Guidelines for Boulder Contact Lab

The Boulder Contact Lab is a place for ongoing personal exploration and deepening through the form of Contact Improvisation. We call this venue a “lab” as opposed to a “jam” because we set an intentional space for people to experiment and explore and we invite dancers to communicate, with the group as a whole and with their individual partners, anything that is needed in order to further deepen into their dance.

Here are our guidelines to support the dance and to help promote safety and enjoyment in the space:

Cost. The cost to participate in the Lab is a sliding scale fee of $5.00 to $10.00. This fee covers the cost of renting the space, additional workshops, teachers, hired musicians and speakers hosted by the Lab, and community requests as they arise. We ask that you pay the fee as close to the beginning of Lab as possible.

Location:  The Lab takes place at various locations week to week.  Sometimes at the Avalon Ballroom (Tango Studio) and sometimes at the Boulder Circus Center.  Please check the website calendar ( for this week's location!

Beginning and Ending. The Lab begins promptly at 10:00 am and ends at 12:30pm. During the first and last 15 minutes of Lab there is a facilitated sharing circle.

We strongly request that you arrive on time and stay until the end whenever possible. We find that participation in the opening and closing circles creates group cohesion, personal safety, and deepens our dances. In the circle we invite you to speak your intentions for the Lab, communicate 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 or be fixed. We do not encourage cross talk (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.

Physical Safety. Contact Improvisation is inherently risky. Serious injury, though rare, is always a possibility in this form. By taking part in the Lab you acknowledge this fact and take responsibility for your own safety. Here are some guidelines for safety:

  • Know the limits of your skill. While it's worthwhile to take mindful risks, don't put yourself in physical situations that your skill level does not support. You might find that doing a movement at half speed allows mind and body to cooperate better.

  • Be aware of what is happening 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? Stay mindful about what is going on in the dance space.

  • Do not allow your partner to manipulate you or push you beyond your abilities. Do not try to “keep up” with someone because you perceive that they have more skill than you. You can say "no" either with your words or with your body.

  • Take classes. We encourage all dancers in the community to increase their skill level by taking CI classes. This will help you deepen your dances, move with more confidence, and keep you safer on the dance floor. Ask any of the Lab Core Members about classes in town.

Boundaries. You have the right and responsibility to maintain your own boundaries in the dance. You have the right and responsibility to say “no” (or "yes") in the dance, to end a dance, or move away from a situation that doesn’t suit you at any time. You don’t have to apologize, accommodate, or explain. If you don’t know what your boundary is, or if you have trouble saying no in your dances, you have the responsibility to learn how to do this. If something happens in your dance that is troubling to you or feels like a violation please talk directly to your partner (see Feedback section), refraining from blaming or projecting if possible. If you need help, you can 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. If you’re not sure, ask your partners. what your impact is.  Practice hearing feedback without becoming defensive. Practice listening to non-verbal cues and get verbal feedback if there is any confusion or ambiguity.

Sexuality. Because we are sexual primates, sexuality will always be present in some way, shape or form in CI and in this Lab. 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.

Boulder Contact Lab is not the place to look for sexual partners, or for overt sexual behavior. However, we do invite dancers to show up responsibly with their full beings and we do create a safe place for self exploration and expression, using CI as our container.

If you witness a dance that makes you uncomfortable, you may choose to share your discomfort to the group or directly to the dancers. It may turn out that you are projecting/misinterpreting, you may be seeing unconscious/shadow behavior, or you may be naming unacceptable behavior. This is your Lab, and you are invited to share your experience of it.

Different dancers have different tolerances and desires for sensuality in their dances. Do not initiate sensual dances unless you know your partner and know they would welcome sensuality in the dance. When in doubt, do your best to contribute to an atmosphere of safety, especially for women and dancers who are new to the Lab.

Power imbalances and gender oppression are real phenomena and can make it difficult for people to speak up when they feel threatened or make them confused about what they are actually feeling during a dance. While this can happen to men and women, it can be especially true for women. 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 unwanted agenda to your dance. Learn to play with the edge of containment vs. expression, and check in with your partner. You have a responsibility to understand how your behavior impacts your dance partner and the dance space.

