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Articulating the sensation of dancing

February 2017

Imagine you are asked to draw what it is to spin. How would you do it? Perhaps you would draw what most people do - a loop. But why? The idea of the loop, when pondered, is truly an inaccurate representation of what spinning is. When spinning, one stays fixed in a singular location and turns around themselves like an axis. Could a loop not also represent someone walking forwards along a circular path? How is it that we all posses an internalized language of expressing movement in a two-dimensional form, and what is that language?

Marcie Laird

A multi-dimensional system

Ligne is a narrative, divided into seven movements characteristic of a typical ballet. Each movement is a collection of steps that have been transformed and abstracted in a systematic way. The steps are visualized as line through four variables on a coordinate plane: 

X is rhythm expressed through counts of music as a unit of time. Unlike a traditional time line, the line can be explored both forwards and backwards, unrestricted by the logic of time - just as an inch on a ruler measured from 0 to 1 is equivalent to and inch measured backwards from the 10-inch mark.

Y is momentum. As the dancer gains momentum, the line climbs higher, and as the dancer loses momentum, the line drops.

Z is breath, a description of the internal sensation of Y, momentum. The heavier the breath, the deeper into the book the line will go, and when the dancer’s breath is at its softest, the line will rise up off the page.

The changing weight of the line is dependent on the changing weight of the dancer, or their physical relationship to the floor. For example, if the dancer is leaping through the air, the line would grow narrower.

Topographic gestures

This book is an exploration of the experience of motion in the context of ballet. It began as a study of gestures, observing ballet dancers and investigating their use of their hands and bodies in context, both formally and informally. When posed with the problem of communicating these gestures to an audience through physical interactions, it was decidedly much more intriguing to capture those movements in a different sense - as the internal sensation of what it is to dance ballet, rather than the outward appearance of the movements. The challenge then presented itself of creating a system to visualize three-dimensional gestures in a two-dimensional form that allowed for understanding of the movement through a tactile experience led by the reader’s hands.
The intent of this book is to share a new way of experiencing ballet with its reader. Although its content was conceived through an objective system, each reader will experience the movements in a different way with their own subjective interpretations. It involves the reader with the art form in an intimate way by engaging their own body with the material. It’s an opportunity to explore and be free of the passive role that it is to be in the audience of a ballet - to be the dancer for a change.