Detroit Jam 2014

Feb 28 – Mar 2, 2014 with Shel Wagner Rasch


“Dynamic Impressions of Collective Dances in Detroit Jam” by Lucía Naser for CQ delves deep into our co-created experience of the Detroit Jam 2014, along with Miguel’s Photographic evidence of the proceedings.



Jammin at the Phoenix Center, Ann Arbor
Jamming in SE Michigan

The Detroit – Ann Arbor Contact Improv dance community welcomed over a 100 dancers to our annual Winter Jam around the theme of Dynamism, including:

  • Vibrant dance exploration with contacters from coast to coast
  • Lots of open jam time
  • Workshops (fundamentals & advanced)
  • 2 beautiful, accessible dance spaces (ballroom & studio)
  • Abundant healthy organic snacks
  • Dancing to live improvisational music
  • Musicing to live improvisational dance
  • Sumptuous Lunches
  • Guided group warm-ups
  • Silent Jams
  • Affordable registration
  • Housing with local dancers
  • Work exchange scholarships
  • Frivolity
  • One-on-one instruction (just ask)
  • Connection, collaboration, community!

This event was completely volunteer run!

Shel Wagner Rasch  facilitated our explorations around our theme of Dynamism and offered these workshops:

Setting the stage for dynamic dances, we will employ our curiosity to playfully explore core Contact Improvisation principals: connection, flow, grounding, supporting/giving weight, taking care of yourself and having the dances you want to have. This class will introduce brand new dancers to the form and re-invigorate those with more experience.

Calling into play our whole sensorium, we will explore the interpersonal dynamism that emerges when we evoke our inner tricksters. We will PLAY with surprise, rhythm, opposition, exaggeration and especially resistance to create dynamic, fun and powerful dances.  Connecting honestly to ourselves, the ground and each other, we will challenge ourselves to remain curious, direct, and adaptable while creating a dance full of surprises.

Building on our solid foundation of connection, grounded-ness, support, and flow, we will take the dance into the air. After practicing safe and effective techniques for both supporting a rider and riding a supporter, we’ll take flight by offering and enjoying the often surprising, always thrilling small rides. Then, taking it to the next level, we will explore the physics of force, resistance, and momentum as tools to keep the dance flowing into and gently out of the air.


Shel Wagner Rasch, our special guest facilitator, is a Los Angeles-based Contact Improv dancer, teacher and producer. She teaches Contact at UCLA, and over the past decade has been a featured guest artist at workshops in multiple college settings, festivals, and studios, including the West Coast Contact Improv Festival and, in its most recent incarnation, WCCIJam. Her scores and choreographies have been widely commissioned and she is a recipient of the Lester Horton Award for Excellence in Choreography. Shel currently co-hosts the Eastside Lab Jam in Pasadena and has a private practice in Los Angeles as a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner, Alexander Technique teacher and Pilates instructor. She also collaborates with her husband, animator Justin Rasch, making stop motion animated short films.


How You can Help our Volunteer-Run Event

Westcoast meets Midwest duet at 2013 Ann Arbor Jam


Let’s get a dozen States & Provinces representing in The D!

Share your home:
Can you offer housing space near Detroit for delightful out-of-town dancers? How about your friends & neighbors?  Let us know what you can offer and how many people you can accommodate.

 Fill an Organizing Team Role:

  • Deco Dynamisist: manifest visionary artscape in the Great Room.
  • Legal Eagle:  prepare liability waiver doc; 2) determine other legal needs, if any.
  • Photo Phantasmatist: Document the doings and dancers with high quality imagery.
  • WSU infiltration: alert & recruit WSU dancers

Be a Jam Host:
Are you a very experienced dancer willing to give some focused attention to creating a welcoming, encouraging environment; reaching out to new dancers; offering some 1:1 instruction?  Talk to us.

Volunteer for a Task:

shel wagner rasch dancing

  • Friday Setup/Cleaning
  • Registration Desk
  • Doorkeeper
  • Snack tender
  • Lunch steward
  • Runner
  • Parking Monitor
  • Facilitate guided warm-up
  • Facilitate opening ceremony
  • Facilitate closing ceremony
  • Facilitate surprise activity
  • Sunday Cleanup

If you’re feeling abundant, extra money will support work-exchange positions, scholarships,  and also make other things possible (paying musicians, great food, et cetera).  Part of the vision for the jam is to keep it affordable and accessible.


