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  • Translator: Joseph Geni Reviewer: Morton Bast

  • As you might imagine, I'm absolutely passionate

  • about dance. I'm passionate about making it,

  • about watching it, about encouraging others

  • to participate in it,

  • and I'm also really passionate about creativity.

  • Creativity for me is something that's absolutely critical,

  • and I think it's something that you can teach.

  • I think the technicities of creativity can be taught

  • and shared, and I think you can find out things

  • about your own personal physical signature,

  • your own cognitive habits, and use that as

  • a point of departure to misbehave beautifully.

  • I was born in the 1970s, and John Travolta was big

  • in those days: "Grease," "Saturday Night Fever,"

  • and he provided a fantastic kind of male role model for me

  • to start dancing. My parents were very up for me going.

  • They absolutely encouraged me to take risks, to go,

  • to try, to try. I had an opportunity, an access

  • to a local dance studio, and I had an enlightened teacher

  • who allowed me to make up my own and invent

  • my own dances, so what she did was let me make up

  • my own ballroom and Latin American dances to teach

  • to my peers.

  • And that was the very first time that I found an opportunity

  • to feel that I was able to express my own voice,

  • and that's what's fueled me, then, to become a choreographer.

  • I feel like I've got something to say and something to share.

  • And I guess what's interesting is, is that I am now obsessed

  • with the technology of the body.

  • I think it's the most technologically literate thing that we have,

  • and I'm absolutely obsessed with finding a way

  • of communicating ideas through the body to audiences

  • that might move them, touch them,

  • help them think differently about things.

  • So for me, choreography is very much a process

  • of physical thinking. It's very much in mind,

  • as well as in body, and it's a collaborative process.

  • It's something that I have to do with other people.

  • You know, it's a distributed cognitive process in a way.

  • I work often with designers and visual artists,

  • obviously dancers and other choreographers,

  • but also, more and more, with economists,

  • anthropologists, neuroscientists, cognitive scientists,

  • people really who come from very different domains of

  • expertise, where they bring their intelligence to bear

  • on a different kind of creative process.

  • What I thought we would do today a little bit is

  • explore this idea of physical thinking,

  • and we're all experts in physical thinking.

  • Yeah, you all have a body, right?

  • And we all know what that body is like in the real world,

  • so one of the aspects of physical thinking

  • that we think about a lot is this notion of proprioception,

  • the sense of my own body in the space in the real world.

  • So, we all understand what it feels like to know

  • where the ends of your fingers are

  • when you hold out your arms, yeah?

  • You absolutely know that when you're going to grab a cup,

  • or that cup moves and you have to renavigate it.

  • So we're experts in physical thinking already.

  • We just don't think about our bodies very much.

  • We only think about them when they go wrong, so, when

  • there's a broken arm, or when you have a heart attack,

  • then you become really very aware of your bodies.

  • But how is it that we can start to think about using

  • choreographic thinking, kinesthetic intelligence, to arm

  • the ways in which we think about things more generally?

  • What I thought I'd do is, I'd make a TED premiere.

  • I'm not sure if this is going to be good or not.

  • I'll just be doing it.

  • I thought what I'd do is, I'd use three versions

  • of physical thinking to make something.

  • I want to introduce you. This is Paolo. This is Catarina.

  • (Applause)

  • They have no idea what we're going to do.

  • So this is not the type of choreography where

  • I already have in mind what I'm going to make,

  • where I've fixed the routine in my head

  • and I'm just going to teach it to them,

  • and these so-called empty vessels are just going to learn it.

  • That's not the methodology at all that we work with.

  • But what's important about it is how it is that they're

  • grasping information, how they're taking information,

  • how they're using it, and how they're thinking with it.

  • I'm going to start really, really simply.

  • Usually, dance has a stimulus or stimuli, and I thought

  • I'd take something simple, TED logo, we can all see it,

  • it's quite easy to work with, and I'm going to do something

  • very simply, where you take one idea from a body,

  • and it happens to be my body, and translate that

  • into somebody else's body,

  • so it's a direct transfer, transformation of energy.

  • And I'm going to imagine this, you can do this too if you like,

  • that I'm going to just take the letter "T" and I'm going

  • to imagine it in mind, and I'm going to place that outside in

  • the real world. So I absolutely see a letter "T" in front of me.

  • Yeah? It's absolutely there.

  • I can absolutely walk around it when I see it, yeah?

  • It has a kind of a grammar. I know what I'm going to do

  • with it, and I can start to describe it, so I can describe it

  • very simply. I can describe it in my arms, right?

  • So all I did was take my hand and then I move my hand.

  • I can describe it, whoa, in my head, you know? Whoa.

  • Okay. I can do also my shoulder. Yeah?

  • It gives me something to do, something to work towards.

  • If I were to take that letter "T" and flatten it down

  • on the floor, here, maybe just off the floor,

  • all of a sudden I could do maybe something with my knee,

  • yeah? Whoa. So If I put the knee and the arms together,

  • I've got something physical, yeah? And I can start to build something.

  • So what I'm going to do just for one and a half minutes or so

  • is I'm going to take that concept, I'm going to make something,

  • and the dancers behind me are going to interpret it,

  • they're going to snapshot it, they're going to take

  • aspects of it, and it's almost like I'm offloading memory

  • and they're holding onto memory? Yeah?

  • And we'll see what we come up with.

  • So just have a little watch about how they're, how they're

  • accessing this and what they're doing,

  • and I'm just going to take this letter "T," the letter "E,"

  • and the letter "D," to make something. Okay. Here goes.

  • So I have to get myself in the zone. Right.

  • It's a bit of a cross of my arm.

  • So all I'm doing is exploring this space of "T"

  • and flashing through it with some action.

  • I'm not remembering what I'm doing.

  • I'm just working on my task. My task is this "T."

  • Going to watch it from the side, whoa.

  • Strike moment.

  • That's it.

  • So we're starting to build a phrase.

  • So what they're doing, let's see, something like that,

  • so what they're doing is grasping aspects of that movement

  • and they're generating it into a phrase.

  • You can see the speed is extremely quick, yeah?

  • I'm not asking them to copy exactly.

  • They're using the information that they receive

  • to generate the beginnings of a phrase.

  • I can watch that and that can tell me something

  • about how it is that they're moving.

  • Yeah, they're super quick, right?

  • So I've taken this aspect of TED and translated it

  • into something that's physical.

  • Some dancers, when they're watching action,

  • take the overall shape, the arc of the movement,

  • the kinetic sense of the movement,

  • and use that for memory.

  • Some work very much in specific detail.

  • They start with small little units and build it up.

  • Okay, you've got something? One more thing.

  • So they're solving this problem for me,

  • having a little --

  • They're constructing that phrase.

  • They have something and they're going to hold on to it,

  • yeah? One way of making.

  • That's going to be my beginning in this world premiere.

  • Okay. From there I'm going to do a very different thing.

  • So basically I'm going to make a duet.

  • I want you to think about them as architectural objects,

  • so what they are, are just pure lines.

  • They're no longer people, just pure lines, and I'm going

  • to work with them almost as objects to think with, yeah?

  • So what I'm thinking about is taking

  • a few physical extensions from the body as I move, and

  • I move them, and I do that by suggesting things to them:

  • If, then; if, then. Okay, so here we go.

  • Just grab this arm.

  • Can you place that down into the floor?

  • Yeah, down to the floor. Can you go underneath?

  • Yeah. Cat, can you put leg over that side? Yeah.

  • Can you rotate?

  • Whoom, just go back to the beginning.