Motion Bank: Two

Re-imagining Choreographic Ideas

Careful Scientist Choice and Timing Analysis

Posted on June 16th, 2013

In an effort to make visible the choices that each performer makes in performing the Careful Scientist exercise, we devised a motion capture analysis algorithm to track data captured in different performers execution of the Careful Scientist.   OSU graduate research assistant J. Eisenmann designed the algorithm which is run on the motion capture files and identifies which action is happening on which arm and over what amount of time (in frames).


An example of the data list that the algorithm generates from one of Thomas Hauert’s motion captured performances of the exercise:


Who   Frame, Action,    L/R side

















After the algorithm generates the data list, we then review the motion capture file frame by frame and compare what we observe to the data list.  The algorithm makes correct identification of an action about 75% of the time and about 25% of the data list needs to be corrected through direct observation.  It is most difficult for the algorithm to differentiate between the actions we call Upper Arm Pointing and Shoulder Rotation due to the way in which values for those movements are recorded by our motion capture software.


With this data list we then visualize this data to map choices that each performer is making as well as comparing choices and timing across dancers.


In the following three preliminary choice diagrams we can see the left and right arm choices that each performer is making.  In these diagrams choice is the focus, and time is not mapped except to demonstrate the number of choices made over an arbitrary length of time.

Data of Careful Scientist Actions performed by Thomas over 213 seconds

Thomas Hauert: Order of Choices in Careful Scientist

Data for Careful Scientist Order of Choices by Sara

Sara Ludi: Order of Choices in Careful Scientist

Data for Careful Scientist Order of Choices by Sam

Samantha van Wissen : Order of Choices in Careful Scientist

An important (and difficult) part of the Careful Scientist exercise is the required variation in timing that takes place on each side of the body.  To map these timing choices for each performer we create a wave diagram that represents the timing of each action.

Key for reading the bimanual waves

The midpoint of the crest and trough of each wave represents the start of a new action, which is also designated by a color change.

In these preliminary timing diagrams left and right timings are stacked and aligned along a timeline that is marked with increments of 120 frames (or 1 second).

Bimanual timing waves for Thomas Hauert's performance

Bimanual timing waves for Thomas Hauert's performance

Bimanual timing waves for Sara Ludi's performance

Bimanual timing waves for Sara Ludi's performance

Here we compare Thomas’s timings to those of Sara Ludi’s.  These visualizations begin to reveal differing approaches to timing choices in the exercise within a specific performance of Careful Scientist.  It is important to remember that this data reveals information on only one particular performance of the exercise by each dancer.


These data and diagrams led us to start asking about the number of permutations possible in the Careful Scientist rule structure.


Building an Algorithmic Model of the Careful Scientist

Posted on June 15th, 2013

For the past several months of this project, we have been focused on understanding and deconstructing Thomas Hauert’s choreographic tool, the Careful Scientist.  The Careful Scientist is an exercise used by Hauert and his company  to develop improvisation skills and encourage reflection on human anatomy and consciousness. The exercise involves a very specific set of four actions on joints in the arms. Working within a set of constraints, the dancer generates sequences of these four actions – an activity which helps to retrain tendencies and develop new possibilities for performance.


As seen in the video above, Hauert establishes the following four actions:

  1. Changing the direction the upper arm points in space
  2. Keeping the direction of the upper arm and rotating it around the shoulder axis
  3. Extending or flexing the elbow
  4. Rotating the forearm

The constraints of this exercise are then to simultaneously execute these actions in the left and right arm, to avoid symmetry of actions in the two arms, and to work towards overlapping motion – adding changes in duration and amplitudes to stagger the start and end time of actions on the two sides.


The exercise can be performed at increasing levels of complexity. Hauert often begins by demonstrating the exercise without the element of overlapping timing – by stopping and starting actions on the left and right sides simultaneously. More complexity can be added to the task by including the legs, knees, and hips while lying in a horizontal position. From performing this exercise, one becomes aware of the bimanual nature of movement programmed into the human body and through practice is able to overcome these tendencies.


