Motion Together Project Description

Welcome to the website of Motion Together! Motion Together is a project that creates common ground for scholars and artists interested in understanding the nuances of human partnering and synchronisation. Our project is a mobile one that takes place through links of collaborations and meetings, supported by the Freie Inversität Berlin, CITEC at Bielefeld University and in 2018 at the Hochschule Mainz University of Applied Sciences. Together our perspective spans the fields of European contemporary dance, visual art, performance, media art, music, ethnography, sociology, dance studies and cognitive neuroscience. We work towards artistic and research outcomes; staying open that hybridisations of art and research are still off-road territories.

The initial concept to frame common ground in this research is that of entrainment. Entrainment can be provisionally understood as the process leading to sustainable synchronisation. Entrainment science focuses on processes in which independent rhythmical systems interact, producing synchronization and or rhythmic coordination. Entrainment has been studied in music, communication and motor action, but only to a limited extent in dance.

The project "Motion Together" extends prior research of entrainment in contemporary dance, in the case study of William Forsythe's choreography "Duo" developed, by dancers Elizabeth Waterhouse, Riley Watts and Dr. Bettina Bläsing. From the perspective of entrainment science, "Duo" is a valuable example of expertise in planned synchronous and asynchronous partnering and an unique case of motion and sound production without an external musical pulse. Entrainment in "Duo" involves the dancers' deliberate and audible breath. It thus enables cross-comparison between phenomena considered related, but often individually analyzed: namely music, conversation, action, and dance.

Some of the questions leading the team`s research are:

  • What are the meaningful distinctions in dancing together?
  • Is entrainment based on explicit or implicit processes, or both?
  • How can the difference between synchronization and entrainment be described, without mathematics?
  • Is entrainment an interactive competence, or the result of interactive competences? Does entrainment in dance rely on practice, and/or relate to the colloquial use of the term entrainment in French (i.e. to train)?
  • How does mutual entrainment vary based upon the scale that it is observed, or the scale of distance between partners?
  • In what ways do dancers rely on the choreographed sequence of steps, in order to predict one another`s motion, or do partners more generally rely on habits?
  • What emotions are common to dancing or being in sync? Is there a physical analogue of listening?
  • Is movement necessary to entrain, or can people entrain without moving their bodies?
  • How do different kinds of spectators watch dance, when synchronisation is involved?

The objectives of “Motion Together” are:

  1. To involve the team in the study of the practice of dancers within the creation, rehearsal, and performance of William Forsythe`s choreography “Duo,” a duet involving synchronous and rhythmical movement and breath;
  2. To develop an interdisciplinary perspective on the concept of entrainment and to determine the academic impact of this concept within the field of dance studies;
  3. To support the production of artistic works in which entrainment and togetherness plays a major role;
  4. To develop a mixed methodology  (i.e. quantitative and qualitative) for researching entrainment in “Duo” (i.e. annotation of the choreography, movement analysis, video analysis, ethnographic fieldwork and eye-tracking studies of “Duo” spectatorship);
  5. To offer dance workshops in which the “Duo” dancers` expertise with entrainment is transferred to pre-professional dancers and children;
  6. To support the production of discursive outcomes (presentation at academic conferences, scholarly publication/dissertation, artist talks, artist publications) related to the research.