Enhancing Choreographic Objects (EChO)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Aberdeen
Department Name: School of Social Science

Abstract

ENHANCING CHOREOGRAPHIC OBJECTS (EChO).

How can one capture the 'intelligences underpinning dance making' (Wayne McGregor) in order to communicate them to a wide public? To answer this question, many of the world's leading choreographers are turning to the possibilities of computer generated imagery and interactive digital technologies. The result is a new genre of digital adjuncts to dance making called 'Choreographic Objects' made to both enhance, and to illustrate, their creative process. Choreographic Objects are providing insights into the valuable knowledge that choreographers and dancers create when they investigate form and structure through movement in the context of making dances. The result is that 'choreographic thinking' is becoming available not only for the purpose of educating audiences, but also in ways that scientists and philosophers can study, architects and designers can utilize, and other artists can draw upon.

'Enhancing Choreographic Objects' (EChO) is an innovative project that uses the results of previous AHRC funded research in a practical manner. In the previous research, social scientists were able to show how the social relations involved in the production of Choreographic Objects were important in shaping them, highlighting both positive and negative potentials generated by the context and process of their construction. The social scientists were able to draw on theories of embodied, skilled and practiced-based knowing, and of its translation into representational media to illuminating effect. This (previous) project demonstrated that social science has a key role in enhancing the awareness of the makers of Choreographic Objects and thereby ensuring more effective outcomes from their endeavours. We will now transfer the results of that research to professional artists and programmers during the construction of a Choreographic Object called the Choreographic Language Agent (CLA) Public Installation.

The CLA currently exists as software used by leading UK choreographer Wayne McGregor for generating and investigating choreographic ideas in the studio. McGregor and his dancers use the CLA as a sketchpad in which they can quickly assemble, animate and share complex three-dimensional drawings to take as inspiration for movement generation into the rehearsal studio. The main aim of EChO is to apply the framework developed in the previous research to evaluate how the CLA represents and transfers the creative strengths and skills of dance, and then collaboratively feed back this assessment to the design team building an enhanced CLA for public viewing. This CLA Public Installation will be displayed in a major London exhibition space to encourage wide engagement with the possibilities of choreographic thinking during the creation of a new work by Wayne McGregor | Random Dance (WM|RD) that is set to premiere in October 2013.

In EChO, academics will collaborate with the company (WM|RD), digital artists, the exhibition space (Wellcome Collection) and the performance venue (Sadler's Wells) to produce an interactive experience that communicates the thinking and understanding generated in creating dance to a wide public. EChO will thereby utilise the outcomes of the previous AHRC funded research and apply them as academic knowledge transfer directly to institutions whose core aim is to increase public understanding of the value of dance, and of art and science's creative interface. The project will result in a new Choreographic Object tailored to the specific qualities of dance as knowledge creation, and to its public display.

Planned Impact

The award will allow the development of an unforeseen pathway to impact emergent from previous AHRC funded research. The primary outcome of the project will be the collaborative production of the Choreographic Language Agent (CLA) Public Installation. This installation will be exhibited by project Partner Wellcome Collection who is committed to collaborating on a major public engagement project around Wayne McGregor | Random Dance's (WM|RD) next new company work. The CLA Public Installation will be part of this engagement project in which the creative practice of WM|RD is made accessible to the public. An integrated Implementation Package will be developed ensuring its post-award exploitation in both academic and non-academic domains.

Wellcome Collection is located in central in London. It attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors per year. The inclusion of the CLA installation in the Wellcome Collection display will ensure it is experienced by large numbers of the UK public. It will be promoted and marketed by a hugely experienced and well resourced organisation whose remit is to help the public 'explore the connections between science, life and art in the past, present and future'. EChO will thus contribute directly to social and cultural life by providing those who experience the CLA with lasting insight into a valuable cultural form and what it offers beyond entertainment. It will support and enhance the work of a major UK dance company, assisting with their goals of raising public awareness, growing new and informed audiences, and demonstrating the knowledge creation potential of choreography. The CLA installation at Wellcome Collection will generate new possibilities for the realisation of choreography's potential to contribute not just to the artistic life of the nation, but also related sectors such as health and well-being (see BUPA report "Keep Dancing" 2011).

