Contemplative Dance Practice
Fridays 1:30–2:45 pm (outside in Childs Park, Northampton, MA)
The Underscore is a long-form dance improvisation structure developed by Nancy Stark Smith. It has been evolving since 1990 and is practiced all over the globe.
The Underscore is a vehicle for incorporating Contact Improvisation into a broader arena of improvisational dance practice; for developing greater ease dancing in spherical space—alone and with others; and for integrating kinesthetic and compositional concerns while improvising. It allows for a full spectrum of energetic and physical expressions, embodying a range of forms and changing states. Its practice is familiar yet unpredictable.
The practice progresses through a broad range of dynamic states, including long periods of very small, private, and quiet internal activity and other times of higher energy and interactive dancing.
There are 20+ phases, 12+ connections, and 7+ aspects of the score—each represented by a "glyph"—which create a general map for the dancers. Within that frame, dancers are free to create their own movements, dynamics, and relationships—with themselves, each other, the group, the music, and the environment. Each Underscore is unique, providing rich and often inspiring experiences of the human and artistic phenomena of dance improvisation.
The Northampton Underscores are facilitated by Patrick Crowley, Sarah Young, and others as a focused space for CI and dance improvisation. The Underscore is not led with verbal cues, so the idea is that people "know" it and come together to share the practice. Participants come on time and stay for the duration, which is 3–4 hours in length. Underscores are open to people who have a firm base in Contact Improvisation (CI), have an interest in improvisation and composition, and participate in at least one hour-long Underscore talk-through. It is best invite people personally, rather than through public announcements.
A talk-through of the Underscore takes about an hour ("in-depth" talk-throughs are 2-3 hours) and are done before most Underscores (for $10–5 sliding scale for one's first time). Dancers are encouraged to come to many talk-throughs (free for repeat talk-throughs).
The GLOBAL UNDERSCORE (GUS) is an annual event in which the Underscore is practiced simultaneously for a 4-hour period by people all over the world near the summer solstice (northern hemisphere). There have been 70+ sites participating in GUS in recent years. Claire Filmon proposed the event to Nancy in 2000 from a desire to connect dancers all around the planet to dance and to compose together in the moment. There is a global in-depth talk-through of the Underscore a week before GUS and a "meta-sharing" a week after GUS. Patrick Crowley, Sarah Young, Colleen Bartley, and Nicole Touzien coordinate GUS with Nancy Hughes and Brandin Steffensen as advisors. For the most recent news on the Global Underscore, go to: www.globalunderscore.com