Riding a Peacock Feather

A sensational exercise for joining 2 bodies in flow, balance, momentum & weight

Contact Quarterly 1977English
Contact Quarterly Vol.2 No.3 (Spring, 1977): 26.

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Contextual note
The PDF of this document can be found here.

BASIC MATERIALS: Peacock feather (length can vary, 2 feet or more is good); as large an uncluttered, high ceilinged, undrafty space as you can find; yourself.


GETTING READY: Standing relaxed and balanced on your own 2 feet, balance the feather on its end in the center of your outstretched palm a comfortable distance from your body.


GOING: The idea is to keep the feather aloft and erect on your palm for as long as possible. Allow the falling motion of the feather to lead you into movement. Follow the feather through space and initiate movements ONLY m order to maintain the mutual balance of the feather and your body.  Scan your body for unnecessary tension particularly in the neck and shoulders.


ENTRANCES AND EXITS INTO FLOW: For 2 or more people, and one or more feathers.

Get ready and going. Now pass the balanced feather to another person. There are innumerable ways to do this. One way is to lightly toss the feather straight up, take your hand away as quickly as possible, while Person 2 catches the end of the feather in her/his palm from underneath.  Another way is to spill (instead of toss) the end to another’s waiting palm.

Passing feathers around reminds me of a group structure Nita Little threw into the circle during a Contact Improvisation class in Berkeley this February. One person (A) moves into the space, person B joins his/her weight with A’s. AS SOON AS they begin to flow each other (AB), person C enters to join one of the movers (let’s say A) in the duet with his/her weight. The other movers (B) detaches his/herself from the union and becomes a spectator. “Spectator” are ready to enter a duet in any moment. The transformation of roles from spectator to mover and back again is swift and smooth making it possible for any number of people to engage in one continuous duet.

In the above description, the mover who remains in the duet, passing from one partner to the next can be seen as the “feather”.

“Becoming a feather” was not the title of this piece, thought I admit the possibility that with focus & discipline (and potent suggestions) anything can happen.