The Moment of Contact

Aikido Principles for Improvisation Performers

7th & 8th of February 2015 – 10:30-16:30 – Utrecht, NL
info on how to reserve a place, click here

Aikido is a Japanese martial art whose approach is especially enriching for movers and dancers in an improvisation context. Without having to learn fancy techniques, we can study the aikido principles – for the mental attitude of the performer, and for the crispness of interaction between improvisers on stage.

A few examples:

  • the aikido approach to being ‘on time’ and of moving ‘in one time’ sheds new light on any improviser’s wish to be and act in the moment
  • the principles of irimi and tenkan, which can be translated as two ways of reacting to and/or initiating movement, give a physical and mental approach to being reactive or pro-active in an improvisation environment. It offers two distinct ways of having crisp and engaging contact with your fellow performers on stage.

On this weekend, we will train the physical principles, which very soon will proof to also be principles of mind and attitude. Then we will apply it to free improvisation tasks and ensemble instant composition pieces. A group of improvisation dancers, composing performance from an aikido body/mind is a thrill to watch and experience.

The workshop is organised by Iris van Peppen and Dans Improvisatie Utrecht (DIU). To inscribe for the workshop, visit

Aikido training has many things in common with Contact Improvisation (strong sense of centre, flow, yielding to the partner’s movement) but being a martial art, some things are decidedly different. The fact that you work with an opponent means that timing and distance are crucial. The moment of contact, or more precisely the moment just before the contact is where everything is decided. 

As timing is also crucial for improvisation performers, we will spend this weekend researching timing, flow and making bold decisions (at the right time 🙂 ).

We will train our bodies to be physically and mentally “on time” by discerning between almost contact (when no real commitment is given to the moment), full contact (when there are no options anymore) and the moment of contact when for both imagination and physical reality, all options are still open.
In aikido, it is the moment where you either yield to your partner (becoming one) or pro-actively move in, creating a new situation. Therefore, it is also a moment that asks for unhesitant action. In dance improvisation we sometimes loose ourselves in the flow of movement, which in performance context can become problematic. Aikido training teaches us to combine flow with crisp choices and our openness/availability to ‘what is’ with the courage to seize the moment and make it your own.

This workshop is recommended for all physical improvisers who want to strengthen their ability to instantly compose, but also for aikido practitioners who are interested in dance improvisation. Would be exciting to have a mixed group of improvisers and aikidoka’s on this weekend!

The workshop is organised by Iris van Peppen and Dans Improvisatie Utrecht (DIU). To inscribe for the workshop, visit

photo by Dennis Goedbloed of

Thomas Johannnsen ( is a performer and performance maker with many years of experience in making instant composition pieces and training performers in (ensemble) improvisation. He leads the ongoing vocal improvisation project The Genetic Choir ( and facilitates improvisation research via the platform Interdisciplinary Instant Composition ( and the open improvisation dictionary .
His text- and movement-theatre background, visual/outdoor-theatre experience and the numerous projects with musicians, dancers, video and performance artists, puppeteers and actors have made him well-equipped for facilitating cross-disciplinary work and for coaching people with a big variety of performing backgrounds.

Thomas is a certified aikido teacher and holds a black belt (3rd Dan) of the Aikikai Hombu Dojo in Japan.

2 responses to “The Moment of Contact

  1. Pingback: Aikido and Improvisation Dance Performance | Thomas Johannsen

  2. Pingback: new workshop aikido/impro-dance in February ! | Thomas Johannsen

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