Contact Improv:
From the Ground Up
May 11-14

Facilitated by Neva and Raffles

with Guest Teacher Christine Cole

Join us at WildHeart in the New York Hudson Valley for a 3 night/4 day immersion into Contact Improvisation (CI), with guest teacher Christine Cole.

We’re going back to the 1970’s groundwork of contact improv. How did they explore before they knew what CI was? Before Jams? How did Body-Mind Centering (BMC) contribute to the form, warm-ups, exercises?  Let’s go back to some of the original warmups, exercises and enter the circle.  

In this retreat we will explore some of the developmental patterns – basically baby and toddler movements, close to the ground and into-and-out-of the floor. From that foundation, we’ll ask how did people stay safe in the early days of reckless and risky dances, throwing themselves around? Christine will demonstrate these early improv practices, and give you skills to bring back some of the wild freedom of these early dancers! She will invoke her direct experiences learning from Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen and Nancy Stark-Smith, offering a refreshing take on Contact Improv today. 

In addition to Christine’s teachings there will be plenty of open jam time, CI classes and warm-ups, meditation, singing, lake swimming, indoor and outdoor dancing, campfires, quiet alone time, walks in the woods, and personal check-ins.

We will co-create the container. We will have a few open slots for classes and other offerings from the group. Everyone will spend some time in the kitchen, working alongside our chef to prepare food and clean.

We have a small studio space, so we are limiting the number of participants to 16. Because of this, we suspect this event is *LIKELY TO SELL OUT*, so please register soon to reserve your spot! Please be prepared to dance in close quarters — expect to navigate other bodies as you travel through the space!

WildHeart is a body-positive, queer, anti-racist space. By offering a variety of housing options, a sliding-scale program fee, and 2 free BIPOC spots, we hope to make this retreat accessible to all.

All levels of experience are welcome.

Learn more about Contact Improvisation at Contact Quarterly: a dance and improvisation journal


Who is this retreat for?

  • CI practitioners and dancers interested in exploring CI
  • People interested in community that is centered around non-verbal connection 
  • Anyone who’s idea of a good and relaxing time includes moving and being outside, shared meals and a community setting
  • Improvisers who want to work with other people
  • Artists who are looking for a container to study and practice within
  • Humans who want to expand 

Sample Schedule:

(actual schedule TBA)

Sample Schedule (TBC):
Mornings are in silence until 10am
7am – 8 – Morning Practice (Meditation, Contemplative Dance Practice, etc)
8 – 9 – Breakfast
10 – 1 – Guided Warm-up / CI Class / Open Jamming
1 – 3 – Lunch
3 – 6 – Afternoon Activities (Classes, Resting, Forest Walking, Singing, ect)
6 – 8 – Dinner
8 – 10 – Open Jamming

Arrivals and Departures

 Arrivals Thursday May 11, 2-4pm. We’ll have a 4pm tour, and ask some folks to join for 5pm dinner prep, before a 6pm welcome dinner!

Departures: Sunday May 14. We’ll have a closing jam 10am-1pm, with a break for people to pack their bags before an optional, informal leftovers-lunch 2-3pm. Departures anytime after 1pm… 

“Come early” bonus option: arrive Wednesday May 10th for an extra workshop with Christine on Wednesday.

and/or “Stay late”: depart Monday May 15 to join the WildHeart Community CI Lab and Jam and stay an extra night at WildHeart. 

Participant Feedback from last Winter’s Jam

WildHeart is the most loving, support place I’ve yet encountered <3
The dances were filled with joy and opportunities for self discovery. I learned more about CI at this jam than I have elsewhere. The teaching was offered in a way that I didn’t feel constricted or held to the “right way”. You gave me CI tools that I can experiment with, make my own and most importantly have fun with. It boosted my confidence in the dances which kept me mostly out of my head.
WildHeart facilitated a space that felt inclusive, liberating and autonomous. I felt that I belonged and I was able to arrive as myself. Each offering invited freedom of movement, self expression and sharing. It was the first jam where I felt agency around my time and my choices.

