Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image

Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

Scroll to top


No Comments

Notating the spatiotemporal

Notating the spatiotemporal

What might be the value of notation as choreographic method in dance? In the search for a new choreographic work, conventional notation suggests a requirement for tracing an unstable segment with a time frame onto a stable and frozen two-dimensional plane. Doing so challenges choreographers during their creative process, as it forces these two conflicting statuses to be reconciled and drawn through the analog tools. Along choreographers’ attempts, movement is analysed and translated into numbers of observable variables, such as Euclidean geometric exactness, rhythmic pattern and perceived quality. In the context that analog notation became more ‘score like’ information, which elicits dancer’s creativity, combining this diagrammatic interface with the digital technology suggests a way of notating the temporal happenings and changes in space.

Is it possible for choreography to generate autonomous expressions of its principles, a choreographic object, without the body?’  William Forsythe

Under the search for the quality of movements, William Forsythe questions ‘a channel for the desire to dance’ through physical thinking, but besides the body. He explored bodily expressions and developed ideas in parallel with producing new choreographic tools that elicit phenomena with which body movements could be interacted.

With NOWHERE AND EVERYWHERE AT THE SAME TIME NO.2 (2013) in his projects choreographic objects, Forsythe explains the context exists as choreographic situation. ‘Statistically unpredictable’ movements are provided in complex environment occupied with the 400 pendulums that are suspended from automated ceiling grids.



A body in the ‘choreographic situation’ may become freer in terms of its movement creation, rather than following a set notation to fit their body in.

An understanding of individual behaviour can also be captured from the viewpoint of a larger entity as groups of these single events that happen in space. A timeline effectively offers a way to recognise periodicity within a score. Being similar to a musical score, the digital notation system is read from one side to the other and refers to duration. It allows the information on the score to recur freely, but allocates it within a dynamic frame as a set of rules. For example, following project of William Forsythe introduce ‘timelines’ as a tool to design space where movement is required to be juxtaposed. It suggests ways of organising abstract information, rather than focusing on individual events.


Synchronous Objects by William Forsythe company and Ohio State University

Synchronous Objects by William Forsythe company and Ohio State University


For One Flat Thing (2013), the notation system ‘synchronous objects’ was developed in collaboration with a team of digital artists at the Ohio State University. After long-term experimentation with digital scores, Forsythe succeeded in extending his choreography in time beyond geometrical approach with this piece. Grove (2012) describes how these scores ‘do not transcribe movement, but call attention to how ideas produce movement and how movement occasions ideas’. Scores are written for one object to give cues with which other objects start to produce movement. The ‘mode of engagement’ is reflected in a choreographed piece through other objects’ attention and responses.



When circumstances require architects and choreographers to ‘read’ distinct encounters of inhabitants, rules can be dedicated to a condition recognised as a whole formation. On a dance notation timeline, an individual dancer can be notated as an agent. With this type of notation, numeric information prompts the dancer’s movements and figures are in focus in a choreographic scenario. Tasks set in the notation give freedom for dancers to produce individual movement whilst attention is drawn to the collective movement. The result emerges in space as a choreographic scene.

Time based interfaces imply varieties of possible journeys and suggests passages for each individual inhabitant. By using digital data, this numerical information copes with decoding and re-constructing those ephemeral elements to be brought to bear potential future design processes. In this circumstance, notation is no longer need to belong to a two dimensional objects. Narratives of the choreography can be transcribed directory as movements appear in space.


Black Flags by William Forsythe

Black Flags by William Forsythe


The continuous research and practice of Forsythe’s choreographic objects lead him to collaborate with two industrial robots in 2014. BLACK FLAGS was attempted to re-interpret a dancer’s dynamic emotion, using the machine-driven objects. The narrative of Forsythe’s piece danced by David Kern in 1993 is recorded and represented by the combination of enormous flags, robots and the air, as abstract movements. Digital algorithm programmed by Sven Thöne activates the continuous movements of these objects and challenges the spectator’s inner sense of vision, ‘removing any steady reference point in the space’ (Forsythe).

The studies of evaluating perceived ‘quality’ of movement brought unique discoveries to designers’ and choreographers’ creative idea exchanges. These approaches of transferring analog movement information to digital design resources offered the users’ and performers’ participatory activities, generating their creative mind in both choreographic process and design of these spaces.

Moreover, when movement is to be fabricated, the process of translating the design script (digital information) back to the physical artifacts (analog information) would offer considerable creative opportunity for designers.

An open-ended tool for collaboration, such as scripting digital language for exchanging data between design and fabrication may need to be introduced and developed in order for movement to be transcribed in the form of visual or physical substance.

A project introducing the attempts for this idea is here: ‘Fabrication Performance’

More information about William Forsythe’s choreographic object is here: CHOREOGRAHIC OBJECTS



Groves, R., et al. (2007), Talking about Scores:William Forsythe’s Vision for a New Form of ‘Dance Literature’, Knowledge in Motion, TanzSctipte, pp.91-100

Ting, J. (2015), William Forsiythe’s ‘Black Flags’ raises choreography to a new level, University of Southern California, [online] available from:






Submit a Comment