Musical Soundscapes

Musicians will be improvising at times along with dancers with the intent of creating an artistic exchange.  Usually we dance to music but in this case musicians will also be musicing to dance. We are delighted to welcome:

James Cornish (trumpet, violin, flute)  has established himself as a leader on the Detroit improvised music scene.  He works in many different contexts, sometimes collaborating with noise and rock musicians, but is best known for his uncompromising commitment to contemporary spontaneous compositions.  He often collaborates with dancers and visual artists in interdisciplinary contexts and has created musical settings for contemporary poetry in his Short Opera projects. Cornish is the recipient of state and national arts grants, including American Masterpieces: Three Centuries of Artistic Genius (2009). He was commissioned to compose a series of dance pieces in public spaces in Detroit (2011).

Jordan Schug is a cellist in the Detroit Area. He studied both jazz and classical music at the University of North Texas (ranked one of the top music schools) then returned to Michigan to continue his professional music career.  Also well known as a Jazz Double Bassist, Jordan has performed at the Detroit Jazz festival for the past three years in a row. He has shared the stage with many world class musicians, and is currently attending the University of Michigan School of Music for his graduate degree on scholarship.

Jae Rowe  is an artist, drummer, and percussionist who has played with countless groups over the past 15 years. As a session musician, he has recently played with His Name is Alive and other local recording artists. The constant evolution of his work comes through in current projects including Westerbur and Rowe recordings.

Diana Nucera, world class cellist, teaching artist, and Media Maven has been immersed in the media arts and technology for over thirteen years. She has performed with internationally-renown artists such as Matthew Barney and Invincible, in addition to being a core member of multiple music projects in Detroit, including The Rarities & Stevie Soul.  Diana builds multi-media creative centers where ever she goes and is a Co-Director of Allied Media Projects managing media and technology educational programing in Detroit.



Preliminary Schedule:

Shel Wagner Rasch dancing duet
Shel Wagner Rasch dancing duet

Note the Studio will always be available for open jamming & labbing during structured activity in the ballroom.

Friday, Feb 28th
5 Arrival, registration, meeting and greeting
6 Opening Circle / Mixer
7 FUNdamentals of CI – class with Shel
9 Open Jam with improv music jam

Saturday, Mar 1st
8 Breakfast snacks
9 Quiet Jam
10 Opening Circle
11  PLAYING with the TRICKSTER – class with Shel
1 Lunch
2:30  Surprise…
3:30 Open Jam
5 Dinner on the Town
8 Warm-up/facilitation around improvising with music (Shel /Stefanie)
8:30  Open Jamming to Improv Music
Midnight: Special Midnight Jam

Sunday Mar 2nd
8 Breakfast snacks
10 Quiet Jam
11 Rides! – class with Shel
1 Lunch
2:30 Open Jam with Improv Cello
4 Ending Score
5  Closing Circle
6 Clean up
7 Dinner on town


Work Exchange

We have some Work-Exchange openings available for those in short on cash and long on dance

Shel & Stefan jam
Shel & Stefan jam

spirit. Send a statement of your needs, availability, special skills. Apply early – these opportunities are limited. You also need to register.



We will have full use of both the Ballroom and the Dance Studio at COMPÁS (Center of Music & Performing Arts Southwest) in SW Detroit, Odd Fellows Building,
8701 W. Vernor, Detroit, MI 48209
Parking available onsite & on street nearby.
Both spaces are wheel-chair accessible.



This Detroit Jam is also known as “Mini-GLACIER” as we are a regional nexus for the larger Great Lakes Area Contact Improvisation Enthusiasts Retreat (GLACIER).


SponsorsLiving Arts

We gratefully acknowledge the support of of our volunteer crew and these organizations:
Living Arts
Round Square Art

Round Square Art logo





More info on Facebook



Detroit Jam 2014 Flyer (PDF) – please share!


2014 flyer - Detroit Jam wsg Shel Wagner Rasch
2014 flyer – Detroit Jam wsg Shel Wagner Rasch