Draft 1, following consultation in 2011-12
Compiled by Jocasta Crofts and Kirsty Hannah in January 2013
Guidelines for safety when dancing contact Improvisation
“In 2009 Jamus and I came across the Guidelines that Boulder community had just written. Since then we have slowly been exploring through meetings, talking, dance exploration, performance and brain storming with the idea to create our own Bristol Guidelines. The Guidelines seem to be something that more contact communities have taken on to create as a way to help clarify some of the most fundamental and basic themes that help to make us safe as we dance. They are not rules, they are simply guidelines.Kirsty and I have now completed the first Bristol Guidelines draft, taking inspiration from the Guidelines of Boulder, Boston, earthdance, London, Falmouth and our own Bristol community’s wishes. We would like to invite you to explore these Guidelines through the dances you have in our Sunday evening classes. The hope is to embody the Guidelines by practicing them. the teachers have agreed that the Guidelines will either be the theme of their class or a container for whatever theme they choose to offer. Feel free to add your comments and feedback below or by emailing me directly. This is a chance for us all as a community to help create our Guidelines from the inside out.Below is the first draft of the guidelines, hope you like them!!!
Much love, Jocasta (jocasta@contactdance.co.uk) xxxxx”
Jocasta Crofts, 2013


Please, no shoes in the dance space.

Be on time so we can all start together (whenever possible). Being part of the opening and closing circles creates group cohesion, personal safety, and deepens our dances. In the circle we invite you to communicate about any injuries that might affect your dance, and offer any personal sharings related to your dancing for the day. While the circle is a chance to share, it is not a time to fix, be fixed or advise. We do not encourage crosstalk (unless requested by the speaker), or debate. We also request that sharings come from your direct experience (“I” statements) in the moment rather than abstract thoughts or a prepared agenda, as these things tend to take us away from the dance or being connected with ourselves and others.


You are responsible for your own safety – physically and emotionally. Serious injury is possible when dancing Contact improvisation and you dance at your own risk. Please be aware of your own safety in the space.

Listen to yourself; be aware of what is comfortable for you, for your body. We are all different and have different skills, abilities, and comfort levels. It is always okay to say “NO” or “STOP” if something is uncomfortable or unsafe. Learn how to dance safely, for example: in a lift, don’t hold onto your partner’s landing gear (hands and feet); keep your body soft so collisions hurt less; beware rolling over sensitive areas: knees, head etc; practise falling; come to classes!

Be particularly mindful if you are dancing with speed, large amounts of weight, jumping, or other potential risk-taking. You might find that doing a movement at half speed allows mind and body to cooperate better.

We encourage you to cultivate patient curiosity, and a soft and supple relationship with the floor.

No parking in the middle of the space! Take chatting, schmoozing and bodywork off the active dance floor, so you’re not a hazard.

Kneepads can make it more comfortable to take weight in kneeling positions, especially on hard floors. No jewellery including earrings.

We keep a first aid kit at the side of the dance floor in case of accident.


You have the right and responsibility to maintain your own boundaries in the dance, you have the right and responsibility to give an honest yes or no with your body or your voice or to move away from a situation that doesn’t suit you. You don’t have to apologise, compromise or explain. If you have trouble saying “no” in your dances, you have a responsibility to learn how to do this. Refrain from blaming or projecting. If you need help, ask a Core Member, or another community member for support. Conversely, you also have the responsibility to understand how your dance, your energy, and your own sense of personal boundaries impact your dance partners and the dance space around you. Practice hearing feedback without becoming defensive. Practice listening to non-verbal cues and get verbal feedback if there is any confusion or ambiguity.


While non-verbal feedback is inherent to the form of CI, spoken words can deepen our understanding of each other and create more satisfying and safe connections. You can request to give or receive verbal feedback whenever you feel called to, i.e. during a dance, immediately after a dance, or after jam/class.


As sexual beings, the question is not whether sexuality is present, but how it shows up, to what degree it shows up, and how is it held/expressed in the dance. For some, a distinction between “sensuality” and “sexuality” is helpful, while for others the distinction is not clear. Different dancers have different tolerances and desires for sensuality in their dances. Expressing sexual energy on the dance floor is controversial; proceed with caution.

