Two of our class readings this week, Topic Modeling for Humanists: A Guided Tour by Scott Weingart and Radiant Textuality by Jerome McGann brought me back to thinking about how, and the places where, dance and the digital humanities meet. McGann, in “Rethinking Textuality” (chap. 5) provides a plethora of ideas about the attributes and behaviors of texts: they comprise signifying parts, both graphic and semantic; they are records of their own history; they are dynamic and generative; they are networks. His ideas about the attributes and behaviors of texts could be extrapolated to describe choreography: movement phrases as texts; a dance as a document.

Throughout the chapter, McGann continues his contemplation of the text: “Text generates text, it is a code of signals elaborating itself within decisive frames of reference. A text is a display and record of itself, a fulfillment of its own instructions. Every subsequent re-presentation in whatever form – editorial or interpretive – ramifies the output of the instructional inheritance. Texts are like fractal derivations.” (p. 151)

This leads me to William.

Synchronous Objects, a re-presentation of choreographer William Forsythe’s dance, One Flat Thing, reproduced, contains multiple derivations (The Objects) of the dance’s movement phrases-texts, revealing inherent instructional structures, shapes, and patterns which would not be discernible without technology. Thus, the movement phrases-texts are extended and amplified, offering new ways to experience, study, and share a dance-document. The Object, Movement Density, is a good example of this.

Regarding topic modeling, the Object, MovementMaterial Index, (see “Information Graphics 1, 2, 3, 4”) is perhaps an example or form of topic modeling in dance. Information Graphics 1 and 4 seem to most resemble topic modeling in DH as they both visualize patterns and counts of movement occurrence, repetition, and stillness. Further, the data from the Information Graphics 1, 2, 3, 4,  were analyzed, resulting in the identification of 6 movement sequences which were subsequently termed “themes” (a.k.a. “topics” in DH).

One of the Creative Directors of Synchronous Objects, Maria Palazzi, in writing about Synchronous Objects, sums up well these thoughts on textuality, dance, and technology: “We could, after all, read this dance.”