The first level of our analysis was to use the motion capture data of Thomas performing the Careful Scientist and apply it to more mechanical, robotic digital models.  Observing the Careful Scientist from an outsider’s perspective – this activity seems very robotic, calculated, and unnatural.  The robot model was designed so that each of the joints was indicative of the nature of movement it can accommodate and to remove some of that complexity and ambiguity of the human body.  This visualization made certain attributes of the actions evident, such as axes and limits of rotation which facilitated a clearer articulation of the rules of the exercise for us as researchers.


An algorithm was then written by graduate research assistant J. Eisenmann to generate the same kind of Careful Scientist data. This data, rotation orientations over time, was similar to that which we had gathered with motion capture.  In this step we define parameters of movement based on Thomas’s rules, through code. Processing was used to create the program with the constraints and limited actions of the Careful Scientist exercise and to generate ‘performance data’ comparable to that of a live dancer. This algorithmic data was then applied to the robotic arm models and juxtaposed in this video.



Comparison and contrast of the two highlighted the unavoidable ‘human-ness’ of the motion capture data compared to that which was computer generated. ‘Human-ness’ is used here in a very loose sense to include a several observations:

  • There is a difference in isolation of movement: The human data looks ‘noisy’ as it includes some natural secondary motion and sway that comes with the human body. The computer is able to isolate one single point of rotation at a time and thus appears more static
  • Overshoot and Recoil: In a world without momentum or gravity, the algorithmic robot arms can stop a motion immediately whereas with the human data there are the elements of overshoot and recoil when a joint stops moving in one direction and another action begins
  • Fluidity of Motion: The previous observations discussed also lead into the idea of fluidity in the appearance of the motion. The human arms ease in and out of actions which feel much more connected while the algorithm’s movement is more staccato in a sense
  • Data analysis of the human performance reveals ‘errors’: There are moments where dancers violate the constraints of the exercise (performing the same action on both arms, using an action twice in a row, etc.) These types of mistakes are not made by a computer program
  • Tendencies within the constraints: Human data show preference for certain actions or action sequences; also Hauert typically rotates a joint such as the elbow the full extent of rotation rather than stopping somewhere in the middle. The algorithmic version appears to have more ‘randomness’ of motion

In reflection, this visualization was a helpful tool in defining the Careful Scientist for ourselves and identifying the inner-body conflicts Hauert seeks to overcome. It could be helpful in explaining the Careful Scientist exercise for new audiences to show the rules on a simplified form such as the robot model rather than a human arm. This tool would not necessarily be conducive for communicating Hauert’s larger themes in his work and goals for movement generation to a broader audience, however.


–Malory Spicer, Graduate Research Assistant, ACCAD

Thomas Hauert and the Art of Performance Improvisation

Posted on October 19th, 2012

Inanimate objects have a very clear interaction with forces, a living body like ours can complicate this relationship endlessly.” Thomas Hauert


We are now a few weeks into the process of working with our second artist collaborator, Thomas Hauert who was in residence at ACCAD in September along with dancers Sara Ludi and Samantha van Wissen. Hauert is the director of ZOO, a contemporary dance company that performs improvised works motivated by Hauert’s “desire to maximize the creative possibilities of the body in motion and to go beyond the habits inscribed in it…”


Rather than emphasizing set choreography, ZOO’s performances privilege the emergent structures and events that evolve in the moment of collective and individual impulse and invention. This kind of work involves rigorous, long-term practice and cultivation of the mind/body connection and patterns of decision-making, perception, and action. Hauert has worked for more than a decade to hone this craft and develop training methodologies with his company for their own creative purposes but also for students of dance and embodied education.


As a creative research group, we at ACCAD are interested in the research methodologies and processes that Hauert employs and we are zooming in specifically to his body-level techniques and small group movement strategies. Our work now is to further analyze, catalog, and clarify the set of strategies we are focusing on in Hauert’s work using the video and motion capture data we gathered during ZOO’s first residency.