About Your Hosts


Raphael Sacks (Raffles) is a dancer, singer and theatermaker, born and raised in NYC (they/them). Internationally, they’ve performed with the English National Opera in London; Loom Ensemble’s annual performance season in Dubai, three summers with Theater Slava in Stockholm, and with the Art Monastery Project across Italy, Belgium, Sweden and Berlin.

Some New York highlights include BAM with Meredith Monk, Lincoln Center with Urban Research Theatre, New York Philharmonic with Constellation Chor, and La MaMa with Loom Ensemble. Since childhood, Raffles has followed a clear calling to play in the dirt, conjure fantastical worlds, and bend default culture.


Neva Cockrell is a professional dancer and interdisciplinary artist.

She danced and toured with Pilobolus from 2016-2019 and began serving as Dance Captain and touring to Germany, Switzerland, Austria, China, Mexico, Israel, Dubai, and within the US. She is also a writer/director/choreographer who uses dance-theater as a tool for social change working for more than a decade with her own interdisciplinary company, Loom Ensemble. Her life path is deeply grounded in communal living, body-based activities, art-making, being outside, and contemplative practice. She has been dancing Contact Improv for 15 years, and is passionate about the overlap of somatic work and breaking down systems of oppression. 

 Christine Cole found CI in Freiburg in 1981 and has continued this practice and research to  this day, in teaching, collaborations and performances. She became a teacher of BMC, teacher of CI and lived in Western Massachusetts, where both Bonnie Bainbridge-Cohen and Nancy Stark Smith resided, therefore having access to both leaders in their field. 

She runs SomaticBODY trainings in Europe, Israel and the USA and teaches Somatics using CI  – all this time, as a versatile, alive, movement technique that is based on relating through movement, momentum,& timing. In her teaching Somatics must not be stripped of action, but allow for ALL human ways of being in the world to be expressed and supported. Her Workshops wake people up, create present moment 3 dimensional responsiveness.

Retreat Location

WildHeart is located on 46+ beautiful acres in the Hudson Valley, ancestral homeland of Schaghticoke and Leni Lenape people. Guests at WildHeart have the option to stay in a single room, double room, dorm, or camping. All options have access to shared kitchens and bathrooms. Daily events will take place in the studio, shared common spaces, and outdoors. Retreatants are welcome to enjoy the lawns, walk in the forest, and swim and boat in the lake during their stay! More info about directions and transportation options here.

A note on food

We are able to accommodate most diets. We serve meat and dairy daily, and always have vegan and gluten-free options available. If you send us your dietary preferences in advance, we will do our best to make sure there is good food for you at each meal! All living accommodations have access to a full kitchen (separate from the main/commercial kitchen). We will provide breakfast groceries for you to prepare and eat on your own. Lunches and dinners are communal shared meals. Drinks include: coffee and tea, dairy and non-dairy milk, lemon and lime juice for water, red and white wine.

Retreat Costs (program fee + accommodations fee)

If you have any questions or concerns about pricing, or need help registering, please do not hesitate to reach out.

Program fee (separate from housing+food)

Sliding Scale: $99-400 for the entire weekend which includes all offerings (TBD) such as: 

  • Open jamming
  • Meditation / Contemplative Dance Practice
  • A variety of classes
  • Walking in the forest
  • Campfires
  • Cold plunging in the private lake
  • Facilitated workshops
  • Access to the land and spaces

Housing & Food Costs

Accommodation costs depend on which housing option you choose:

All amounts below are all inclusive for housing and all food and beverages:  
  • $380 Single Room in the main guesthouse or in a two-bedroom cottage
  • $230 Double occupancy room (shared with 1 other person) in main guesthouse or two-bedroom cottage. 
  • $170 Dorm room or camping

To learn more about WildHeart’s accommodations please visit our accommodations page.

“Come Early” Option $80 Includes the workshop with Christine, plus food and housing Wednesday night.

“Stay Late” Option $60 Includes the Lab and Jam, plus housing Sunday night, dinner Sunday night, and breakfast Monday morning. 

Get Updates

Find out about WildHeart happenings!

Get Updates

Find out about WildHeart happenings!