The idea of form anchors ideas into a sequence or system that can help develop a sense of wholeness or arc to a work.  below are a few approaches to form.

Beginning, Middle, End:

[from Rob Kitsos]

Once a group has a chance to do smaller studies around elements of time and space, it is good to start to think about a sense of form- to create studies that have an overall structure.  This can be thought of as an architecture or sequence that the content lives in.   

One interesting way of thinking about form is what makes a beginning -a middle or an ending.  One project is having participants create one of the three in isolation.  This is a good way of talking about what qualities we expect in these three parts of a work- and how we might re-think them.

Assigning material using forms from music, nature or other structures is a good way to start. 

Musical Forms:

[from Rob Kitsos]

AB, ABA, Rondo, Fugue, Suite, Sonata, Chance...  Using musical structures as a basis for a composition is always a simple way to create a new work and make a connection between form and content.  For ABA for example- You can start with a simple motif (musical, movement or image) develop a second part for B and then repeat the original motif.  The last part can shift slightly based on the B part, but the repetition creates a sense of wholeness or beginning, middle and end.   

Elements of Nature:

seasons, cycles of plants, human life cycles from a single day and night to birth, life, death, a volcano, planet rotation, etc. 

The Golden Spiral:

The Fibonacci spiral is a great study for thinking about form.  This mathematical principal has been applied to structures on everything from nature to script writing to the stock market.


[from Johnathan Burrows]

- ..that serendipity provided by the negotiation with a resistant medium.

- Something against which to push your imagination free

- image of rock falling in a water fall

Content and Form:

[from The Shape of Content, Ben Shahn]

I do not hold that the mere presence of content, of subject matter, the intention to say something, will magically guarantee the emergence of such content into successful form.  Not at all!...Form is not just the intention of content; it is the embodiment of content.  

  • Form is based, first, upon a supposition, a theme.  
  • Form is, second, a marshaling of materials, the inert matter in which the theme is to be cast.  Form is, third, a setting of boundaries, of limits, the whole extent of idea, but no more, an outer shape of idea.
  • Form is, next, the relating of inner shapes to outer limits, the initial establishing of harmonies.  
  • Form is further, the abolishing of excessive content, of content that falls outside the true limits of the theme.  
  • Form is thus a discipline, an ordering, according to the needs of content.


  • Whatever crosses the mind may be fit content for art- in the right hands. 
  • Content may be and often is trivial.  But I do not think that any person may pronounce either upon the weight of upon the triviality of an idea before its execution into a work of art.  It is only after its execution that we may note that it was fruitful or greatness or variety of interest.


[from En Atendant & Cesena: A Choreographer's Score, by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker]

Some artists look to ancient systems of mathematics, religion, medicine, etc. for formal structures.  Below is the yin-yang inspired QI- used by artists like choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker.  

The concept of Qi is based on the ancient Chinese initial understanding of natural phenomena. That is, Qi is the most basic substance of which the world is comprised. Everything in the universe results from the movements and changes of Qi. 

"I refer to the five transformations as energetic qualities which are attributed to the architecture and intensity of movement."

- En Atendant & Cesena: A Choreographer's Score, by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker