Video: 'Flock Logic' unites science and dance
Posted January 31, 2011; 12:00 p.m.
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
My goal is to just to find out what does happen.
Weâ€™ve never done it with more than 20 people.
We're going to get some things that
are quite unpredictable tonight.
She sent me an e-mail asking me you know maybe
this was a crazy idea, but would I be interested
in trying out some of these ideas with dancersâ€¦
people who have been trained to be physically
aware? I love ideas like that, so I said yes.
I think that we were inspired by the beauty
and the complexity of animals in motion and
bird flocks and fish schools. The basic rules
of flocking are ones that have to
do with cohesion and repulsion. So this is
the way biologists understand that animals
stay together in a group and avoid colliding.
And then when thereâ€™s more information in
the group, say some of the animals see a threat
approaching or are attracted to a food source,
then you can see this beautiful ripple through
the group. So, the first to respond maybe make
a sharp move and that affects their neighbors,
and that affects their neighbors, and so on.
Some of the things that we'll learn tonight
have to do with the fact that you take these
ideas, and you put them in a different space
with a larger number of people -- with people
whoâ€™ve been trained and people who havenâ€™t
been trained for more than five or 10 minutes
on the basic rules of flocking -- and you
get something very different.
So, the Atelier is this wonderful program
at Princeton that allows professional artists
to collaborate on a work, on a creative process,
in the company of students. And the Atelier
enters into this with the idea that the process
of creating an artwork is going to be rewarding
for these students at whatever level they
engage with it. The students have heavily
shaped and designed what weâ€™re doing here
tonight and theyâ€™re performing in it as well.
So, we actually used a sort of a computer simulator
that a student, Willa Chen, developed this summer.
When I started creating the simulator,
the whole class was just a spark of an idea.
So, I helped to shape the class in many ways
as we experimented with dancers to see how
they followed rules, how they responded to
rules. I am a dancer. Iâ€™ve been dancing
since the age of six. And, thatâ€™s partially
why I got interested in this project. I thought,
"Wow, I love dancing, I love computer programming,
and this just combines the two perfectly."
The whole process with the students was a
big artistic exploration. Obviously, we are
not fish; we are not birds, so we have limitations
and strengths that are different from those
populations. The wonderful thing that happens
with fish and birds, of course, is they
get to occupy three-dimensional space so that
even simple patterns take on this beautiful,
complex patterning that feels like space is folding.
Were on one plane and weâ€™re not silvery
on one side. And when you look at us from
above, we only have a point. Weâ€™re not long
and wide. So, we have different physical attributes,
and so that is one of the things we needed
to investigate: How can we create something
thatâ€™s visually exciting with the attributes
that we have on a single plane?
This is a pretty rare opportunity to be able
to have a creation supported of this nature
in a university setting where you can take
a risk on an unknown creative outcome with
the support of students, and that be a course.