Blackforestjam history

Freiburg was one of the first places in Europe to host a rich and vivid new dance scene.

In the early 1980s Lilo Stahl, Bernd Ka and Wolfgang Graf (co-founders of 'bewegungs-art', former 'schwarzmarkt') invited contact teachers like Laurie Booth, Kirstie Simson, Andrew Harwood and Nancy Stark Smith.
They started teaching and initiated a weekly jam. This Thursday evening jam was the birthpool of the Blackforest Contact Jam.
The original founders (Annette Bertram, Eckhard Müller, Ines Heckmann and Martin Zeidler) met here and talked for months about starting an international weekend jam. Martin was school-teacher at the Birklehof boarding school and convinced the director to host this event (that was planned for some 50 or 60 people).
So it started off in June 1996. Almost 100 dancers participated. Ines fried mountains of grünkern burgers til late the night before, ... in the first year, the all day buffet was handmade by the organizers, many participants contributed something, too. Benno Voorham, from Stockholm, led the warm ups and downs, even helped us find into the dance after a very short rest at night, everybody being so tired ...

In 1997 a celebration of '25 years contact improvisation' with more than 130 dancers was the highlight of the jam. Seeing that 130 is way too many people for the space, we strictly limited the amount of participants to 110 maximum. We added one day. Benno Voorham accompanied the jam.

In 1998, Benno came again, we remember well a long small dance for warm up (hmm)

In 1999, Annette dropped out and Renate Müller-Procyk joined the team.
Charlotte Zerbey, from Firenze led the warm up, making us breathe and find our centers.

In 2000, Renate dropped out. Eckhard still made it to prepare 5 Schwarzwälder Kirschtorten for the celebration of the 5 year jubilee ... We added another day and the idea of 'study labs' for 2-3 hours one afternoon. Starting with hesitation, it ended up with everyone in smaller or bigger groups in sparkling discussions, experimenting, trying all kinds of things around CI (voice, music, CI with kids, jam organisation, video, find a score for the open stage at night, handstand, catching, falling,... just to name a few) Cathy Caracker helped to accompany the dancers through the jam with starfishes and other BMC insights.

In 2001, Martin took a sabbath year. (Pooh...!)
Thomas Kampe from London made us move our pelvises and introduced Thai massage ...(hmmm)

In 2002, Tanja Striezel joined the team. We initiated a small dance for 20 minutes facing the direction of Amsterdam, where another group of people stood at the same time, facing us, practicing the 'underscore' with Nancy Stark Smith. (wow, chills ... )
Thomas Kampe came again from London. Martin dropped out right after the jam.

So in 2003 the team was: Eckhard, Ines and Tanja. Eckhard dropped out right after the jam.
In 2004 there was no Blackforestjam.

Ines is organizing the 9th and last Jam 2005. 75 dancers came to celebrate contact improvisation in this way in this place .

The organisation of this jam has always been quite a piece of work: all around the year we met 1-2 times a month to discuss, plan, prepare. In February and April/May we had an enormous amount of work.
From the very beginning it was planned to be a safe container for the dancers to explore the form, letting them have enough freedom as well as structural support. At the same time, the organizing team didn't want to provide an allround-Neckermann-package but share responsibility.
We tried different systems like payed helpers, letting it all happen by itself (which led to frust, ... the organizers picking up the cigarette stubs in the end ...).
Later we practiced a system that was known as 'good karma jobs', where the dancers could put their names up in lists to take care of the buffet, clean the floor, help with the lights for the open stage, be responsible for the kids' space, etc. A helping crew of 3-4 volunteers (work exchange) supported the team during the jam.
We invited european contact teachers to help us by putting the jam into a frame of openness, depth, mindfullness and intensity. The musicians were well chosen: experienced in CI as well as in improvising music.
As the years passed by and experience increased, we felt much more secure about what we wanted and how we managed to approach these goals. Still many things stayed open and in eternal discussion. Like:
-How much party does man need?
-How much food does man want and need?
-Should we put chocolate on the buffet table?
-How can we balance the times with or without music?
-How much should a beer cost? And- should it cost extra?
-Should we, the organizers, offer ourselves a day in the thermal baths and can we afford a professional massage, when it's all over?
-Will we do it again?

One by one we answered this question with "no". We have other projects today. The jam scene has changed a lot so that today you can find jams almost all over Europe.
Followers who were  willing to go through the process of learning and taking over the concept weren't found.

©blackforestjam januar 2005