At this point, there are quite a few amazing contact improv labs happening regularly around the world, with different structures, visions, and ideologies. Ours isn't without its flaws, but it's proved engaging and fascinating for those of us who have been involved. It's also stood the test of time, and is still going strong every week after nearly 5 years.
Here's what our model looks like:
- A Closed Group: While we all value the inclusive nature of the CI community as a whole, we've opted from the beginning to work with a closed group, meaning that we generally don't accept guests or new members, except by invite. Our rationale is this: we believe that the ability to form a trusting, committed, and focused group is essential to our movement research. At this point, most members have been dancing with the lab for years, and that allows us a unique opportunity to build on previous explorations and dance with bodies that we're really familiar with. We do occasionally ask new members to join when we don't have enough existing and previous labbers in a session. In those cases, we make a collective decision about who to invite, looking for folks who have a solid grasp of CI skills and movement research interests that we're excited about.
- 6-8 Week Sessions: We've found the 6-8 week sessions are just about right for us to dive into a topic of interest, explore it from diverse perspectives, and synthesize what we've learned. We ask that everyone participating in the lab session commit to the full session, missing no more than a couple of meetings. It's not uncommon for a lab member to take a session or two off, due to the session's topic or to personal commitments that will keep them from being able to regularly make lab.
- 10-12 Lab Participants per Session: Given our dance space and our process, we've found that 10-12 participants tends to work pretty well. We'll sometimes go a little higher or lower depending on the level of interest and the topic. First priority goes to active lab members, then to previous lab members. If we still don't have enough folks, we'll talk about inviting someone new.
- A Clear Research Topic, Question, or Structure: We take a week off in between each session. During this week, we hold a potluck in which we process the last session, talk about CI ideas and questions that excite us, make some proposals, and come to collective agreement on a topic, question, or structure for the following 6-8 week session.
- Rotating Facilitation: During sessions, we rotate the facilitation each week, allowing different lab members to help the group approach our theme or research question from different angles. The expectation is that everyone in the group facilitates at some point. We sometimes have cofacilitators, and we also occassionally collectively decide on a score for a following week in which there will be no facilitator. Lab members are able to redirect facilitators, suggest that the lab head in a different direction, or give active feedback to the facilitator and one another.
- Collective Decision Making and Responsibility: As a group, we do our best to make big decisions together. Our research topics, direction, and session length and participants are all decided collectively. The lab doesn't have a leader or head organizer. We split the cost of studio space equally, with no one making a profit.