We invite dancers to show up responsibly with their full beings and we aim to create a safe place for self-exploration and expression, using CI as our container. When in doubt, do your best to contribute to an atmosphere of safety, especially for women and dancers who are new.

A good rule to follow about sexual/sensual energy in a dance: when in doubt, don’t escalate the energy. You can dance in your own energy without overtly expressing it with your partner. It is possible, even likely, to misread signals or to allow your energy to bring an unwelcome agenda to your dance.

Unwanted sexual advances and touching are NEVER acceptable. Speak up! It’s important anyone experiencing this should stop the dance and tell their partner “ no,” and share their experience with a Core Member or anyone else in the dance space that can help.


Practice cultivating awareness of your self, your dance partners, the entire group and the whole space. Even as you focus on the dance you are in, stay aware and mindful of what else is going on in the space around you.

(Are there a lot of people in the room? Are people generally horizontal or vertical, moving fast or slow? Are there people on the floor near you?) “Telescope” your awareness in and out to take in the environment.

Witnessing– the outside eye with an open heart

Witnessing is part of the form, a lot of learning occurs this way. Witnessing is a practice in being present to yourself and to those who you are watching, cultivating an open heart and a non-judgemental mind.

Please feel more than welcome to watch from the outskirts of the dance space. Everyone on the dance floor is “in” whether dancing or witnessing.


Contact Improvisation strives to be inclusive, welcoming everyone regardless of age, skill level and physical ability. We create the jam together and it’s enriched by everyone’s contribution. Be aware of newcomers and others who may be unsure how to come in.

You can always leave a dance (or conversation). Also, if someone leaves your dance, do not take it personally. You can always join a dance. Enter dances with a spirit of listening and tuning into what is already there.

Grazing is a simple, pleasurable way to experience dances. Grazing (warming up to interaction with others and the environment through a series of short connections) could last for a few seconds or a few minutes.


Children are welcome to the space and we support families introducing their children to Contact Improvisation. It is a physically risky environment & parents need to be responsible for their safety at all times. As with adults, children need to respect that the jam space is for dancing.


Music can be a wonderful gift to the jam and so can silence. Playing music for improvisational movement is different than playing for a listening audience. Sometimes people feel like they want the added support of a musical score in the dance space and sometimes they feel like the music is creating the agenda of the dance instead of their own inner improvisational impulse. In this light we ask that musicians be very mindful of the impact their music has upon the entire space and everyone’s dance within it. Learn to “read the space”, and also allow for silent spaces. When you make music you are basically introducing another dance partner into the space. Music with a less driving presence and few or no words is more supportive of dancing. Another rule of thumb is to create equal times of silence and music.

Sound and talking

Sound is a natural part of embodied movement. Sounds or words that are a part of the dance are quite welcome; and low-volume talking with a partner as a means of deepening into the dance or creating safety for yourself is welcome, for instance when cautioning your partner about an injury or giving/receiving feedback (if they have asked for it) within the dance.

However, the aim is a focused environment. Be mindful of how sound and language affect the Jam.The jam is meant for the practice of contact improvisation and related movement practices.  We encourage you to refrain from general social chatter in the dance space. Chatter pulls people out of the direct experience of the dance, and affects everyone within earshot. If you find yourself talking or sounding, you might ask yourself, “is this deepening my dance, or pulling me out of it?  Am I aware of how my voice might be affecting the other dancers in the room?”

Please keep social/casual conversation outside the dance space.

Hygiene and physical health

The physical intimacy of contact dance requires extra precaution to prevent spreading illnesses. Don’t come to class with any contagious infections e.g. colds or flu. Cover open wounds, cold sores, warts, etc.

Wash your hands thoroughly before and after dancing. It’s particularly important to wash well before you come. Consider your dance partners. Come in fresh clean clothes. If you sweat a lot, bring a towel and fresh t-shirt. Keep toenails and fingernails trimmed.