Conceptual Framework

The theoretical framework subscribes to the philosophy of Anna Pakes and David Davis (Pakes, 2006; Davis, 2013). For them, the scope of dance is grounded in the cognitive capacities to conceptualize and “grasp” dance, by which they sidestep the dichotomy between dance as practice and theory. This project follows this perspective, interpreting dance as practicing embodied thinking through movement – in this case to advance our knowledge on decision-making and knowledge-production in dance improvisation. This lineage of movement analysis stems from therapeutic practices that gradually transformed in aesthetic practices. An example is Rudolf von Laban (Laban, 1975) and Irmgard Bartennief (Bartennief et al., 1980), both investigated psychology through movement, using vocabularies that stressed formal design and technical execution. My research reviews these approaches in order to abstract a vocabulary that stresses the relations between, and the processes of thinking bodies in dance improvisation.

In the first half of the twentieth century, somatics played a secondary role to artistic dancing as a practice to prevent accidents and as rehabilitation. Since the 1970s, it developed as an alternative improvisation technique that avoids technical virtuosity and normative body images by focusing on physiological patterns while improvising with eyes closed. Somatic dance practices are self-sustaining practices, this means the object of its research is the process of improvising itself. Practices with such closed self-propelling system were named autopoietic systems by Humberto Maturana (Maturana et al., 1979). A study of dance improvisation in terms of an autopoietic system allows insights in the principles that govern and obstruct somatic practices. In other words, this concept can give insight in how to avoid the hermetic nature of dance knowledge production and the pure solipsism of the dance research practitioners.

Since the 1990s, technology-enhanced choreography proves to be a reliable strategy to test the aesthetic range of movement vocabularies without interrupting the continuity in dancing. Early models are Laban-based software (Life Forms, 1989), which were further developed by Merce Cunningham (Biped, 1999). Later, this was introduced in improvisation practices (William Forsythe, Improvisation Technologies, 2000), and in dance cognition studies (Questlab Network). This research project also builds further upon previous technology-enhanced performances I created since 2015. It is a means to expand the possibilities of machine intelligence for artistic research through improvised dance and instant choreography.