Joe Tranquillo and me

Anyone who has tried to assign words to movement immediately encounters difficulty. How do you apply something as seemingly static as words to motion? Early in the process of creating an outline for my book on contact improvisation, Contact Improvisation:an Introduction to a Vitalizing Dance Form, a poem emerged.

Poems better than prose are adept at capturing the elusive. They bring attention to the lines and to the space and silence between them. At one point, I considered excluding it from the book because it was so different stylistically from the rest of the work. That problem got resolved by assigning it to the position of prologue.


The body can relax, let go, take a vacation from trying so hard, or not at all.

Listen to the click of cartilage, the slap of skin, or the whisper of your will typically silenced by a shout.

Notice a part of your body for which you have no name, no history, no awareness. Not quite shoulder, not quite spine, but a previously unexplored space. Go there to see what lurks behind hard corners and soft contours.

Enter unseen corridors of your body as if there is no turning back, as if this moment is all you have.

Feel weight push into your stubbornness, your expectations, against your habit of always yielding to aggression, or constantly fighting it. Try a new strategy. Breathe deeply. Watch with open attention. Watch for surprise.

Go because it feels better than what you did yesterday, because it feels like dessert without the added calories.

Go because you haven’t been upside down in weeks. Or so incandescently upright.

The body can shed its evolutionary skin, secrete antiquated habits of survival that lean closer to extinction than animation.

Roll along the hill of a hip into the bloom of sensation. Plant seeds with every bend and gesture.

Invigorate. Pretend. Participate as best you can. Sniff the circumstances, the leg extending into view, the hand urging direction. Push against ribs. Pull an arm.

Play with the past and share the play. Watch time dissolve.

Consider every detail: hair, sweat, friction, levity, glee. Or ignore all that usually consumes your focus. Forget rules for the moment. Invent new ones.

Assert last night’s dream, or a part of it, the part nearly forgotten. Follow the sound into the garden past the bench in the corner where weeds grow and the rabbit squeezes beneath the fence.

Look your partner in the eye. Note that many gates flap open and closed.

Don’t wait. Encourage participation, penetrating breath, chi, prana, embodiment, an alchemical boil.

Find the pleasure in pain and the pain in pleasure.

Nudge blocked energy from slumber. Coax a muscle to stretch beyond its usual reach. Exhale quickly or ever so slowly. Yield to gravity’s insistence and your partner’s push.

Tend your body as if it were the body of a lover.

Follow your partner. Risk the road. Go down the untraveled paths of back or neck. Let bone graze bone. Fall into pools of flesh. Lounge in heat. Drink the elixir of expansion, the release within repose.

Go slow if your habit is fast, fast if your habit sluggish. Find the edge between comfort and discomfort, the familiar and the unknown. Balance there, however precarious.

Plod along like an elephant seal or dart with a leopard’s stealth. Devolve into protozoa.

Find the current of your plasma. Feel the ceaseless divide of your cells.

Let your body call you back into yourself, into your most deeply embodied self. Land, dive, soar. Find the crumbs that lead back home.


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