Thomas Hauert and Sara Ludi of Zoo Company performing an improvised "Resistance" duet.

We are also reaching out to our colleagues in the cognitive sciences to look for interesting research synergies and beginning to hone the terminology and descriptions of particular methodologies in collaboration with Hauert and his dancers.


In the coming weeks we will continue to delve into this set of processes for movement generation and into the working process of Hauert and his company so that we can eventually share this through our own inventions in the realm of computer graphics visualization. Stay tuned!


Dancer Awareness

Posted on July 16th, 2012

In response to our post Broader Notions of Two, Amsterdam-based dancer and researcher Bertha Bermudez wrote this very thoughtful reply:


“I keep thinking on what you wrote about two-ness in relation to time, space, social relations and the first main word I keeep thinking of is awareness. The act of reflection that is implied when dancing is, for me, the trigger of many of the forms of two-ness you are describing. When executing an action we are constantly busy with the path of it, or its evolution. Such a state needs of our attention to be placed on past events while executing new ones. Our present is a constant relationship between past experiences and their outcomes: potentials. We are then always split into two realities, the one we are living in and the one  being created. I think my words to you while I write , I see them appearing on the white screen allowing me to reflect upon them and take the next decision. I am in constant state of duality with my awareness of time, experience, space, goals. Dancing is based on such duality and for me movements are the representation of such mental states, where a constant flux of events is being created. Another thought is that of dance being part of a communicative act, where the need for transmission of a certain concept, state, or idea drives the need to perform. In order to communicate we need two ends, the sender and receiver, two different embodied worlds that do their best to understand each other. I find fascinating the fact that as human beings we will make all possible efforts to decode meaning. Your  comment on the dancers making choices in relation to what they consider Bebe is interested in is for me a perfect example of this. In communicative sciences this is called inter-comprehension. Something else that is super important that I see in your new project is the fact that it brings the role of the dancer to the center of attention. We have been focusing in the past projects on the perspective of the maker. Here the dancers are invited to present their role in the production of choreographic knowledge which is super important. This opens a space for a lot of new thinking and inspires new modes of defining, talking about what dance is….Thank you!!”


– Bertha Bermudez


Bertha Bermúdez Pascual is a former dancer in some of Europe’s leading dance companies, Frankfurt ballet, Compañia Nacional de Danza in Madrid, as well as Emio Greco | PC, then having turned towards work in dance documentation. Bertha Bermudez has been between 2007-2011 part of the research group Art Practice and Development, headed by Marijke Hoogenboom where she focuses on the theme Dance Transmission as a source for dance documentation and since 2009 coordinator of the Accademia section of research and education within the International Choreographic Arts Center ICK under the direction of Emio Greco and Pieter C. Scholten. Together with Maite Bermudez, Bertha is the director of the foundation Las Negras productions where projects around new collaborations between dance and cinema are generated.

Broader Notions of Two

Posted on June 12th, 2012

We started this project with an interest in working at a smaller scale then our previous project and focusing on choreographic ideas as they unfold between two people in the duet form. This was a natural link to Bebe Miller’s new work “A History” which focuses on the choreographic relationship between her and two of her dancers, Angie Hauser and Darrell Jones, over several years and their individual and collective movement histories.


As we delved into this we became less concerned with the nature of the duet per se and instead were drawn into the different movement identities, tensions, and synergies that dancers and choreographers negotiate within their own bodies and with and between each other. This is particularly evident because we are involved in Bebe’s creation process with her dancers and we are most often observing rehearsals and directed improvisations. So our focus on duets was replaced by an interest in broader notions of two, which could also include the simultaneous embodiment of two different ideas within one body.