Unwanted sexual advances and touching are NEVER acceptable and anyone experiencing this should stop the dance, tell their partner “no," or share their experience with a Core Member or anyone else in the dance space that can help.

Feedback. A great way to get what you want from your experience at Lab is to give and receive verbal feedback whenever you feel called to. This can happen during the middle of a dance, immediately after a dance, after Lab, etc. 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. Give/ask for feedback in your own way, our use our suggested script as a model to get you going:

  1. What I really liked about our dance was _________.

  2. Something that was challenging for me was _________.

  3. My request is _________.

Children. We welcome children to the space and support families introducing their children to Contact Improvisation. The Lab is a physically risky environment and parents need to be responsible for the safety of their children at all times. Also, while many people love children, some people find their energy and behavior a distraction, especially in verbal sharing times. Please be mindful of this.

Music. Music can be an amazing addition to help support the dance. It can also be a hindrance.  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”.  When you make music you are basically introducing another dance partner into the space with which dancers must either contend or move.  Generally speaking, music with a less driving presence and few or no words is more supportive of dancing at the Lab.  Another rule of thumb is to create equal times of silence and music in the Lab.

Sound and Talking. Sound is a natural part of embodied movement and is welcome at Lab. Talking as a means of deepening into the dance is also welcome in the space, for instance when asking your partner to pursue some interesting facet of movement or giving/receiving feedback. However, we request that general social chatter be done off the dance floor or even outside of the entrance lobby. Chatter pulls people out of the direct experience of the dance.  If you find yourself talking, please ask yourself the question, “Are my words deepening my dance or pulling me out of it?”

Physical Health and Contagious Infections The physical intimacy of contact dance requires extra precaution to prevent spreading illnesses. If you know or think you may have an active contagious infection that can be passed by respiration (coughing, sneezing, breathing), skin contact or through sweat, saliva, mucous, or tears, do NOT come to Lab, even to sit on the sidelines. This includes contagious infections such as MRSA staph infection, bronchitis, and the flu. Cold sores (oral herpes) and open wounds, cuts, or abrasions also require special precaution. Following the Center for Disease Control's (CDC) guidelines for preventing infections among athletes in high-contact environments, we recommend the following to all dancers:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly before and after dancing and after touching your nose or using the restroom (or use hand sanitizer as a second-choice alternative).
  • Cover open wounds, cold sores, warts, etc., securely with tape and bandages so that they do not come uncovered during dancing. Then, wash your hands thoroughly before coming in contact with others or with shared surfaces, such as the floor. 
  • Wash your dance clothes and knee pads after dancing, preferably drying them completely in a dryer.  Don't share your dance clothing.
  • Do not attend Lab if you have MRSA or related staph infections. When you are no longer infectious, please obtain a doctor's written note that states you are no longer infectious and contact the Core to discuss your situation.

Website:  The Boulder Contact Lab website is

Core Members. The Boulder Contact Lab is organized and facilitated by the Core.  Feel free to find any of us on the dance floor, or email us, if you have any questions or concerns about the Lab. While we are technically in charge of holding the space, the spirit of the Lab is truly contained and maintained by the community as a whole. We feel deep gratitude for every dance and dancer that enriches our collective exploration!

  • Alicia Grayson
  • Bea Runyan
  • Betsy J.
  • John Caron
  • John Ould
  • Luke I.
  • Pavandeep
  • Ryder Turner

We welcome the larger dance community to use and adopt these Guidelines for their community, events and needs.  Please clearly reference and/or give authorship credit to the Boulder Contact Lab.  May we continue to co-create fun, safe, and strong containers to dance and explore.

  (updated June 2015)

The Guidelines in Contact Quarterly!

The Boulder Contact Lab is proud to announce that the Guidelines were featured in an article in Contact Quarterly

Page 38, in the "Still Moving" section.
Check it out!