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Since the movement in Duo involves complex relations of limb movement and is abstract not narrative , the authors avoid the term gesture and instead concentrate on the dance as an activity of motion. Note that in this article the terms motion and movement are used synonymously. The proposal to understand entrainment via the operational definition of coordination of rhythmic movement implies the ability to resolve or parse motion.

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Parsing motion into elementary movements has already been shown to be challenging in situations of contemporary dance DeLahunta and Barnard, a , b. The choreographic work of William Forsythe exhibits highly complex states of motion — involving complex torsions, polycentric initiation, and polyrhythmic layering of action Kaiser, ; Caspersen, , We emphasize that in situations of complex motion, one must have an interdisciplinary agreement about the appropriateness and methodology of motion parsing.

Laban recognizes movement as a dynamic interplay of internal and external motivations, mixing voluntary and involuntary actions see Hodgson, Laban is well aware that this trafficking is not resolvable into single messages. Modeling the body as a channel of signals that are sent from brain to world and world to brain is not the approach taken here, nor advised. Breaking from the eurythmics method of Jaques-Dalcroze , Laban believed that dance was equal not subordinate to music, and that rhythm could emerge from the body as dance, without an acoustic source Partsch-Bergsohn and Bergsohn, Lepecki, expectations of dance, the diversity of choreographic approaches invites refinement of the perspective of dance as a response to an external musical signal on Trisha Brown, see Phelan, ; on Merce Cunningham, see Copeland, ; on William Forsythe, see Vass-Rhee, Even in the case of dancers performing rehearsed moves to recorded music with a beat, we take the position that the specific installation of the music in space loudspeaker directions, volume, etc.

Thus we agree with Leman that entrainment in dance is of spatiotemporal, not purely temporal, nature, and that it should be considered in its ecological context. With this case study, we emphasize that the paradigm of dance as a visual art performed to an audio pulse should be used cautiously, as it is suspected that multimodal cues and feedback factor strongly in danced entrainment. In contemporary dance, coupling is commonly called partnering and usually involves touch.

Duets, in classical ballet as well as in social dancing, may espouse having a leader or follower.

In contemporary dance, as in Duo , these roles are not pre-determined nor fixed for the duration of the dance. We recognize that the negotiation of the roles of leading and following, even in forms of dance that name the learning and performance of these roles, reflects social values and subtle power negotiations see Novack, ; Taylor, ; Manning, The concepts that Manning has theorized within her analysis of the tango as relational movement have influenced the framing of observables defined in this article such as elasticity of tempo and cue intervals.

In summary, the approach taken here is to consider entrainment between dancers in Duo as coordinated interplay of motion and sound production by active agents i. We emphasize that the coupling in Duo is non-hierarchical. When watching a contemporary choreography that appears to involve coordinated rhythmic motion, the task to study entrainment involves understanding multiple processes. How does entrainment appear? By which factors is it determined and influenced? What are the enabling constraints?

How is it performed or created by the dancers?

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The website reveals rhythmic activity that is much more complex than could be perceived by an observer in one viewing — making entrainment a matter of aesthetic perception. The website defines parameters cues and alignments that frame entrainment, while the influence of other factors such as the environment of tables remains backgrounded.

From close review, it is obvious that the dancers do not need to be aware of the entire sum of coordinative relations in the choreography, but just need to know enough to accomplish their part. These preliminary observations suggests the value of directing entrainment studies in dance along three leading questions: i when and how is entrainment between dancers perceived by an observer in the audience, ii how is entrainment predetermined and planned by the choreographer, and iii how do the dancers create entrainment in performance?

In the following we introduce the choreography, describe our methodological approach, and then highlight the perspective of performer Riley Watts.

Duo is an approximately 10 min choreography for two dancers by choreographer William Forsythe, made in for Ballett Frankfurt. We report upon the reconstruction of the work by The Forsythe Company from to It has to be emphasized that Duo , like other pieces performed on a comparably high level of dance skill, has only been performed by very few dancers, and is recognized as requiring exceptional skills. Among the repertoire of William Forsythe, Duo is acknowledged among the dancers as a pristine exhibition of togetherness, requiring dancers to learn precise coordination of their movement in space and time.

In addition to the artistic emphasis on synchronization, other characteristics that make Duo specifically valuable for the study of entrainment include that the choreography does not involve touch-based partnering, is practiced without music, and is coordinated by a breath score i.

These features make it an interesting case of dance vocalization, described within the company as a form of conversation. The literature on entrainment considers both emergent and planned coordination see Phillips-Silver and Keller, Notably, we have chosen Duo as a case study for the issue of entrainment precisely because it is a choreographed piece. This means that the dancers perform planned movement that is reproducible under conditions of rehearsal and performance, and also that Duo involves little material that is described by the dancers as improvisation.

The abstract movement in Duo is organized into sequences or phrases, some of which are named. To perform the duet, the performers had to cultivate a high level of awareness of what their partner was doing. Duo involves fine control of gross motor movements. The choreography modulates different degrees and kinds of movement complexity, in which polyrhythmic and polycentric coordination appear. Markedly, the dance also involves simple periodic motions performed in synchronization e. The breath score of Duo involves inhalation and exhalation noises that are within contextual variations audible between performers as well as to the audience.

