March 2010 Archive

Design + Dance: Communication Arts Interactive features Synchronous Objects

The new edition of Communication Arts Interactive features Synchronous Objects you can view a nice web summary here. We are thrilled to be one of 38 winners selected from 1000s of entries.


One of the goals of our project is to place dance and choreographic knowledge at the center of other disciplinary discussions. This goal is an outgrowth of Forsythe’s experience with his earlier media object, the Improvisation Technologies CD-Rom which was taken up by architects as a creative and pedagogical tool when it was published in the 1990s. Architecture is once again showing an interest in the Sync/O project but we’ve also seen an expanded interest on the part of designers as evidenced by this Communication Arts feature but also by selection of our work for the SIGGRAPH 09 Information Aesthetics Showcase and features on the Information Aesthetics blog and on And in a nice bit of synergy, our guest contributor last week, Kristin McGuire suggests the connections between choreographic and design pedagogy.

So then, if we consider choreographic thinking to be an important site of knowledge for many contemporary concerns in other fields how do we continue to broaden the dialog? What about choreography as form of geographic thinking, a source of knowledge for urban planning, or an important resource in gestural interface design for things like Microsoft’s project Natal or new games for the wii? For those of us in dance this may seem clear. But how do we continue to communicate and to bridge the gaps? Thoughts?



Sync/O used in Advanced Dance Theories in Practice- Lecture Series by Kristin McGuire

We are focusing our blog on educational uses of Synchronous Objects for the next few weeks. So far we have posted examples of courses at The Ohio State University but we have also begun to solicit contributions from educators in other institutions who have either written publicly or contacted us about their use of these materials. This week we feature a post by Kristin McGuire who is “a dancer and dance lecturer interested in anything but dance.”

More information about her work can be found at: – Latest Project:

enjoy – nzshaw

“Synchronous Objects was the subject of the second lecture within a trilogy, which developed ideas from the “choreographic algorithm” to the “choreographic object” to the “choreographic construction”. All 3 lectures revolved around the work of William Forsythe.

The lecture series started with the analysis of Improvisation Technologies, which provided a rich database of dance operations and instructions. I found that they could be used in order to define a choreographic algorithm and as such create a dance piece. An algorithm is defined as a precisely described set of instructions.


The 3rd year dance students were asked to “fax” a ballet creating a simple choreographic algorithm based on the instructions/operations shown in the Improvisation Technologies CD. The remark of the architect Britta Callsen who had used Improvisation Technologies as an inspiration for her own project led me to my third lecture titled: Dance is Architecture in Motion. About the shared vocabulary of seemingly opposite art forms. Choreography and architectural planning as fundamental principles of organisation. Her remark is very insightful when it comes to analogies between architecture and dance:

“As an architect I sit in front of my computer, I click through the different menus of the CD and I get overwhelmed by a glaring similarity to the interface of my CAAD program.” (Britta Callsen 1995) When I asked her to name the similarities she responded: “With the CAAD program I construct a building with lines, polygons, circles which are basic geometric figures. I click the command ‘line’ to define two points and I draw a line between them. In order to view it in the right position I take the line and turn, twist, flip it in the virtual space. It is the same operation Forsythe demonstrates on his CD when he describes the relationship between parts of the body in motion.”

During this lecture the students were asked to develop a choreographic construction using orthographic drawings of a building (see image below). As they were keen to “manifest” those constructions in a dance piece they created work based on those constructions, which turned out to be very exciting material.

Example of a choreographic construction

Example of a choreographic construction

More of the drawings as well as the dance material can be viewed on

Synchronous Objects was the subject of the second lecture in between the two I have just described. The idea of the choreographic object as Forsythe describes it seemed to sit well in between a choreographic algorithm – a well-defined yet clear and simple mathematical structure – and a choreographic construction – a complex, multi-layered, 4-dimensional construction of kinetic events.

Cueing System

Synchronous Objects was a real eye-opener to my students who said that they had never come across anything like that. Since knowing this tool they take their dance pieces apart and reassemble them on timelines; they develop cueing systems for their dancers; they look at the dance floor as a map etc. Since looking at the science inside One flat thing, reproduced they have become researchers of their own creative practical work.

Apart from the impact that Synchronous Objects had on my students I can say for myself that it clarified and thus resolved a contradiction of concepts about dance in my own mind. It made me realise that dance has left the dramatic performing arts world, which is still based on narratives. Choreography in my eyes is DESIGN as opposed to performing arts and it would be worth piloting an academic project based on a design syllabus rather than on a performing arts/drama syllabus.

Who is up for joining me on that?”