With the number 2 comes a weighty history in western thought. Twos easily invoke age-old dualisms and binary oppositions. As an artist who enjoys philosophy and teaches critical theory to graduate students, I knew I couldn’t approach the notion of “two” in our project without acknowledging and revisiting these issues. There are the early moral dualisms of good and evil stemming from the monotheistic religions. And of course the persistent schism of mind and body inherited from Descartes. And the formulation of binary oppositions and their hierarchies as a habit of western thought: man/woman, culture/nature, human/machine, white/black, inside/outside, subject/object. As feminist philosopher Elizabeth Grosz writes, “dualism is the belief that there are two mutually exclusive types of “thing,” physical and mental, body and mind, that compose the universe in general and subjectivity in particular” but, she continues, “subjectivity can be thought, in its richness and diversity, in terms quite other than those implied by dualisms.” Grosz uses the metaphor of a Mobius strip (with a reference to Lacan) to suggest other ways of thinking about twos. And there a many other productive alternative metaphors. But for our purposes I’m interested in those that are in action. Returning then to choreography and to Bebe Miller’s work, I wonder how these dualisms are or are not re-enacted and how her choreographic knowledge might already be contributing to the richness and diversity of subjectivity that Grosz suggests.


One thing that is suspicious and pernicious about dualisms is their performance of stability. They seduce us into thinking that there is a clear and stable subject (for instance) and a clear and stable object. Or that human and machine are mutually exclusive. It takes only a momentary meditation on pharmaceuticals, gender, finance, or agriculture in contemporary life to feel those distinctions begin to unravel. It has been the work of much of recent philosophy to deconstruct these categories of being and demonstrate how richly entangled they are. But in moving through this vast review of dualisms I also came across an earlier reference through the mention of “two-ness” in a curator’s note. A little research revealed that W.E.B. Du Bois originally coined the notion of two-ness or double consciousness in 1903. For Du Bois, two-ness was a way of describing the African American experience in the early twentieth century. In The Souls of Black Folks he writes, “one ever feels his twoness – an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.” For our work focusing on dance, I’m particularly drawn to the dynamic pull of unreconciled strivings in Du Bois statement and the acknowledgment this gives to the tensions that occur in the number two.


One thing is to blur the boundaries of categories, to undo the ‘2’ and make it a big complex ‘1’. Another way is to show that the two are always connected (as in the inner and outer edge of the Mobius strip). Perhaps another is to acknowledge the simultaneity of more than one idea in the body, more than one idea in a category and the pulls and pushes at work within. A time-based approach. And while the term two-ness was coined for a very specific cultural and historical experience, it is an idea that has also had resonance for many others interested in the complexities of identity and how we negotiate and move through multifaceted ways of being in the context of our lived experiences. Two-ness is referenced by those interested in gay and lesbian identities, immigrant experiences in the diaspora, the lives of working mothers, cyborgs and so on. I find it useful as a way of re-thinking all manner of dualisms. It is not a matter of on/off in our identities and ways of being in the world but rather the simultaneous pull of more than one consciousness or striving.


Darrell Jones and Angie Hauser in A History, photo by Julieta Cervantes

photo: Julieta Cervantes

So then what, if anything, might choreographers know about this, what, if anything, can we locate in the movement knowledge that is dance to help us experience, express, and explore contemporary multi-consciousness? This brings me back to Bebe and a few very concrete suppositions.


As I mentioned, I’m particularly drawn to idea of “two unreconciled strivings” for its dynamic movement associations and can see direct links to choreographic ideas in Bebe’s work and her creation process. For example, in our first residency with the Company, Angie described moving from her own impulses as well as what she called “Bebe-ness” which can be understood as the found set of movement choices that she knows Bebe will be drawn to based on Angie’s history of performing Bebe’s work. So even in an “open” improvisation the dancer is already working within the container set by the director or choreographer’s values and is therefore embodying two souls, two thoughts. Darrell echoed this sensation as well. He makes different choices when working with Bebe than he does when working with Ralph Lemon or making his own dances. This is perhaps obvious but somehow important not to overlook. So then in the formation of choreography (the formation of choreographic knowledge?) the simultaneous strivings of the dancer and the choreographer interact in productive tensions. Ok, fine. But then of course, there is another form of two-ness at work in the dancing and that is the movement relationship between Angie and Darrel. Here we see the dancers negotiating their movement choices (can these be understood as identities?) according also to the choices made by the other.  I find myself wanting to make a diagram of the vectors and forces between the dancers, within each dancer, between dancer and choreographer, and then perhaps in relationship to viewer. That’s one place my mind goes.


