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Contact improvisation 2017/09 Budapest


I hired a bike and rode across the river to Gellert baths for an open air swim, a warm fountain pounding my shoulders, a sauna and the last rays of the sun on the poolside terrace. Then it was a beautiful ride up river to find the contact dance studio. I am very lucky to find it because it's locked away in a vast, rambling arts complex full of confusing long corridors and mysterious doors.


The class and jam take place in the studio of a well-established theatrical dance troupe called the Symptoms. The photos of their shows are very moody, inspiring, creative... I'm impressed, curious.


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The class and dance was of a very high standard – artistically more interesting – but less friendly than the Sydney local scene. The teacher Eszter Gál has 25 years experience and it shows. She maintained a continuous flow of bilingual ideas and guidance, in an undulating soothing rhythm and tone throughout the class. This guided hour before the jam was almost entirely solo. Usually I would find this frustrating – it is contact improv after all – but somehow it worked under this skillful guidance. She ensured that we had good spatial awareness as the room was small for our number. Connection with the floor was also heavily emphasised.

She prepared us for the jam with a concept from the Underscore called 'grazing' – I would call it teasing or proximity dancing. It's close, but no contact. Again, usually I would lose patience, but now for the first time, I got into the spirit of this idea, and really enjoyed this gentle, creative partner movement with a 'pre-contact' intention. I did feel sad though when she told us to change partners -– the desire to make contact had been building up and it was jarring to let go.

Finally the jam started ... I had a few lovely dances... fluid, creative, with lots of levels... the dancers were very focused, even disciplined and there was plenty of talent. I felt at home among these dancers, even without exchanging a word. My most memorable dances were with the teacher's demo partner and a Russian dancer of Chinese appearance.

But the sauna-like heat was sucking away my energy, and then teacher closed the window, our only source of cool air. I guess she likes hot dancing – maybe it's her thing – like hot yoga? Yuck... even the start of live music could not persuade me to stay in this heat, sweating even at a standstill. Anyway I was looking forward to my first swing dance in Budapest. Time to find my way out of this maze into the cool night air and hop on the bike again.

The bike ride to the Friday Hop was a fun exercise in orienteering in the dark, reading paper maps, and nothing short of spectacular views. The golden street lights and yellow moon framed the bridges over the sparkling black river Danube. The fairytale gothic confection of Parliament glowed like a golden crown on the riverbank, a confetti of golden birds swirling above.

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