"Contact improvisation" is the name Steve Paxton and his five dancer cohorts give to the kind of impromptu movement collage they exhibited at WPA (Washington Project for the Arts) this weekend.
It's a "duet form" - the dancers work mostly in pairs. In contrast to other kinds of dance improvisation, though, contact follows certain set principles of energy transfer. It has, however, no goals other than a smooth, free flow of movement based on bodily contact. In particular, contact has no esthetic aims - it doesn't strive to be beautiful or expressive, though such qualities may ensure as by-products. The idea is simply to induce an empathic response in an audience - a feeling of participation in the dynamics of the movement.
Watching Paxton and hsi fellow contacters Saturday night evoked visions of sea anemous or jelly fish in a recreatiunal mood. The performance also had somewhat the look of a gymnasts' pajama party - there was lots of rolling over each other and sensual nuzzling.
As an exploration of movements forms, the performance sustained interest for about half an hour. Beyond that, the monotony and aimlessness of the form from a spectator's standpoint began to take a heavy toll. The singa-long at the end reinforced as impression that these were flower children who've outlived their era, and are still tripping out on a Woodstockian euphoria that has more to do with tranquilization than creative search.