Educational Uses Category

Synchronous Objects still touring

Goethe Institute Beijing

Synchronous Objects is still on the road showing up in cities far and wide from Beijing to Chicago and Zagreb to Bangalore. Of course you can always see it any time, any where online but The Goethe Institute has also made Synchronous Objects the subject of their Forsythe Module.

Curated by Petra Roggel, the Forsythe Module helps to share the work of Forsythe in locations not typically visited by the Company. We are doing this by exhibiting Synchronous Objects in a variety of installation formats: everything from working kiosks and interactive reading rooms like we did at the Wexner Center, Columbia College, SIGGRAPH etc. to immersive video installations that re-imagine the screen-based work in space and time as we did at ISEA-Rhur 2010 and will do next week at BADCo’s Symposium on choreography and software in Zagreb, Croatia and this summer at the Taipei Dance Festival alongside a large selection of Forsythe’s installation works.

Norah Zuniga Shaw (project co-creative director with Forsythe and Maria Palazzi) travels with the exhibitions to give public lectures and conduct interdisciplinary workshops. In 2010 the Goethe Institute sent Shaw and Synchronous Objects to the Tanzplatform and ISEA-Rhur 2010 in Germany and to Beijing, Taipei, and Tokyo. 2011 finds us in Croatia, Hungary, Turkey, Romania, India, Taiwan, Japan, New York City, Brazil, and beyond. Hope to see you around.



Sync Objects Creates Parallels Between Dance and Interior Design

Jade pic2_1
Last spring interior design students in the Industrial, Interior, and Visual Communications Department at The Ohio State University, were asked by Professor Susan Melsop to study One Flat Thing, reproduced through the Synchronous Objects website as a creative resource for their work. And this year she has decided to use the project again with her students so we thought it was a good time to share what they are doing.
Jade Naro pic2
Professor Melsop explains:
“We use Synchronous Objects to explore space making, movement, and spatial composition. Students report (this year and last) that the dance challenges them and can be difficult to comprehend at first. For them, the Sync/O site serves to unlock the legibility of the dance as subtleties are revealed and patterns made explicit.

In my course, I ask students to analyze One Flat Thing, reproduced and Synchronous Objects with the suggestion that the disciplines of dance and interior design share many parallel characteristics. Both are based on spatio-temporal conditions. Both are situated in perceptions of experience. Both use systems of organization to construct logic and creative play. Interior space making is functional, creative choreography. And the structure of a body is architecture in itself. It is a salient architectonic form that interplays with dimensions of space and time. Space itself is pliable, active and alive (paraphrased from Merce Cunningham’s video Points in Space). Breath and air are essential to the body and to the space, rendering each kinesthetically dynamic. The body in motion designs the space and the space navigates the body’s movements.

With these parallels in mind the students analyze the dance through the lenses offered in Sync/O and through their own analytical processes. They then conduct a series of transformation exercises to produce abstract spatial configurations, manually and digitally. The student models evoke the subtleties they saw in the dance. Here is a sampling from the projects completed in 2009:

This object by student Jeremy Escalera brings the collective network of communication in the dance and the spatial distribution to the forefront.

Jeremy pic 1_1

by Jeremy Escalera

by Jeremy Escalera

The sculptural columns constructed by Lisa Schmidt demonstrate the independent gestural alignment of dancers as they participate in the foreplay of cue.
Schmidt wd model 3
By Lisa Schmidt

By Lisa Schmidt

We understand through Synchronous Objects that alignments are essential to how visual relationships are constructed in the dance. In this project by Stephanie Payton alignments between the dancers become shifting landscapes of three dimensional surfaces. They create an independent architecture of form and flow.

by Stephanie Payton

by Stephanie Payton

I look forward to seeing what the students create this spring and will be happy to share the results again on the blog.” – Susan Melsop


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:

Continue Reading


Pathways through the objects

As we prepare to present Sync/O at SIGGRAPH this week, we’re thinking about pathways through the site and how we guide people when we present on the work. We most often recommend two approaches:

1. Discovery-based pathway:
By design, there are many ways into the site and therefore many ways into understanding this dance and one great way to approach it is just to beginning clicking on images that interest you and follow your own path of discovery. As you do so, notice that every object includes a PROCESS CATALOG tab (on the left hand side of your screen). Continue Reading


