Unfolding an algorithmic formula

Meeting Place is a duet which plays with visually unfolding an algorithmic formula.

An algorithm is a step-by-step list of instructions that need to be followed to solve a problem. Algorithms are heard about in the context of computers, for example Google uses an algorithm to turn our search terms into a list of relevant links, and there was a lot of attention in 2011 on how algorithms are infiltrating more of our lives for example in the stock market. But there are much simpler algorithms that we use regularly, such as recipes which tell what ingredients are needed to make a dish and what steps to follow.

Systems music and algorithmic composition use such sets of instructions to make music with minimal human intervention and Meeting Place began by applying this approach to movement; with a simple algorithm that builds up a number of simple steps.

The algorithm was developed as a way of combining two separate sequences of movement performed by two people (Martine and Hamish). The sequences could have been of any length but we worked with ones of four movements.

The algorithm has four phases. In phase one, each person has their own sequence which is built up one move at a time. The two people perform their moves alternately, and repeat their sequences – which grow by one move with each repetition – until they are complete (see video below). An early, shorter version of Meeting Place was called 1212341234577 in reference to this escalation.

In phase two, each person begins to insert the other’s sequence into their own, adding one movement at a time between theirs until eventually they are both performing all the movements in unison (see video below).

In phase three, each person’s original sequence is taken away, one movement at a time, until eventually they are left performing their opposite number’s sequence.

Finally in phase four, the remaining movements are subtracted from the sequence, one at a time, until the sequences end.

We then went on to use different choreographic approaches in response to what we had created. For example we might ignore the structure and focus on the characteristics of particular movements and add material in response to that.  These interventions in turn created a sense of the algorithm unravelling (and then returning) adding another layer of meaning to the work.

Hamish and Martine will be premiering ‘Meeting Place’ on 10 January 2012 at The Place, London as part of Resolution!, a season of dance works by emerging choreographers. You can buy tickets online, Over the phone (020 7121 1100) or in person at The Place: Robin Howard Theatre box office, 17 Duke’s Road, London.