What is the Underscore?
Our intention is to use the Underscore as an inspiration for the group interaction to develop deeper and wider awareness.
The Underscore is a long score for jamming/composition/contact/improvisation. The Underscore guides us through a progression of “changing states” of body and mind—from solo sensitizing to gravity and support, into group circulation and Contact Improvisation engagements, opening out into whole room compositional awareness and interaction, and back to rest and reflection.
Developed by Nancy Stark Smith the Underscore is a popular practice among contact dancers all around the world.
Global Underscore was initiated about seven years ago and has been practiced annually on the summer solstice. In this structure CI groups from all over the world meet to hold simultaneous Underscore practices – connecting our experiential wisdom and our growing community.
Nancy Stark Smith first trained as an athlete and gymnast, leading her to study and perform modern and postmodern dance in the early 1970s, greatly influenced by Judson Dance Theater breakthroughs in NYC in the 1960s. She danced in the first performances of Contact Improvisation with Steve Paxton and others in 1972 and has since been central to its development as dancer, teacher, performer, writer/publisher, and organizer. She travels worldwide teaching and performing Contact and other improvised dance work with many favorite dance partners and performance makers including Karen Nelson, Julyen Hamilton, Andrew Harwood, Peter Bingham, and musician Mike Vargas. In 1975 she co-founded Contact Quarterly dance and improvisation journal, which she continues to co-edit, produce, and publish. Her writings appear in the book Taken By Surprise: A Dance Improvisation Reader, and her first book, Caught Falling, with David Koteen, was released in 2008. She lives in western Massachusetts.