Solidarity at the Global Underscore 2017

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Dear Contact Improvisation community, 

We, several Jewish American Contact Improvisation teachers, and committed practitioners are writing to the Contact Improvisation community on the eve of the Global Underscore in the spirit of friendship and a desire to make our CI world stronger and more whole. We applaud the Global Underscore organizers for creating an opportunity for us to feel more connected and committed to each other across the globe. We are communicating with our global family in response to recent conversations among some organizers about how to position ourselves in relation to the call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, and to support fellow CI participants in more deeply considering their global context as they dance.


The issues we are facing here

We wish for more engagement among CI dancers about the impact of our dancing on those around us. We are asking our community to move away from a politically neutral stance, and toward a more rigorous community-wide conversation about what it means to be a global body, and the implications of our work.

As Howard Zinn says: “You can’t be neutral on a moving train.” The State of Israel occupies Palestinian land, and Palestinians are denied the most basic freedom of movement that would allow them to participate in Israeli CI classes, jams, or festivals. They are subject to daily violence and indignities. Israel’s control over Palestinian travel documents and borders means they have limited ability to attend CI events elsewhere in the world. Meanwhile, recent Israeli laws ban those who support BDS, which can prevent international teachers with leftist views from offering classes in Palestine.

In light of this extreme inequity and injustice, we question the Israeli Contact Improvisation Festival’s statement, “We are happy that in past few years, more and more people from the region and from around the world come to the festival in Israel, and by doing so open a possibility for dialogue through dance.” It is not possible to have an equal dialogue about Palestine/Israel if one of the parties is trapped behind a separation wall, unable to be physically present for the conversation.

Similarly, we ask that CI practitioners in the U.S. develop conversations and consciousness around the lack of inclusiveness in our dance spaces, and how many of our studios occupy stolen land and gentrified neighborhoods. How can we, in addition to experiencing deep pleasure and joy together, also be agents of positive change through our CI practice? Is it possible for us to revel in the the playfulness of our dancing and challenge the ways that we exclude marginalized people by not addressing how our unspoken social norms and pay scales can alienate people who come from different class, racial, and cultural backgrounds?

These are the conversations we need to be having as a community.

We practice CI in solidarity with those who, for different reasons, are not present at the Global Underscore. We express a commitment to show up for those who are not able to participate by creating conditions in the future that are more inclusive, accessible, and conscious of how societal inequity plays out on the dance floor.


Take Action

1) Sign onto this letter!

2) We request a moment of silent acknowledgement during the STAND at the beginning of this year’s Global Underscore to acknowledge those throughout the world, in Palestine and elsewhere, who experience limited freedom of movement because of political, racial, or economic barriers. Nancy Stark Smith will be doing this in Estonia and invites you to take this suggestion as you wish into your Global Underscore practice.

3) We will be having a facilitated community-wide video conference call to discuss these topics on August 20th at 12noon EST. All are welcome to participate. Email to RSVP.


Thank you for Reading!

CI is a gift that has provided us with an outlet for creative practice, embodiment, and friendship. We believe in the power of CI to bring people together, to soften edges, and to facilitate healing. We hope that the CI community will sign onto this pledge to have the hard conversations about how our identities and position in the world impact others, and how it is not possible to be neutral when some people are free and others are not.


Nicole Bindler, Daniel Bear Davis & Lailye Weidman

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