The breath is made both through the nasal and mouth passages, affording texture, and tone-like character. Breath is, by its nature, periodic, involving the increase and decrease of tension that, according to Laban, is characteristic of rhythmic movement at large see Hodgson, In creating correspondence between movement and breath, Duo capitalizes on a skill developed in infancy, namely that of extrapolating across sense modalities via structural likeness Sklar, Breathing thereby intertwines voluntary action, action-based perception, and involuntary necessity.

Crucial aspects of entrainment in Duo have been established via discussion among the authors.


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In the following, we present our observations based upon the study of video recordings, annotation of these recordings, and insights from the perspective of performer Riley Watts. The video sources VS spanned three separate performance of Duo, featuring two sets of dancers:. This system was used first to protocol excerpts of VS2, as well as to record questions and comments. The annotation was reviewed and developed by Riley Watts, at times consulting co-dancer Brigel Gjoka.

William Forsythe and the Practice of Choreography

Next, a rich target sequence featuring the diversity of modes of coupling was chosen and extracted from VS2 and VS3 see supplementary material for excerpts and protocols. To emphasize material not addressed in these excerpts, a second target sequence was selected and annotated, showing the first minute of VS3 this performance was preferred by the dancers to VS2. Based on discussions with the Duo performers, four modes of coupling were defined and used for the annotation:. The facility, coherence, and precision with which these forms of shared activity are entered and exited suggest that the dancers relied on a highly practiced set of skills, and a shared framework of their emergence.

We suggest that the defined four modes of coupling can be considered varieties of entrainment framed by the choreography. While dancing in unison, both performers of Duo contribute movement and breath in approximately equal balance. Sections of predetermined turn-taking in Duo are significant, but short and relatively infrequent within the overall sequence.


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  • In these instances, the performers alternate producing movement and sound signals with little temporal overlap, which results in non-hierarchical and conversational turn-taking rather than in a hierarchical call-and-response structure. Such instances of aligned conversation-like interaction can be regarded a skilled activity of what Levinson calls the interaction engine see Levinson, ; Levinson and Holler, , as it involves joint rhythmic motor action and turn-taking on the basis of multimodal i.

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    The choreography of Duo prefigures changes in modes of coupling via cues and alignments. For the study of Duo, we used the following working definitions:. In our annotation, we proceeded by simply cataloging the cues and alignments, using comments to develop discrepancies; a more refined approach with improved time resolution and subcategories of cues and alignments is in progress. Cues differ in degree and kind. Cues in Duo are aural breath cues, verbal cues in language, bodily sound cues such as stomping , and visual both direct or peripheral. Although most cues are choreographic imperatives i.

    In the case of Duo , cues may initiate motion marking the transformation from stillness to activity or happen within actions e. Cues can thereby be viewed as multimodal communicative signals see Levinson and Holler, used implicitly and explicitly to coordinate joint action. Alignments in Duo typically involve non-hierarchical collaboration. They may be static e. The multimodality of cues and complexity of alignments makes clear that dancers in Duo tune to both auditive and visual feedback, and actively participate in choreographic contingencies.

    The following section articulates the perspective of performer Riley Watts, who has been part of the most recent Duo cast together with Brigel Gjoka. Crucially, dancing together can be described as oscillation of modes of activity, with synchronization and chorusing being conceptualized as metaphorically close while complementary action is understood as rather separate. The expertly mutual entrainment in Duo is, surprisingly, not achieved in a pedantic fashion of staying on-beat. To accomplish this, each dancer is responsible for intentionally deviating via slowing down, speeding up, etc.

    When Brigel surprises me with a musical or spatial anomaly, it is actually for the purpose of introducing a cognitive anomaly from the series of actions in which I am already fluent. Maybe in that way, entrainment is used like the groundwork or pathway for us to communicate through learned cognitive patterns and anomalies in a performance setting. It has the expectation of unison that does not become fulfilled and is right before the moment where we re-entrain with the material.

    You can see by our right elbows that we are still in the same place choreographically. As in musical rehearsal, Duo is learned by movement-based exchanges, as well as linguistic dialog on both subjective experience of the duet action and framing of collective goals within the parameters of the choreography. In particular, the chorusing in Duo is cultivated through rehearsal. From experienced-based associations between sensorimotor processes, a shared embodied representation of the choreography is established. To learn the movement phrases, dancers began by observing and imitating movement from videos and live demonstration by the rehearsal director and other dancers with previous experience of performing Duo.

    Visual mimicry of the movement, though necessary in the learning process, was not the only priority in reproducing the choreography with integrity and skill. This suggests that individualized mechanics and attention to sensation are important to the process of learning, rehearsing and staging Duo. The alternation between demonstration, detailed verbal translation of sensorimotor experience, and action reproduction was a typical format for the learning process of this piece.

    Compared to these examples, conceptual pacts between Duo dancers are likely to take longer to be established and have to be more consistent over longer periods of time, as they are needed as common ground for rehearsals and performances in the long run. They are also likely to be more complex in content i. Skin sensation, or intensity, was one focus of attention used. I could show you this movement and you could copy it easily, but without you paying attention to the sensation of stretching that I described, we both would be experiencing something slightly different.

    This suggests that in Duo , as with much of the work in The Forsythe Company, movement is achieved in relation to a cultivated attention to what an action feels like rather than purely what it looks like, and that such attention might be helpful for constructing rich embodied representations as basis for anticipatory imagery.