Important GUS info

Global Underscore (GUS) 2019

Saturday, June 22, 2019: 10:00 am–2:00 pm EST (UTC-04:00)

We have various costs for GUS, including making the NEW WEBSITE!
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About Global Underscore

The Underscore is a long-form dance improvisation structure developed by Nancy Stark Smith. It has been evolving since 1990 and is practiced all over the globe.
The Underscore is a vehicle for incorporating Contact Improvisation [see below] into a broader arena of improvisational dance practice; for developing greater ease dancing in spherical space—alone and with others; and for integrating kinesthetic and compositional concerns while improvising. It allows for a full spectrum of energetic and physical expressions, embodying a range of forms and changing states. Its practice is familiar yet unpredictable.

The practice—usually 3 to 4 hours in length—progresses through a broad range of dynamic states, including long periods of very small, private, and quiet internal activity and other times of higher energy and interactive dancing.    

There are 20+ phases of the score—each with a name and a graphic symbol—which create a general map for the dancers. Within that frame, dancers are free to create their own movements, dynamics, and relationships—with themselves, each other, the group, the music, and the environment. Each Underscore is unique, providing rich and often inspiring experiences of the human and artistic phenomena of dance improvisation.
Cappadocia, Turkey, 2010
Photo © Sophie Gillman
The GLOBAL UNDERSCORE (GUS) is an annual event in which the Underscore is practiced simultaneously for a 3–4 hour period by people all over the world near the summer solstice (northern hemisphere). There have been 50-70+ sites participating in GUS in recent years.To host or dance at a Global Underscore site, see Options for Participation.

Claire Filmon proposed the event to Nancy in 2000 from a desire to connect dancers all around the planet to dance and to compose together in the moment. Claire organized it until 2010 – with the help of Laura Blackburn, Aline Leclerc, and Anne-Claire Lafait, in various years. Jesse Johnson, Brandin Steffensen, Rebecca Bone, Mark Messer, and Dey Summer all played a role organizing GUS in 2011 and 2012. Brandin Steffensen and Nancy Hughes coordinated GUS 2013-2016, also with Lucy Mahler in 2013-2014. Nancy Hughes and Patrick Crowley have coordinated GUS since 2017 with Brandin as an advisor. For the most recent news on the Global Underscore, go to:

To participate in an Underscore, one should have some experience of Contact Improvisation and attend a talk-through of the Underscore, which often takes about an hour. 

For more information, read about the Underscore chapter in Nancy's book: Caught Falling: The Confluence of Contact Improvisation, Nancy Stark Smith, and Other Moving Ideasavailable through Contact Quarterly.

Here is the first page of Underscore chapter, the history of Underscore, excerpted from Caught Falling.

Here are the glyphs of the Underscore.

Nancy Stark Smith interview about the Underscore: video

- text taken from writings by Nancy Stark Smith,
created in collaboration with various Underscore groups

What is Contact Improvisation?

Contact Improvisation is an evolving system of movement initiated in 1972 by American choreographer Steve Paxton. The improvised dance form is based on the communication between two moving bodies that are in physical contact and their combined relationship to the physical laws that govern their motion—gravity, momentum, inertia.

The body, in order to open to these sensations, learns to release excess muscular tension and abandon a certain quality of willfulness to experience the natural flow of movement. Practice includes rolling, falling, being upside down, following a physical point of contact, supporting and giving weight to a partner.

Contact improvisations are spontaneous physical dialogues that range from stillness to highly energetic exchanges. Alertness is developed in order to work in an energetic state of physical disorientation, trusting in one's basic survival instincts. It is a free play with balance, self-correcting the wrong moves and reinforcing the right ones, bringing forth a physical/emotional truth about a shared moment of movement that leaves the participants informed, centered, and enlivened.

- early definition by Steve Paxton and others
1970s, from CQ Vol. 5:1, Fall 1979

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