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Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014

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Video: 'Flock Logic' unites science and dance


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Princeton professors Naomi Leonard and Susan Marshall combine the science of motion and the art of movement in a special course and two performances. Read more.


Video Closed Captions

[music]

Susan Marshall:
My goal is to just to find out what does happen.
We’ve never done it with more than 20 people.

Naomi Leonard:
We're going to get some things that
are quite unpredictable tonight.

Naomi Leonard:
She sent me an e-mail asking me you know maybe
this was a crazy idea, but would I be interested

Naomi Leonard:
in trying out some of these ideas with dancers…
people who have been trained to be physically

Naomi Leonard:
aware? I love ideas like that, so I said yes.

Naomi Leonard:
I think that we were inspired by the beauty
and the complexity of animals in motion and

Naomi Leonard:
bird flocks and fish schools. The basic rules
of flocking are ones that have to

Naomi Leonard:
do with cohesion and repulsion. So this is
the way biologists understand that animals

Naomi Leonard:
stay together in a group and avoid colliding.
And then when there’s more information in

Naomi Leonard:
the group, say some of the animals see a threat
approaching or are attracted to a food source,

Naomi Leonard:
then you can see this beautiful ripple through
the group. So, the first to respond maybe make

Naomi Leonard:
a sharp move and that affects their neighbors,
and that affects their neighbors, and so on.

Naomi Leonard:
Some of the things that we'll learn tonight
have to do with the fact that you take these

Naomi Leonard:
ideas, and you put them in a different space
with a larger number of people -- with people

Naomi Leonard:
who’ve been trained and people who haven’t
been trained for more than five or 10 minutes

Naomi Leonard:
on the basic rules of flocking -- and you
get something very different.

Susan Marshall:
So, the Atelier is this wonderful program
at Princeton that allows professional artists

Susan Marshall:
to collaborate on a work, on a creative process,
in the company of students. And the Atelier

Susan Marshall:
enters into this with the idea that the process
of creating an artwork is going to be rewarding

Susan Marshall:
for these students at whatever level they
engage with it. The students have heavily

Susan Marshall:
shaped and designed what we’re doing here
tonight and they’re performing in it as well.

Naomi Leonard::
So, we actually used a sort of a computer simulator
that a student, Willa Chen, developed this summer.

Willa Chen:
When I started creating the simulator,

Willa Chen:
the whole class was just a spark of an idea.
So, I helped to shape the class in many ways

Willa Chen:
as we experimented with dancers to see how
they followed rules, how they responded to

Willa Chen:
rules. I am a dancer. I’ve been dancing
since the age of six. And, that’s partially

Willa Chen:
why I got interested in this project. I thought,
"Wow, I love dancing, I love computer programming,

Willa Chen:
and this just combines the two perfectly."

Susan Marshall:
The whole process with the students was a
big artistic exploration. Obviously, we are

Susan Marshall:
not fish; we are not birds, so we have limitations
and strengths that are different from those

Susan Marshall:
populations. The wonderful thing that happens
with fish and birds, of course, is they

Susan Marshall:
get to occupy three-dimensional space so that
even simple patterns take on this beautiful,

Susan Marshall:
complex patterning that feels like space is folding.

Susan Marshall:
Were on one plane and we’re not silvery

Susan Marshall:
on one side. And when you look at us from
above, we only have a point. We’re not long

Susan Marshall:
and wide. So, we have different physical attributes,
and so that is one of the things we needed

Susan Marshall:
to investigate: How can we create something
that’s visually exciting with the attributes

Susan Marshall:
that we have on a single plane?

Susan Marshall:
This is a pretty rare opportunity to be able
to have a creation supported of this nature

Susan Marshall:
in a university setting where you can take
a risk on an unknown creative outcome with

Susan Marshall:
the support of students, and that be a course.

[music, applause]

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