On another level, I see two-ness in some of Bebe’s characteristic directorial strategies, for example she often directs the dancers to “start in the middle” of an action and to cut movement that is ramping up to the action. She works to “interrupt the inevitable,” moving dancers away from what is comfortable and taking a fall of weight and redirecting the line of action mid-way. Or perhaps even more clearly, Angie describes “bebe-ness” as frequently involving the effort to begin a new action in one part of the body while still completing another action (and its distinct timing) in a different part of the body. An arm floats softly down an established arc while a leg slices quickly through space carrying the body weight off center.  There is a two-ness in timing there as well, with a suspended timing in the arms and a more percussive impact of the leg. It is the un-reconciled nature of these strivings that gives them dynamic potential. This is distinct then from Du Bois who was articulating also the violence this enacts on the psyche, the ways in which one is “torn asunder.” Perhaps the choreographic knowledge here suggests a way to move through and negotiate different impulses without being torn but also without losing the productive tensions. I’m not sure yet. But this is where we are.



Word Cloud of Bebe’s Movement Direction

Posted on May 23rd, 2012

Norah and I have been working on establishing a vocabulary that we could use to better discuss some of the choreographic tendencies that Bebe employs in her work.  We started from the vocabulary we gleaned from our conversations with Bebe about the work and our residency with the company.  To test some of this vocabulary development we invited Bebe to direct OSU dance student Erik Speth during a motion capture session.  When directing Erik, we asked Bebe to work within the specific subset of her ideas that we had summarized.  Bebe and Erik worked with some phrase material that they had already been rehearsing for a Spring performance as well as some improv that was shaped by Bebe’s descriptive direction.


Aside from the motion capture data that we are currently analyzing, we transcribed Bebe’s verbal direction as a script and then ran that script through Jonathan Feinberg’s online word cloud generator, Wordle.  The wordle algorithm represents the most frequently used words by increasing their size.

Wordle word cloud of Bebe's movement direction

The resultant wordle for this script is clearly focused on effort and weight qualities which are also the subject of our current work with Laban Movement Analyst Melanie Bales.


– maria

Motion Capture for Analysis

Posted on May 14th, 2012

We have done several optical motion captures with Angie and Darrell.  In our January motion capture session, they were both asked to start with some improvisation as Bebe directed them towards her choreographic interests. This was a session intended to capture some of Bebe’s choreographic tendencies as a numeric representation.

3D animation interface with the skeletons of Angie and Darrell, note the many key frames (red vertical lines) that represent the data stored at 30 frames per second.

As we have found in the past,  the visual reduction aspect of motion capture, in which only the motion capture “skeleton” represents the body,  is most helpful when reading complex motion.  Analysis of the numbers, values and their relationships will take us longer.  We are currently pouring through this data, which contains many frames and layers of information on joint angles, timing and spacing.

What is optical motion capture? – Our optical system uses a series of high-resolution cameras with special strobe lights mounted in a circle around the area to be “captured.” Small spheres (markers) covered with a reflective tape are placed in strategic locations on the person. The motion capture software locates the markers through the cameras and records their location as 3D coordinates (xyz). The collected marker data over time creates motion data.

The graph shows the very dense data for Angie’s joint over time from the entire sequence of movement.

