A critical step within multidisciplinary collaborative work involves establishing a consistent group vocabulary or taxonomy to name what we are talking about.  This must be followed by establishing agreement within the group about the term and its meaning.


We are currently working on framing the “story” we want to tell about the choreographers’ work.  As part of that process we have begun to identify elements that we observe in the choreographic ideas of Bebe and Thomas’s work.  This naming of elements is to help us to communicate within our working group.  Some of the terms come through in discussion and some were pointed out and given terms by the choreographers and/or their dancers.  In the initial stage we are concerned with the naming and visual identification. We will eventually consider how the vocabulary will communicate with the intended audience for the project.


In the Synchronous Objects project a long history of a vocabulary specific to One Flat Thing, reproduced existed within the company.  This is typical for the way dances come to be.  Elements get named with an insider vocabulary that helps the dancer and choreographer to be able to recall it and reference it.  This vocabulary can be expanded as the choreography lives on and the dance is passed through different dancers who learn the piece at different times.


Differing vocabularies have long been a stumbling block in collaborative, multidisciplinary teams where people tend to use different terms to describe a similar concept, depending on their backgrounds, training and experiences.  And because we need to be able to discuss the work at the originators level, at the team project level and at the intended audience level we are now in the process of creating a vocabulary and its definitions that will enhance our communication about these choreographic methods that we are focused on illuminating.


The process looks like this:

Identify “things” through discussion and observation Get vocabulary from the originators and work with movement analysis experts on naming and term conventions compile the vocabulary and identify and consolidate differing terms for like meanings*  Return to originators to confirm the “things” and their meanings  find visual examples of “things” to confirm that we share the same meanings  formulate ideas for new names and attach text definitions and visual examples to each  share new names, definitions and visual examples with originators and project team  refine naming and definitions based on discussions with originators and project team  finalize vocabulary to share with intended audience demographic for user testing  refine naming and definitions based on discussions with intended audience demographic  share changes with originators and project team  accept final vocabulary and definitions.

* indicates our current stage


Having used this approach in prior multidisciplinary projects we have come to recognize it as an essential part of multidisciplinary collaboration.  I am currently working on another project with colleagues from Nursing and Engineering and the same need arises during different stages of the process.

– Maria