Sources of Embodied Creativity: Interactivity and Ideation in Contact Improvisation

Behav Sci (Basel). 2018 May 23;8(6):52. doi: 10.3390/bs8060052.


Drawing on a micro-phenomenological paradigm, we discuss Contact Improvisation (CI), where dancers explore potentials of intercorporeal weight sharing, kinesthesia, touch, and momentum. Our aim is to typologically discuss creativity related skills and the rich spectrum of creative resources CI dancers use. This spectrum begins with relatively idea-driven creation and ends with interactivity-centered, fully emergent creation: (1) Ideation internal to the mind, the focus of traditional creativity research, is either restricted to semi-independent dancing or remains schematic and thus open to dynamic specification under the partner’s influence. (2) Most frequently, CI creativity occurs in tightly coupled behavior and is radically emergent. This means that interpersonal synergies emerge without anybody’s prior design or planned coordination. The creative feat is interpersonally “distributed” over cascades of cross-scaffolding. Our micro-genetic data validate notions from dynamic systems theory such as interpersonal self-organization, although we criticize the theory for failing to explain where precisely this leaves skilled intentionality on the individuals’ part. Our answer is that dancers produce a stream of momentary micro-intentions that say “yes, and”, or “no, but” to short-lived micro-affordances, which allows both individuals to skillfully continue, elaborate, tweak, or redirect the collective movement dynamics. Both dancers can invite emergence as part of their playful exploration, while simultaneously bringing to bear global constraints, such as dance scores, and guide the collective dynamics with a set of specialized skills we shall term emergence management.

Keywords: co-creation; creative mechanisms typology; dance improvisation; expert skills; interaction dynamics; self-organization.