In our January residency we also worked with Dr. Alison Sheets, an Ohio State mechanical engineering professor. Dr. Sheets had been developing a markerless motion capture system with colleagues at Stanford and with her arrival at Ohio State, had continued to develop the system in her lab.  Markerless motion capture offers an advantage over an optical system, as it does not require dancers to wear special suits or markers for the capture.

What is markerless motion capture? – The dancers move within a pre-calibrated space and their movement is captured by multiple video cameras.  In post-processing, the system separates the 2D silhouettes of each person, frame by frame and can present a 3D representation of the human form from each frame.

One pose from the markerless motion capture data.

Currently the length of a capture is limited in relation to the storage space in the computers used for storing the real-time video capture.  The post-processing is a long process and results are not immediately visible during a session.  In a few weeks we hope to see the results from Dr. Sheets to see what multiple viewpoints of video and 3D representations of Darrell and Angie might provide us in our analysis and making.

Angie Hauser and Darrell Jones (L) discuss the markerless capture with OSU researcher Dr. Alison Sheets

– maria

Bebe Miller honored with Doris Duke Artist Award

Posted on May 2nd, 2012

Amazing news for two motion bank artists Bebe Miller and Deborah Hay, the Doris Duke Foundation announced its first “class” of Doris Duke Performing Artists Awards.


Press Release


21 Outstanding Performing Artists Are the First Participants in an Unprecedented Nationwide Initiative to Expand Artistic and Personal Freedom for Creative Leaders in the Fields of Jazz, Contemporary Dance and Theatre.
NEW YORK, NY, April 19, 2012 — Twenty-one of America’s most vital and productive performing artists in contemporary dance, jazz, theatre and multidisciplinary work were announced today as the first class of Doris Duke Artists, sharing a total of $5.775 million awarded in an unprecedented new initiative of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF). Each member of the first class will receive an unrestricted, multi-year cash grant of $225,000, plus as much as $50,000 more in targeted support for retirement savings and audience development. Creative Capital, DDCF’s primary partner in the Doris Duke Performing Artist Awards, will also offer the awardees the opportunity to take part in professional development activities, financial and legal counseling, and grantee gatherings—all designed to help them maximize the use of their grants.
DDCF is granting these awards as part of a $50 million, ten-year commitment over and above its existing funding for the performing arts. By the end of the ten years, DDCF will have offered a total of at least 200 artists greatly expanded freedom to create, through an initiative that makes available the largest allocation of unrestricted cash grants ever given to individuals in contemporary dance, jazz, theatre and related fields. Provided to honorees through a rigorous, anonymous process of peer review—no applications are accepted—the grants are not tied to any specific project but are made as investments in the artists’ personal and professional development and future work.
DDCF is naming the first Doris Duke Artists in the year that marks the centenary of the birth of Doris Duke (1912-1993). The 2012 inaugural award recipients are:
• • •
Anne Bogart, theatre (New York, NY) Don Byron, jazz (New York, NY) Wally Cardona, dance (Brooklyn, NY) •  Rinde Eckert, multidisciplinary performance (Upper Nyack, NY) •    Bill Frisell, jazz (Seattle, WA) •    Deborah Hay, dance (Austin, TX) •    John Hollenbeck, jazz (Binghamton, NY) • Vijay Iyer, jazz (New York, NY) •  Marc Bamuthi Joseph, multidisciplinary performance (Oakland, CA) •    Elizabeth LeCompte, theatre (New York, NY) •  Young Jean Lee, theatre (Brooklyn, NY) •  Ralph Lemon, dance (New York, NY) •    Richard Maxwell, theatre (Brooklyn, NY) •  Sarah Michelson, dance (Brooklyn, NY) •  Bebe Miller, dance (New York, NY and Columbus, OH) •  Nicole Mitchell, jazz (Long Beach, CA and Chicago, IL) •  Meredith Monk, multidisciplinary performance (New York, NY) •  Eiko Otake, dance (New York, NY) •  Takashi Koma Otake, dance (New York, NY) •  Basil Twist, theatre (New York, NY) •  Reggie Wilson, dance (Brooklyn, NY)

Bebe Miller Timeline

Posted on April 6th, 2012

As part of the Two Project we decided to construct a timeline of Bebe Miller’s choreographic work history. The basis of this artifact making was the ongoing discussion with Bebe about how the direction of her work is deeply influenced by the world around her.  Bebe describes her work as an “interest in finding a physical language for the human condition.”   The design of a timeline seemed to be an effective choice to place next to each other both world events and choreographic work to help us to better visualize how they are connected.


