CONTACT CONVERSATION: it starts with a handshake
To open up the space for communication to be possible, you have to embody trust.
This workshop aims towards an enhanced understanding of the potential of touch and trust.
Of touching and being touched by someone other, while “donating an important aspect of
yourself and trusting someone else to manage it for you” (Steve Paxton 2018)
Let’s reflect on whether as a dancer, actor or musician in an improvisation, you always have
to say “yes” and acknowledge the impulse being offered. Let’s think beyond what happens if
a partner is unwilling or unable to say “yes”.
How does one continue?
Is it possible to introduce a different vocabulary for developing movement patterns that go
away from conventional acceptance of impulses offered, and that challenge our linear
understanding and practice of contact improvisation?
Starting with the simple handshake, which functions as the physical point of entry,
progressing from a safe space to a brave space.
Interpreting the touch impulse of the other, not only as an indication of where to go, but
also as an invitation to be allowed to choose otherwise, reflecting authentic human
dialogue, building from simplicity to virtuosity.
Developing a language with a rich vocabulary and syntax of “what-ifs” – interference, re-
direction, contradiction, surprise, avoidance and acceptance – all of which are allowed as
options for intercultural conversation.

Darrel Toulon 


Born in Dominica (Caribbean) in 1964 and moved to Europe at age 17. He has been teaching and using CI as a composition tool for the past quarter-century in diverse global locations. His current research is about creating conversation platforms for the silenced and under-privileged, to engage and include audiences in shared performance spaces with professional dancers, actors and singers as well as everyday experts. He concentrates on developing trans-disciplinary projects at the intersection of performance art, politically relevant theatre and academic research, working with marginalized populations particularly in Bosnia and Uganda, since 2018. Darrel is Founder and Artistic Director of the alpha group (Austria) and teaches Dance Arts at the Anton Bruckner Private University in Linz. He is frequently invited to give lectures on his work with vulnerable populations, and organizes conferences and workshops, which bring together experts from the disciplines of dance, psychology, politics and contemporary history. Darrel Toulon was awarded the First Austrian Dance Production Special Prize (2002) for successfully modernizing the dance company of Opera Graz, where he was Ballet Director from 2001 until 2015. He was Jury member for several international choreographic competitions. He was awarded the Styrian Golden Cross of Honour in 2016.