Sync/O at PACT Zollverein

Jonathan Burrows and Matteo Fargion
Photo: Jonathan Burrows and Matteo Fargion

Sync/O is part of a symposium this week called Explorationen 09. It is a really interesting group of people and PACT is a great arts center set in the midst of a refurbished wash house for the coal miners who used to make up the majority of the population in Essen, Germany. The architects who did the refurbishing have left the original tiles, mirrors, soap holders, and other features of the space giving it a haunting feeling of uses from the past. Now it houses artist residencies, dance performances (to my delight this week was British choreographer Jonathan Burrows), and symposia focusing on off-beat and interdisciplinary perspectives. Being here has inspired me to (finally) begin working on my book about Synchronous Objects and the creative research methods it required. -Norah


Laban and Dance History in relation to Sync/O: Student Perspectives

Mara Penrose, an MFA student, and Hannah Kosstrin, a PhD student in the dance department at the Ohio State University, offer insights about Synchronous Objects from the perspective of Labanotation and dance history in a recent interview with graduate student Lily Skove.
Lily Skove: Can you speak to your interest in Labanotation in relation to Synchronous Objects?
Mara Penrose: Systems of annotation represent the movement they describe. Therefore, dance notations need to be specific to the piece itself and the intended audience. Continue Reading


Lillian Skove on re-thinking choreography

I have invited collaborators on the project to periodically contribute to the blog describing their roles and interests in relation to Sync/O. This post is written by one of our graduate students in dance and tech, Lillian Skove:

“Engaging with Synchronous Objects as a choreographer, I was very interested in how choreographic thinking is a way of knowing that offers new insight into other fields from geography, to computer programming, to architecture. I was also interested in the ways that other fields shed light on my own choreographic practices and turn my understanding of choreography inside out. In the process of creating I seek to undo what I think I know choreography is so that I can be open to inventive ways of working. Interacting with the Synchronous Objects website is a chance to re-think what choreography is, from a series of actions, to an example of counterpoint, to a study of the responsibilities and dependencies among a group—and the list goes on.

Up-ending my assumptions of what choreography is has several practical consequences that are evident as I create in the studio. Continue Reading


Using and Sharing Sync/o

After being in Europe for a week and sharing the project at Spring Dance and in the Sadler’s Wells “Focus on Forsythe” festival of events, our interest in sustained dialog about the project continues. What happens after the initial introduction? Which objects draw different people in which ways? We hear often from choreographers that the counterpoint tool captures their interest. It was great to hear in london from people in the audience who already knew the project, like professor Sarah Rubidge who shared her interest in the generative drawing tool (one of our favorites). It was also nice to share the video abstraction tool with a young dance / tech presenter from Norway who wanted to explore patterns in her own work. We’d love to know more. Be in touch here on the (blog) or on twitter, we tweet collectively as and I tweet as nzshaw.


Sync/O at Spring Dance Utrecht


This week I’m in Amsterdam sharing Sync/O with a community of dance researchers called the Inside Movement Knowledge network here at Spring Dance in the Netherlands. This very interesting group of embodied thinkers is involved in a large project focusing on new ways of transmitting dance knowledge. They are dance educators, conservationists working in the visual arts on the preservation of installation and performance art works, choreographers, and academics concerned with understanding the nature of “corporeal literacy.” While here at Spring Dance I also had the opportunity to see Brazilian choreographer Bruno Belatrao’s new work “H3″ (he’ll be in London at Sadler’s Wells in May). It is a incredible work of choreographic counterpoint in a very different movement vocabulary than the one you see in “One Flat Thing, reproduced.” Watching the piece I was grateful to have had the training that this project has given my eye, I could see intricate patterns and structural forms in the piece in an entirely different way because of how Forsythe and our work with him has taught me to see alignments. I’m hoping our objects do this for others who explore Sync/O in a shorter time frame than the four years it took us to make the project. I’d be interested to know if anyone out there is noticing the ways that counterpoint and alignments can come into focus in other works and even other phenomena.
—Norah Zuniga Shaw, Amsterdam, NL