Below are ideas for projects related to space.  any of these exercises can be adapted in multiple ways- and with a range of disciplines. 

Architecture & improvisation:

[from Rob Kitsos]

If you are working in a building with interesting architecture (maybe a few different floors), have the group explore the building in silence taking in different rooms and hallways and sounds for a finite period of time.  When they all return, have the group improvise in the space using imagery and topography from their memory of the spaces. 

Viewpoints grid (Tempo/ Kinaesthetic Response):

[from Mary Overlie]

In the Viewpoint system created by Mary Overlie at the Experimental Theatre Wing at NYU, there is a simple walking pattern on a grid that brings attention to our choices as movers, working as a group and composition.  There are many more like this in the Viewpoint Book (see references) but this one is a good one to start with.  It's also easy to do with participants from any discipline (not just actors and dancers). 

Have half the group sit and watch and the other half in the space.  Get the group to imagine a grip on the floor and start walking on the grid -not curves or diagonals, only right straight lines and clear right angle turns.

Have the group find the natural tempo of their walk.  Once this is established, instruct them to play with changing their tempo (how fast or slow they walk).  This change can be initiated by a clap or saying 'go'.  Notice the different attention in the bodies and patterns created.  Once this is clear have them return to normal walking for a bit.  Then instruct them to play with tempo again but paying attention to kinaesthetic response.  This means making choices about how fast or slow you are walking based on your response to the choices and movement of the other bodies in the space.  You will see many more relationships between the bodies - and a sense of unified connection between the bodies.  Again, have the group let that go by returning to the normal walking.  Then have the group continue to play with tempo and kinaesthetic response but now add duration (how long you stay with any given tempo or direction).  This one is interesting because it reminds us of our temporal habits.

There are lots of other combinations you can choose to play with in this system. A fun one to try is giving the group only two choices -extremely fast or extremely slow.  The change in how the bodies are listening is palpable. There lots to see from the outside for the participants watching, and this work creates great discussion about how the space works architecturally and making clear choices.  Not only when it is working compositionally, but when it isn't working and why.       

Design in space / Up to down shapes and design space:

[from Gus Solomons Jr.]

This is an easy way to get people up and composing in the space with simple movement.   

Have the group lying on the floor and just breathing deeply (or choose any kind of centering work to bring focus to the room).  Have them start to play with the process getting up to their feet.  In this process ask each person to choose 5 or 6 still shapes from the floor to standing in sequence.  They should memorize these shapes and be able to go from 1-6 and 6-1.  These don't have to be complex shapes- and them enough time to really own their choices so they feel confident.   

Next ask three or four people to be in the space and the rest sit and observe.  Have the participants stand anywhere in the space and go from 1-6 and 6-1 on your count slowly for the group.  This gives the group watching to get a sense of the material.  Ask the group to notice relationships between the bodies- different levels, directions and dynamics.  Then ask one person watching to place the bodies in the space in a more interesting way. Then repeat the shapes in sequence with the new spacing.  The group can discuss what they notices about the new configuration and even make a new choice- or change the front.  This work makes it clear that our choices on where something happens in space has a huge effect on what we want to say or where we want focus placed.         

Geometry of space:

[from 'Intimate Act of Choreography' and Laban principals]

“One can divide it into point, line, direction, dimension, plane, and volume.  Of these, direction implies the greatest degree of mobility.”

Laban- Door // Table // and Wheel planes

-       Vertical       height and width                  Door   

-       Horizontal     width and depth                   Table  

-       Sagittal       depth and height                  Wheel  

Shapes in real time:

[from Viewpoints, by Bogart & Landau]

This work helps get a sense of how to make choices when placing or moving bodies in space in relation to each other and the room.  Choose a boundary where participants can stand outside the playing space and examine the room.  Take some time outside the playing space to look at the floor space, ceiling, patterns on the walls, speakers or any other objects.  Each participant thinks about what the space needs and makes a choice to enter and integrate their body in the space in a still shape.  Anyone can go at any time and make choices based on the room and the bodies placed in the space.  Once you feel you have established your position long enough, exit the space, examine the new configuration and make a new choice.  

The still shapes can eventually lead to movement and or text depending on what you are working on.  It's also great to add sound, which really influences the choices and creates a distinct world. 

In discussion, it's good to have the participants talk about moments that were engaging - certain compositional relationships that connected the whole picture.  This work gives us a window into how spatial relationship and architectural choices can be used in powerful ways.   

Topography Maps:

[from Rob Kitsos]

Creating these maps are a great parameter to give participants when they are working with moving in space.  They might have a small movement motif or gesture base that they can work with on a specific trajectory through the space.  We often see great ideas in the space with no real specific direction or relation in the room.  These maps make this clear.  We have played with everyone creating a map of their own, putting it in the middle of the room and then choosing a random map in the pile to work with.  It's also great to have 3 or 4 work together on executing their trajectories simultaneously.  This can create great intersections and interactions along the way.  It's a good idea to mark the map with a center spot and quarter marks so there can be easy landmarks.         

topography map.jpg

Visual Score:

[from Rob Kitsos]                                    


Create abstract visual scores with large paper and a variety of markers, paints, etc.  These can be abstract drawings and symbols that the group designs together. Build the works with a sense of time from one side of the score to the end.  Put them all in the center of the room- have the groups choose one that they didn’t make and create a composition. (dance, film, music, installation, etc.)


You can also give the same visual score to a composer and a choreographer and have them work independently- then come together to perform their work (in the spirit of Cunningham and Cage).  This work includes compositional principals from visual art, music and dance and could also translate into video and film.