– Kristin McGuire


Architecture Course at The Ohio State University Uses Sync/O

Box Project Research Board 1

During spring quarter 2009 at the Ohio State University, the second year undergraduate architecture students participated in an Installation Studio which focused on William Forsythe’s One Flat Thing, reproduced. This studio, which deals with material fabrication, notation and fundamental representational skills, is a required course for all second year architecture majors and thus eighty students divided into five sections were involved. Professor Stephen Turk, who taught one of these sections, describes the course:

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Profiles of Architecture Students’ Final Projects Using Sync/O

Below we profile three final projects created in Professor Stephen Turk’s second year undergraduate installation class conducted during spring 2009 at the Knowlton School of Architecture at the Ohio State University. This studio deals with material fabrication, notation and fundamental representational skills. The images are from the students’ preliminary results from their research analysis and design investigations and the final installation in the Knowlton School of Architecture.

Project team: Ross Hamilton, Heather Brandenburg, Sarah Simeon, Minyoung Kim.
The Screen Machine is an installation that reveals and conceals the body. The Screens are made to reconfigure an open space, thereby inviting new pathways for people to move. Beyond reconfiguring the space, the screens perceptually reconfigure the body, as onlookers peering into the screens or gazing from a distance perceive a fragmented body as they catch sight of pieces and parts of the human form through open slits in the screens. The placement, size and design of the slits were determined by examining the cues in One Flat Thing, reproduced.

Screen Machine

Screen Machine

Ross Hamilton describes his intentions and methods in creating The Screen Machine:

“In researching the dance, I chose to focus on the interactions between the dancers that occur in the form of cues. These cues occur throughout the dance in various frequencies. As I moved away from looking directly at the connections between dancers, I began to focus on the number of dancers interacting within a certain time frame. I placed the time frames of the dance into various levels of density. I then used multiple patterns to describe these differing levels. These patterns were then used to create screens of varying porosity by translating the density of interaction within the dance to change the amount of the human figure visible through the screen. This reflects the “blurring” of the individual human figure which we perceived as occurring in the dance.”

Project team: Robert Scott, Jason Lee. Caleb Chamberlain, Emily Wright, Sameer Sharif

Cubes is an installation of performative objects, created for users to assemble and reassemble, discovering new alignments between slots cut into the sides of each module. As a system of combinatorial elements, Cubes also explores counterpuntal relationships in the space between the body of the user and the placement of a cube. Cubes was inspired by Forsythe’s use of counterpoint in One Flat Thing, reproduced, as the project team looked for moments of counterpoint in the placement, spacing, and orientation of the cubes.



Robert Scott describes his intentions and methods in creating Cubes:
“The analysis of the dance began with a study of movement and shoulder alignments. This data was then combined to form a new diagram in which the alignment lines transected the movement pixels. These pixels became voxels, and became the primitive units for the installation. I then studied the alignments and contrapuntal relationships of the dancers. These relationships form the system by which the primitives are organized. The voxels are free to be moved by visitors who essentially re-choreograph the dance with each movement. The stacks of voxels move from foreground to background, and as they move, visitors will notice alignments and contrapuntal relationships between cubes that are spread throughout the installation.”


Project Team: Jeff Anderson, Lauren Miller, Sally Cejauskas, Avery Brooks

Papers Clips is an installation that examines the absence and presence of motion, measuring the density of an action inscribed in a space overtime. Examining the entrances and exists in a 5-second section of One Flat Thing, reproduced, Jeff Anderson and his team created a map that charted the absence of a movement as a dancer exited the performing area. The strands of hanging paper clips hung above the visitors to the installation, vary in length depending on the density of movement at that particular second in the dance.

Paper Clips

Paper Clips

Jeff Anderson describes his intentions and methods in creating Paper Clips:

“I began my project by analyzing the different objects on the Synchronous Objects website. The design plots the change in dancer position over time at five-second intervals for the entire dance. This created an object reminiscent of a DNA strand, and I began to analyze it and pick pieces out of it. Eventually I created a diagram of the absence over time of each dancer from the performance. This formed the gradient upon which I based the rest of my project. I wanted to apply the gradient sensation to a hanging material, and I settled on chains of paper clips. I took apart the gradient I had made into different pieces and mapped the density in the gradient through space.”


Movement Analysis Course at the Ohio State University discusses Sync/O

Graduate research assistant Lily Skove writes about educational uses of Sync/O at the Ohio State University:

Dr. Sheila Marion and PhD students in the department of dance recently discussed Sync/O in Marion’s History, Theory, and Literature of Movement Analysis course. Norah Zuniga Shaw was invited to present Sync/O in this course because Marion sees this project as an important contribution to today’s current graphic representations of dance. Last week I returned to the class to ask the students about their impressions of Sync/O in relation to their own PhD research. Continue Reading