By Daniel Climans

Luke Anderson was featured in a film called Contact Dance Every Body at the Contact Dance International Film Festival (CDIFF) in Toronto in June 2017. Abilities sat down with him to discuss contact improvisation and his role in the film.

Q. Tell us about how you started contact dancing.

A. I was introduced to it just over a year ago, at the CBC Music Festival. After meeting someone who was dancing on her own in an intriguing way at the back of the crowd, I ended up “contact dancing” for the remainder of
the evening and caught the bug. Ever since, it’s been a welcome addition to my life.

Q. Describe the feelings you get from contact dancing?

A. Contact dance has the capacity to open one’s mind and heart. Feelings are transferred into improvised movements. There’s a magic moment that happens where no one is following or leading anymore; it’s just feeling and movement.

Q. What words of encouragement do you have for readers who might want to try contact dancing but are nervous?

A. We all have different abilities and unique ways of moving around in the world. The same applies within contact dancing. There is no right or wrong structure. We improvise as we go. It’s all about putting feeling into your movements.

There’s a protocol for support and understanding of what someone may, or may not, be comfortable with. A wheelchair or assistive device can be used as a tool to play off of. Contact dance can be for absolutely everyone, regardless of their age or ability.

Q. What is your favourite contact dance move?

A. When someone is in control, standing on the back of my chair, I try to interpret their feelings. They may move their arms to the right and I follow their lead by moving my chair to the right. There’s contact communication between two people through the airspace.

Q. Describe the process of finding the right partner.

A. There’s a definite connection that happens between two people. If someone loses interest or chooses to dance with someone else, there’s this natural movement from one dancer to the next without any opinion or judgment. That’s a real beauty there, without fear of offending or leaving someone feeling abandoned.

Q. Is contact dance here to stay?

A. Yes, it’s not just a fad. “Contact” has been around for decades and, in Toronto, there’s a real ground swell of interest.

I’m quite excited to be introducing it to people who use mobility devices. They may be hesitant to try dance in general and not know how to use their devices in an art form such as contact dance. It’s an eye-opener.

Q. You have a dance partner in the film. Who is she?

A. My dear friend Laura Storey is the lady I’m dancing with in the film.  We’re compadres, close friends. We enjoy dancing together, but I also have fun dancing with whoever comes out to a dance jam. There’s a real freedom in partnerships.

Q. Speaking of your appearance in the film, what was it like on set?

A. We danced in my favourite part of my favourite building in the city, the Art Gallery of Ontario. It’s a setting that’s very sacred and special to me. It really let us fall in and allow the space to guide our movements, with lots of great turns.

Q. Any funny or awkward experiences?

A. It isn’t graceful all the time. Sometimes somebody will grab hold of my joystick (the control stick on my chair) and suddenly cause the chair to move outside of my control. That’s obviously a bit of a jarring, surprising situation.

When that happens, it just means I have to put up my protocol and remind people where they can and can’t touch on the chair.

Q. What’s next? Dancing With the Stars

A. Absolutely! That would be an incredible opportunity to raise awareness not only for the dance form, but also for how we can all be dancers.

Daniel Climans is a recent graduate from the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) with a degree in commerce and marketing. He is an editorial assistant with the Canadian Abilities Foundation.