UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Nuances of touch: embodying and communicating nonverbal consent in contact improvisation Williams, Brynn Marie


Consent and the communication of consent, particularly in intimate person-to-person contexts, has come to the forefront of mainstream cultural discussions since the emergence of the #MeToo movement in 2017. Contact improvisation (CI) communities have also seen a rise in discussions around consent. Across Canada, these discussions have resulted in guidelines, practices, and further discussions, with the intention of clarifying the inherently messy boundaries around embodied negotiations of consent. Despite the conversations, no studies have directly inquired into the practices of nonverbal consent within a CI dance. To better understand individuals' lived experiences of communicating and embodying consent nonverbally in CI, I employ a phenomenological lens. The works of phenomenologists James Mensch (2009), Max van Manen (1989; 1999; 2006; 2014), and Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1968; 2013) guide my theoretical lens and methodology. A video-recorded dance jam, one-on-one interviews, and personal reflections inform a descriptive exploration of the nuances in signification and negotiation of nonverbal consent on the dance floor. By comparing participants' experiences of a jam and exploring moments of consent negotiation through video clips and interviews, participants’ experiences and perceptions illuminate how consent is understood and communicated nonverbally in the moment-to-moment negotiations of each co-created dance. Instances of negotiation brought to the forefront were those involving initiating, exiting, risk, play, stillness, and intimacy. Sensuous and descriptive moments of the dance bring to life the complexities, challenges, and joys of the participants’ lived experiences of consent. Findings from this study could be used to inform further research on the nonverbal communication of consent, both in CI and other relevant fields.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International