Communicating through touch – we have cats …

It feels a bit embarrassing to write about our cats in this blog that has a main focus on dance, the moving body and teaching and learning. Anyways, I dare it and it won’t be too long …

I am not really an animal person. I like the animalistic part of the moving human body, it’s juicyness, it’s lack of hesitation and it’s clear gut-intentions. I like to see animals in the ‘wild’, or at least outside without being fenced in. My wife and my boy love animals, also pets, and I love my wife and my boy. So we have two cats since two years. And I like them surprisingly much.

For animal-lovers it’s obvious, for people like me it is not: Our cats are such characters. And interactions with them is sometimes so close to what we do in Contact Improvisation. Words are useless. Movement and touch is the language, spacing, timing, clarity of intentions, the ability of letting go of plans, softening desires, patience – checking in what’s up, where are we right now? The real meetings feel like coincidence. We can’t make them. We can only open up to notice when an encounter wants to deepen.

I just had one of these moments: Elvis, our black and white cat, sat next to me on the dirty clothes basket. Reaching out for me with a paw. I held his head in my hands, stroking him under the jaw, and on his forehead. He started pushing with his head, demanding a stronger touch, moving down his back. It is amazing to see and feel how his spine adjusts vertebra by vertebra to the touch, following and guiding it at the same time. The basic game is set, now we can play. Changing timing, pressure and direction of the touch. A fundamental question of the CI practice is with me: What happens if I do …?’ I can notice when the connection becomes weaker, when we are on the same track, when we develop towards something different – in a continues flow or with slight irritations. With our other cat I often end up pushing him off balance, which he fights a bit. But often he immediately dives into a different quality, offers his chest to be stroked. Sometimes I can slide him around on the floor, getting pretty wild, a bit like a playfight. Sometimes it develops into the complete surrender to the touch, a purring orchestra starts. Life on this planet would be much better if humans could purr, show so physically what they enjoy and asking directly for it, or better – inviting more of what they like.

Today Elvis finally hugged me. Standing up on his back legs while putting his front paws over my shoulder, using his whole body to get as close to me – or almost into me – as he could. It felt so incredibly similar to a human hug at its best. I felt so clearly that this is a real meeting of two living creatures, so mind blowing, so familiar, so close to what I experience in my practice of Contact Improvisation.

A remarkable thing is that the endings are simple and non dramatic. At some point it is enough and we separate. There is less holding on to the exceptional. As if there is an intuitive knowledge that bliss is happening in the moment, and it is utterly silly to try to hold on to it. That’s how we kill it.

So I start my day being happy about having these furry contact teachers around me.