Document Type

Journal Article


Proximity Magazine Inc.


Faculty of Education and Arts


School of Communications and Arts




This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of: McKenzie, V. (2011). Agent Provocateur, proximity magazine: contact improvisation, new dance, movement improvisation, 14(3). Access information on publisher here.

Later republished as:

McKenzie, V. (2012). Agent Provocateur, proximity magazine: contact improvisation, new dance, movement improvisation, 15(1), pp. 27-30. Access information on publisher here


Background: ‘Agent Provocateur’ is the major textual work to document Felix Ruckert’s 2011 Australian visit in which he offered workshops for Xplore Festival (Sydney) and Strutdance (Perth). Ruckert is a Berlin-based dancer and choreographic artist whose work explores the edges of dance by demanding that audiences be complicit in risky performances. The article investigates Ruckert’s work as it relates to contact improvisation and questions of sexual overtones that trouble that performance form. As a dancer and researcher I use archival and field research and self-reflection to ask: does physical and emotional risk in a workshop lead to better performance outcomes?

Contribution: The article advances research on emotion in dance by illustrating how Ruckert’s approach to contact improvisation enriches the emotional repertoire of dance artists via the abject categories of pain and discomfort. In addition I investigate his unique view on contact improvisation as a form of folk dance. This moves the question of sexuality and risk beyond technical considerations and makes it also an ethnographic consideration, building on Novak’s seminal study Sharing the Dance: an ethnography of contact improvisation (1986).

Significance: First published by contact improvisation, new dance, movement improvisation in 2011, the magazine republished the article in 2012 with a statement illustrating how it extends research in the field: ‘[it] asks that uncomfortable question about the limits of CI: as a community, how do we draw the line between sexuality and sensuality in the dance, and are we fooling ourselves to imagine there is one? These liminal spaces at the edge of contact feed the development of the tradition, but how do you sustain a practice?’

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