And of course in her newly evolving work, A History Bebe re-examines with dancers Darrell Jones and Angie Hauser and dramaturg Talvin Wilkes how their creative context has evolved within the Bebe Miller Company over the last ten years.  So it was our hope that the timeline could also function as an organizing vehicle for the Company to reflect on as they add their personal data.


To begin our artifact construction I enlisted ACCAD Graduate Research Assistant Sheri Larrimer’s (Design) help in creating a chronological structure on a large pin board at ACCAD made up of index cards and Post-it notes.  The cards were dated starting at 1986 and going to the present and pinned across the top of the board. Previous to the Company arriving for the January residency we asked each person to think about their own personal history in relationship to the Company. We used color-coded Post-it notes for various kinds of information and initially just started by listing significant world events and titles of Bebe’s choreographic works that we had in our records under the appropriate years. Once we were together in residency, Angie, Darrell, Talvin, and Bebe all contributed significant personal and professional events to the board focusing on the evolution of the working process in the Company.  We also asked them to indicate which of the listed world events had significance to them personally and to add others if needed.


Bebe Miller at the timeline.

Bebe Miller working on the timeline. January 2012.

Within the timeline five distinct categories emerged from the making that include Choreography, Vocabulary, Personal Events, Historical Events, Workshops/Residencies.


As the timeline unfolded several design issues regarding our format were raised.  The most obvious was the linear nature of the content.  In other words, even though we now had a lot of good information in chronological order it was still difficult to understand relationships and influences between the information.
Since this is an important and perhaps more complex undertaking it became a central research interest that will work with and address as we go forward. Our process and outcomes will be covered in this blog.
So, with all of the information posted, Sheri then carefully transcribed all of the timeline material into a spreadsheet for review by the Company and for use in building an online, interactive artifact – the timeline.
In the meantime I did some research into what existing software was available to create an interactive timeline that can be embedded into websites.  The two best choices seem to be Tiki-Toki and BeeDocs Timeline3D.   I decided to go with Tiki-Toki, as their design aesthetic is strong, it’s OS independent and it’s free!   We are starting to load in the data now and gather more data as we notice gaps.   I have included a screen shot of some of the work in progress.


TImeline made in Tiki-Toki

Screenshot of timeline for Bebe Miller

Eventually you will be able to access this timeline online and to see the chronological development of Bebe’s work as well as video, images and audio recordings that will supplement the materials in the timeline.


It seems important to mention here that the Ohio State Libraries are organizing a permanent archive of Bebe Miller’s materials for researchers.  This is available for study as part of the Theatre Research Institute under the direction of librarian Dr. Nini Couch.


Collaboration and Organization

Posted on April 4th, 2012

Once Bebe Miller had walked into the rehearsal space of our January 2012 residency with the Company I was reminded of the similarities (and differences) of collaborative structures in dance making as they relate to both design and teaching practices.  Up to that point, honestly, I was not quite sure how Bebe worked as a choreographer.


Collaboration in design has evolved radically in the last 20 years as we have moved from “designer knows best” to approaches we classify as “cooperative design practices”.[1]   And here at ACCAD our creative research practices and projects most often function within collaborative structures that combine multidisciplinary points of view as a way of pushing innovation through and with technology.  As teachers, we think and practice through collaborative learning ideals, which reduce the teacher’s role as the sole expert in the room and instead transform that role to one of a facilitator for group learning between both teacher and students and student-to-student.


