Contact improv in Madrid’s Tabacaleras artistic community
2018-02-01 16:55:00 -

Deirdre Molloy’s Dance Odyssey, is a blog by Deirdre Molloy about a unique opportunity – a sabbatical to travel the world and dance for a year. Previously she stepped on the streets of San Sebastián, moved to the blues in Barcelona and made a new friend in Lisbon; this time she continues her adventures in Madrid…

Spanish municipalities have supported the development of abandoned industrial relics into active hubs of creativity. Some are former tobacco factories, like Tabacaleras, which houses a living, breathing art community.


As soon as I passed through the unmarked doors into this furnace of creativity, I felt relaxed and at home. My Cuban friend Liz said she had never seen anything like it, and it was a pleasure to share this discovery with her.


To get the dance studio, we traversed a cavernous room of giant murals into a corridor of spectacular street art, past booming reggae and African DJ dens, out into the yard. A few oil drum fires burned, and people gathered around to keep warm, under the gaze of Alfred Einstein. If only he could see his two-metre high portrait, spray painted on old wooden gates; he would laugh at the cheeky reflection with its tongue out.


We entered a building called Molino Rojo (Moulin Rouge) and passed through the circus room with its hanging trapeze and jugglers. We arrived in time to witness the ritual cleaning of the studio floor. 


Liz had never tried this dance style before, and said she felt shy. She gave me a reproachful look when I said that I did not know anyone here. “It’s just like any social dance,” I explained, “you don’t need to know anybody. And we have each other.”


We took off our shoes and joined in a guided warm up, then Liz sat and watched while I joined the jam. I connected with a novice female dancer. After my first dance, I invited Liz to come and join me. Whispering, I taught her some basic moves and safety. After a few minutes, she looked a bit lost. I said: “To simplify, you can concentrate just on this kind of touch.”


We were sitting on the floor and I slid my arm along hers. “I’m going to cry”, Liz said. “You can cry,” I replied, and I gave her a hug. “If you cry I’ll cry.” We hugged and cried for a short few minutes. It was sweet. Then we continued dancing. 


Liz started to enjoy herself. “Es muy rico,” she said, rolling over my belly as she started to understand body surfing.


This big, busy dance room wasn’t very friendly, so I was really grateful for her company. Fair play to her, Liz really gave contact improv a proper go. 


When Liz tired of this new and intense experience, I continued on my own. My next dance was a fluid series of spirals over and under a very supple man – fun, but his pace was too fast to vary and explore. 


Liz waited patiently beside the dance floor, despite the cold. When I asked if she was okay, she said that she was enjoying watching the beautiful dances. Certainly there were some advanced moves playing out, quite a lot of aerials in the confined, dynamic space.


At about 9.30pm, we put on our shoes and winter woolies, and stepped out into the corridor. Passing through the room of jugglers, we went to warm ourselves by the fire in the backyard and take photos of the murals.


“Me encanto,” said Liz later, as we stepped into the cold street. “I can’t wait to go back again. This whole night has been magic. Meeting you was magic.”


Liz remembered some safety advice I had offered during the jam. In my words, she found a poetic, philosophical meaning – a metaphor of her life as an immigrant, starting from zero, alone in a strange new city.


“Dance is like life... you can play, but when you fly, you are responsible for your own weight.”

There is a contact improvisation community in Dublin. It’s best to do at least one class before attending a jam. Search Contact Improv Ireland on Facebook for information.



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