After Thirty Years

Contact Quarterly 2005English
Contact Quarterly Vol. 30 No. 1 (Winter/Spring 2005): 2.

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I strain to be concise. To not belabor the commonality of the struggle of keeping an indie dance publication alive with the struggle of improvisational dance to find a place in the dance market. After 30 years of both, I offer these thoughts:

Acknowledge CQ's beginnings: As an improvisational dance, let's say, like tango, contact improvisation is as compelling for the structure it offers as for the freedom it offers. Its proposition: How does the body think for itself? From its start in 1972, Cl was a vortex. Drew in people with a jones for moving and an urgency for communicating. They brought their backgrounds with them and everything seemed to fit in.

Contact Newsletter followed along three years later, a vortex, too, for notating discoveries along the way. Barely a year later, letters morphed into articles, writings from other printed matter were included, and, seeming more like a magazine, the NL changed its name (you can see what we didn't choose on page 22).

Acknowledge the dream: For Nancy and I (uninhibited, I dare say, by training in publishing), the next few years were an adventure of inventing (I thought) formats for an unpredictable range of writings and a growing network of dancer-explorers.

Taking instruction from the material in our mailbox, we cultivated the notion that CQ was a vehicle. That, like the body, it could think for itself. That the way it looked on the pages would continually morph to reflect the dance world it documented. That its existence would be supported in equal measure by the community it served. That this dynamic community would reach well beyond the borders of contact improvisation.

Enter Reality: Reread the last paragraph. Ambitious. Naïve, maybe. To dare to mix artistic practice with service to the field.

Read again its last two sentences. Sadly, not. For reasons known and, at least, guessable. Thirty years now, what's gotta give?

Some might say it's up to us to make this symbiosis happen. CQ has achieved (perhaps too) many things: part archive, part trade journal, part newsletter. Though less propelled by urgency (like in The Early Years), its miraculous survival suggests it serves a need, and (creaky joints aside) there's pleasure left in serving part of it. The part called "archive": tracking, through the voices of dancers, the evolution of dance practices in the last third of the 20th century. Can we take it beyond?

Proposition: Please fill out the survey inserted in this issue. If you don't, I can stop talking through my hat and get back to dancemaking. Enjoy the read.