Dancers in the Atomos rehearsal studio, filmed by David Bickerstaff.
Dancers in the studio working on the creation of Atomos. Photo: David Bickerstaff. The dancers are working with Becoming as a source for movement ideas.

How can one capture the ‘intelligences underpinning dance making’ (Wayne McGregor) in order to communicate them to a wide public? To answer this question, many of the world’s leading choreographers are turning to the possibilities of computer generated imagery and interactive digital technologies. The result is a new genre of digital adjuncts to dance making called ‘Choreographic Objects’ made to both enhance, and to illustrate, their creative process. Choreographic Objects are providing insights into the valuable knowledge that choreographers and dancers create when they investigate form and structure through movement in the context of making dances. The result is the potential that ‘choreographic thinking’ becomes available not only for the purpose of educating audiences, but also in ways that scientists and philosophers can study, architects and designers can utilize, and other artists can draw upon.

Atomos Performance Image. Dancers? Photo: Ravi Deepres
A photograph from a performance of Atomos of the dancers Catarina Carvalho & Michael-John Harper Photo: Ravi Deepres.

‘Enhancing Choreographic Objects’ (EChO) was an innovative project that used the results of previous AHRC funded research in a practical manner. In the previous research, social scientists were able to show how the social relations involved in the production of specific Choreographic Objects were important in shaping them, highlighting both positive and negative potentials generated by the context and process of their construction. We were able to draw on theories of embodied, skilled and practiced-based knowing, and of its translation into representational media, to illuminating effect. This (previous) project demonstrated that social anthropology has a key role in enhancing the awareness of the makers of Choreographic Objects and thereby ensuring more effective outcomes from their endeavours.

Making dances film by David Bickerstaff.
At the end of the Wellcome Exhibition, an edited film by David Bickerstaff of extracts of the process of creating Atomos in the rehearsal studio process was installed.

The main aim of EChO was to apply a framework developed in previous research, and new anthropological engagement with the dance company Wayne McGregor | Random Dance to evaluate the potential for a digital object to illustrate the creative process. The findings of this research were collaboratively fed back to a design team building an outcome intended for public viewing. During the process of distilling principles that emerged from the research, the possibility of offering McGregor a creative tool for use in the studio emerged. This outcome took the form of an installation called Becoming, which was part of the Thinking with the Body exhibition at the Wellcome Collection in London, and figured in the making of the Wayne McGregor | Random Dance piece Atomos.