To make Synchronous Objects, we assembled a group of designers, dancers, and scientists to illuminate the organizational structures that make up William Forsythe’s One Flat Thing, reproduced. The materials we created—animations, graphics, computer applications—are investigatory (we wanted to probe Forsythe’s choreographic thinking) and exploratory (we wanted to find out what we could see in the dance, and how we could visualize those interpretations). But perhaps above all, these visual interpretations we call objects are the stuff of collaboration, reflecting and embodying the disciplinary cross-pollination we experienced while working together to make them.

Our objects are not a substitute for the live stage performance of One Flat Thing, reproduced, but offer alternative sites for understanding Forsythe’s work and seeing its choreographic structures unfold. As he said of the objects you’ll see on this web site: “Ideally, choreographic ideas in this form will draw an attentive diverse readership that will understand and champion the innumerable manifestations, old and new, of choreographic thinking in this dance.” That, in short, is our hope for them.

Looking at One Flat Thing, reproduced for the first time raised numerous questions for our project team, especially for those of us coming to contemporary dance for the first time. “What should we understand when we look at it?” we asked. “Is this just chaos or is it improvised?” As Bill explained his methodology for designing its choreography to us, we felt an instant connection to his organizational principles, his use of spatial geometry, and his creation of visual complexity because they were deeply related to organizational systems used in our disciplines (which, outside of dance, include animation, graphic design, music, statistics, and geography, just to name a few). We could engage with One Flat Thing, reproduced as a contrapuntal composition of complex relationships, patterns, and trends.

We could, after all, read this dance. And much of our learning to read involved translating our new knowledge of it in ways that displayed our visual way of thinking. These experiments enabled us to deconstruct and communicate the dance’s complex principles of counterpoint through the language of images. We first worked to reduce the visual complexity of the dance so that we could better understand its core systems: cueing, alignments, and the movement material with which Forsythe’s counterpoint is constructed. Some of our early reductions took the form of animated annotations that called out significant alignments and cue networks. From them came charts, maps, scores, and more. Anything to help our brains to identify and organize the complex patterns within the dance.

Through persistence, teamwork, and experimentation, these early exercises evolved into the variety of objects you see on this site. Some showcase our work in annotating the dance, while others (like the Counterpoint Tool) invite interaction with its contrapuntal principles. In some objects, the visuals are the result of code that uses the data we collected from the dance. This code translates that data—raw numerical information—into wonderfully complex, abstract animations (Data Fan) or interactive analytical tools (Cue Visualizer). A few objects use the quantitative properties of the dance to empower new composition. Take the Generative Drawing Tool, for example, which allows users to paint with data from the dance.

These objects are a way of sharing ideas: about the dance, about visualizing complexity, about interpreting works of art in unconventional ways. We share Bill’s hope that, taken together, they act as a catalyst, compelling users to consider what they themselves see in the dance. Our objects have certainly played that role for us and represent only some possible outcomes of our investigations. Our initial goal was to explore, make, interpret, and transform One Flat Thing, reproduced as a way of inviting ourselves and others into the dance. It is in that sprit we share this work of exploration, which has really just begun.

—Maria Palazzi, Columbus, Ohio, March 2009