Primary Partner WM|RD is one of the UK's most successful dance organisations. It is known worldwide for both the quality of its productions, and the innovative and interdisciplinary creative processes behind those works. McGregor is Resident Choreographer at The Royal Ballet, as well as the UK government's Youth Dance Champion and has just been awarded a CBE. With its wide range of international and national partners, huge outreach projects such as Big Dance 2012 (involving thousands of school children), and funding to develop dance education resources that are, like the CLA, informed by collaborations with science, and an on going world wide tour reaching 95,000 people per year, the EChO project will benefit from wide publicity for and engagement with the installation. Add to this recently aired films such as Channel 4's South Bank Show that emphasised the research into creativity that lies behind McGregor's choreography, and it is clear the organisation is uniquely positioned to ensure impact.

Wayne McGregor | Random Dance (WM|RD) is company-in-residence at project Partner's Sadler's Wells Theatre in London. EChO will benefit Sadler's Wells significantly by enhancing audience engagement with and interest in McGregor's creation work - drawing newly informed audiences into the theatre. In addition, there will be a high-profile public seminar hosted by Sadler's Wells, and timed to catch the interest around McGregor's premier in October 2013, achieving a prominent public profile for EChO and for knowledge transfer from academic research to a successful industry.

The CI deLahunta is also a Principal Researcher for a newly funded European Culture Cooperation project titled LABO21 involving four internationally renowned performing arts organisations in Belgium, UK, Netherlands and Croatia. The EChO and LABO21 schedules coincide and this overlap will be exploited by including discussion of the public installation in LABO21 meetings and reports, providing a high level of international dissemination of the knowledge exchange developments of EChO.

Publications


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Leach J (2013) Choreographic Objects in Journal of Cultural Economy
Leach, J. (2015) Dance Becoming Knowledge in Leonardo
 
Title Atomos 
Description New artwork by Wayne McGregor | Random Dance for which Becoming was a major presence in the rehearsal throughout and had direct influence on aspects of the creative process. 
Type Of Art Performance (Music, Dance, Drama, etc) 
Year Produced 2013 
Impact International Touring 
URL http://www.randomdance.org/productions/wayne_mcgregor_current/atomos
 
Title Becoming 
Description The 'Enhanced Choreographic Object'. The specified outcome of the research for this grant (the Enhanced Choreographic Object) was adopted by the industry partner and played a central role in the process of creating a new dance work Atomos (premiere 9, The 'Enhanced Choreographic Object'. The specified outcome of the research for this grant (the Enhanced Choreographic Object) was adopted by the industry partner and played a central role in the process of creating a new dance work Atomos (premiere 9 October 2013 Sadler's Wells). 
Type Of Art Artwork 
Year Produced 2013 
Impact Use of Becoming as tool enhancing the research and development of Wayne McGregor | Random Dance choreographic material. Viewing of Becoming by 19,986 visitors to Wellcome Collections exhibition SEpt/Oct 2013 
URL http://www.openendedgroup.com/artworks/becoming.html
 
Description The project's main objective was to design and produce a digital tool to demonstrate the intelligence and working processes of a major contemporary choreographer. This goal was achieved as an installation called 'Becoming'. 'Becoming' draws the viewer into sensing his or her body in new ways, ways that are fundamental to the choreographic creative process. Becoming featured in the Wellcome Collection exhibition 'Thinking with the Body', and was adopted by the choreographer Wayne McGregor as a central part of his creative process in making a major new dance work.



Thus the project proved that ethnographic research coupled with anthropological analysis can materially contribute to making innovative artistic tools, to artistic process, and the public comprehension of 'physical thinking' in dance making.



The research output of an 'Enhanced Choreographic Object' (Becoming), and its uptake by an internationally celebrated choreographer in the making of a major new work demonstrated that the 'knowledge' created in choreographic process can be successfully presented and made available through appropriately designed digital media.

This carries the potential for the transfer of this 'knowledge' into other domains.
Exploitation Route The making of art work, and choreography.

