the structure in detail, to be followed on Sunday with the physical practice itself, which will include periods of silence and periods of live music improvised/composed by Mike Vargas. 
Previous experience with contact improvisation and attendance at the Friday evening talk-through (if you have never been to a talk-through with Nancyor not in the last 5-6 years) are required for participation in the Community Underscore.

SILO, PA, 2014.  NSS.  Photo: J. AkiyamaNancy Stark Smith danced in the first performances of Contact Improvisation in 1972 with Steve Paxton and others and has since been centrally involved in its development as dancer, performer, teacher, writer/publisher, and organizer, traveling worldwide sharing CI and related movement improvisation work. She cofounded Contact Quarterly dance and improvisation journal in 1975 which she continues to coedit and publish. Her first book, Caught Falling: the Confluence of Contact Improvisation, Nancy Stark Smith, and Other Moving Ideas, with David Koteen, came out in 2008. Her work is featured in several books and films, and she has been developing the Underscore, a long-form dance improvisation structure, since 1990.

M. Vargas, Casina Settarte, 2003; Photo: T. HettichMike Vargas began studying music in 1959. He started specializing in music for dance in 1978. He works as a freelance composer across the USA and internationally, performing, teaching, recording, and improvising. For the past 15 years, he has been working around the world with Nancy Stark Smith. He has released 9 CDs of his music and is currently on the faculty in the dance department at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.



2014-Dec-16: We have closed registration for the Workshop and for the Underscore.

Workshop (includes Community Underscore & Talk-Through)

* Regular: $280 (early registration on/before November 2: $250)
* Student: $250 (early registration on/before November 2: $220)

The Workshop with Nancy Stark Smith and Mike Vargas is now full!

If you wish to have your application placed on a waiting list, please fill out the following registration.  If a space opens up, we will e-mail you a payment link and you will have 24 hours to send in the payment.
Underscore and Talk-Through Only

* $20

Please note that once you receive a confirmed space in the workshop, $100 of your registration payment becomes a non-refundable deposit.  
  • On or before November 16: Your payment minus $100 will be refunded
  • On or before November 30: Your payment minus $150 ($100 deposit, $50 cancellation fee) will be refunded.
  • After November 30: Subject to loss of full registration fee.
All cancellations will be considered final.  Your registration cannot be reinstated nor transferred.  However, you may re-register with a new registration.
Wait List Policy
We will post above on this page if the workshop reaches its capacity.  If the workshop is full and you wish to be placed on the waiting list, please send an e-mail using the contact us page.