Sharing the Moment
in the most basic description, contact improvisation partners follow a shared point of contact to discover their dance. the more that partners allow themselves to follow the form - following the course of their partner and of themselves, rather than leading - the more chance the dance has to be immediate and engaging.
typical games have a greater number of more explicit rules, spelling out the play by narrowing the choices: "roll the ball down the alley", "take turns", "if you swing and fail to hit the ball three times, you're out", etc. more rules makes it simpler for players to find their way in, but limits the range of play. in particular, it limits the involvement of the players in developing rules and forms as they go.
getting people to play means creating a situation with common ground - shared activity within which they can connect. if the common ground is too restrictive, it deprives the players of open choice, opportunities for invention and spontaneity. if it is too open, on the other hand, they players lack the basis to find one another, to engage in the activity together.
contact improv's mutual following of a shared point of contact is elementary (but not necessarily simple:-) and open-ended. there is plenty of opportunity for personal discretion, but as in any form, that opportunity depends on a kind of commitment to the form - in this case, to collaborating, by following, rather than taking over and controlling, or withdrawing by not investing in the connection. mutual following offers the richness of an inter-responsive dynamic.
it's revealing that a person can do contact improv solo. you can find rich dynamics in following the activity of your own body, engaging with gravity, momentum, and the intricate dynamics of your musculo-skeletal self. that microcosm is present in multiples when engaging with a partner - following the contact point involves following your own internal activities, as manifest in the point, as much as those of your partner. the magic is in being engaged, diversely, together, and that is what ci fosters.
Respecting Boundaries has guidelines for keeping choices open in the face of real-world complications.
What People Do At A Jam describes the situation in contact improv's primary habitat.
ultimately, CI Is An Opportunity to Play.
this all begins to touch on the story of Contact Improv As A Way Of Moving.