The presentation of different knowledge forms though digital media.
Sectors Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
URL http://r-research.org
 
Description The research output of an 'Enhanced Choreographic Object' (Becoming), and its uptake by an internationally celebrated choreographer in the making of a major new work demonstrated that the 'knowledge' created in choreographic process can be successfully presented and made available through appropriately designed digital media. This carries the potential for the transfer of this 'knowledge' into other domains.
First Year Of Impact 2013
Impact Types Cultural,Societal
 
Description Sadler's Wells Partnership 
Organisation Sadler's Wells London
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The EChO Public Seminar was the outcome of the partnership with Sadler's Wells London.
Start Year 2012
 
Description Wayne McGregor|Random Dance Industry Partnership 
Organisation Random Dance
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The outcome of the collaboration with the Industry partner Wayne McGregor | Random Dance was Becoming, the 'Enhanced Choreographic Object, which was embedded in the Creative Performance ATOMOS.
Start Year 2012
 
Description Wellcome Collection Partnership 
Organisation Wellcome Collection
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The Thinking with the Body Exhibition and Live Events 'What is a body?' Seminar was the outcome of the collaboration with partner Wellcome Collection.
Start Year 2012
 
Description Atomos Programme Note 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Essay entitled 'What is a Body?' included as the first substantial page of commercial program sold at World Premier of Industry partner's new dance work 'Atomos' at Sadler's Wells. Subsequently reproduced at every venue Atomos tours to globally. Describes inclusion of the Enhanced Choreographic Object (ECO) in making process of Atomos. Credits AHRC Follow on Funding Scheme for supporting anthropological and digital arts contribution to making ECO.

Essay will travel with the piece Atomos to international touring venues, describing the use of the outcome of the research in the making process of the dance work, and crediting the AHRC follow on funding scheme. Distribution to thousands in global audien
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description National and International Press coverage 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact In excess of 20 newspaper and website articles in major international newspapers and their websites reporting on the use of the Enhanced Choreographic Object (output of the funded research) in Wellcome Collection Exhibition, and in the making of the new dance piece by Wayne McGregor | Random Dance called Atomos.

The press coverage around Wayne McGregor | Random Dance's Exhibition at Wellcome Collections, and the making of the piece Atomos, was extensive. Listed above only a representative sample. Reference made and images used in these reports and articles to the
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Sadler's Wells Theatre Public, Ticketed, EChO Seminar 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Ticketed public event at Sadler's Wells theatre, as part of Sadler's Wells Talk Series. 85 paying audience members.

The Choreographic Language Agent (CLA) is a prototype interactive notebook for choreographers and dancers. Enhancing Choreographic Objects (EChO) is a research project that draws on social science expertise for the further development of the CLA. This talk introduced ther audience to the project, reported on its development and findings, and demonstrated the use of its output - the 'Becoming' installation in the making of live dance work.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Thinking with the Body 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Major Wellcome Collection Exhibition running from Sept 18th to October 27th. Main output of the funded research project, the Enhanced Choreographic Object called 'Becoming' was one of the five main exhibits. Explanation of the research process, and its integration into the choreographic process of Wayne McGregor | Random Dance was provided in both text and video material accompanying the installation of Becoming.

The first major exhibition of its type, revealing the making process in the work of a contemporary choreographer through charting their collaborations with scientists and social scientists in developing art works, scientific research outputs. 19800 recorded visitors.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.wellcomecollection.org/exhibitions/thinking-body-mind-and-movement-work-wayne-mcgregor-ra...
 
Description Wellcome Collections Live Event: 'What is a Body?' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Free public event in connection to Wellcome Collections 'Thinking with the Body: Mind and Movement in the Work of Wayne McGregor | Random Dance Exhibition, given by PI and Co-I. Capacity Audience of 80.

Expert from Social Science (PI) engaged Expert from Dance (Co-I) to present findings about bodies and objects as social beings in different contexts.

A public talk with a capacity audience of 80 at the Wellcome Collections in London. The talk described the anthropological contribution to the research, and the subsequent specification of the Installation that forms part of the Exhibition 'Thinking with the Body' and was reported to have increased interest in and audience understanding of the exhibition. Exhibition drew a recorded audience of 19,800 people.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013