In all of these situation there exists what I thought was my brilliant term, hierarchical collaboration.  This was how I defined the operational structure that Norah and I instinctively operated under in making Synchronous Objects.  It turns out that Andrea Lunsford and Lisa Ede discussed this term in a 1990 article on collaborative writing.[2]  As they see it “Hierarchical collaborations are projects that are clearly structured, goal-oriented, and define clear roles for its participants.”[3]  While I can provide many instances in the S/O design and discovery process that can easily be categorized within those three qualities, the definition does not encompass all that is in play within Bebe’s company structure.  The combination of some facets of dialogic collaborations along side of hierarchical collaboration strategies seems to best define the type of working structure for Bebe and her company.


Dialogic collaborations are loosely structured projects which accept and often encourage members to shift roles, and often value the process of working toward the project’s goals as highly as actually attaining them.  The most common adaptive strategy used in these cases is simply for the most experienced members of the team to keep the project in motion. As long as something is happening, dialogic collaborations can be kept fruitful for a very long time, even when collaborators are only able to contribute once or twice a month. “”[4]


Observing Bebe and her dancers at work, there is a definite and unspoken hierarchy in the room. Bebe is the external vision, the director who is constructing by observing, talking and moving with her dancers.  This operates as the foundation for the structure that will emerge as a “work” for public performance.


Bebe and the dancers commence their work by referencing memory.  By memory, I mean they rely on physical memory and experiential memory from their history together to begin exploring space, time and situation.  There is a construct or conversation that they work inside of that is setup by the choreographer.  Of it Bebe says. “It generally feels that there is some conceptual or larger (idea), different than just the physicality that is swimming around.  That then lodges in my brain and I start….  We go into a studio.  That (concept) is in my mindset and I go ‘this and not that’.  I rarely make toward a thing, like trying to answer something.  (I am interested in) an artful moment that is not just mine but for us all. All of that sort of floats together and becomes directional.”[5]


To a non-dancer like me, this interaction looks very loose and non-structured.  But soon I come to realize this period as similar to the initial stages of the design process that designers refer to as the “fuzzy front end” or the idea generation stage.  Designer Damien Newman explains:


“Broadly speaking, the fuzzy front end is defined as the period between when an opportunity for a new product is first considered, and when the product idea is judged ready to enter “formal” development.  Our understanding of the fuzzy front end is still limited. Relatively little is known about the key activities that constitute the fuzzy front end, how these activities can be managed, which actors participate, as well as the time needed to complete this phase. The fuzzy front end is a crossroads of complex information processing, tacit knowledge, conflicting organizational pressures, and considerable uncertainty and equivocality.”[6]


Fuzzy Front End

Source: The Process of Design Squiggle, Damien Newman


From within this fuzzy front end and with intention applied, the choreographer begins to guide or direct the dancers based on what she is reading in the movement.  For Bebe choreography is “less about which movement it is but about what are the parameters of the movement – when does it happen in relationship to what?  It’s how I have evolved choreographically.  Choreography is choreographing the space in time.  Not just specifically where the body is. Choreographing a set of circumstances in situations.”


To direct the form, Bebe begins to make choices and to layer those choices together.  These directions, in Bebe’s words, serve to “interrupt the inevitable”.  This is the part of the process we will get to experience and explore as we continue to watch A History emerge.

 – maria

[1] Sanders, Liz and Bo Westerlund, Experiencing, Exploring and Experimenting In and With Co-Design Spaces. Nordic Design Research Conference 2011, Helsinki,

[2] Lunsford, Andrea, and Lisa Ede. Singular Texts/Plural Authors: Perspectives on Collaborative Writing. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1990, p. 134.

[3]Meta Collab. Hierarchical Collaboration. <January 20, 12>

[4]Meta Collab. Dialogic Collaboration. <January 20, 12>

[5] Recording from January 11-14 Residency of BMC at ACCAD, The Ohio State University. (from mp3 file Fri-All6, starts @ 03:14)