Murmuration was the title of a residency at Dartington Space in March 2011. The residency  time was split between R&D on “Protoplasm”, a performance work in progress, and an open lab exploring ensemble improvisation which I invited local dancers to attend.

At the beginning of the residency I had a list of overlapping interests and inspiration.

Flocking and shoaling behavior in animals
A paper by Marshall Soules entitled “Improvising Character: Jazz, the Actor, and Protocols of Improvisation”
A recent workshop with Nina Martin using her Ensemble Thinking Tools
Memories of feeling disturbed by the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics
Curiousity about the assumptions and protocols we bring as improvisers to the space (our own internal score)?
The mathematics of chaos and complexity

In one way or another these themes seemed to reflect  two core aspects of improvising (and life!)– simultaneously  the relational space between structure/scores and open improvisation and the tension between collective identity (ensemble) and individual freedom (solo). From the perspective of facilitating and directing I was also curious to examine how different nuances to the instructions changed outcomes.

My plan was to explore these territories through an array of tasks and “what if” scenarios. These were not so much intended as exacting experiments as provocations. I intended to use the scores in the way free runners use the built environment- as an architecture to improvise off and around. So the outcome was always the humanness of everything that arose from the score including deviations and the reasons it broke down- humor, forgetting the instructions or dancers simply deciding to be playful and not stick to the score.

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As the residency developed the enquiry became quite specific: exploring transitioning in and out of unison. I was interested in unison itself, the visibility of small differences and the possibility of unified qualities without exact matching of movement. In some experiments the dancers found their  own transitions organically in others different scores were used to orchestrate the transition.

Although this short residency came to a close far too soon it was still a hugely productive process clarifying existing ideas and raising many new questions. My thanks go to all those who attended including Kathleen Downie, Lois Taylor, Ruth Bell, Katherine Nietrzebka, James king, Jo Donaghey, Saffy Setohy, Sarah Hart, Sarah Jarvis, Itta Howie and Alex Donaghey.

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