Contact Quarterly 2013English
Contact Quarterly Vol. 38 No. 2 (Summer/Fall, 2013): 3.

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This little book invites us to be a fly on the wall of an improvisational dancer's, by nature, self-invented research. We enter the dance studio during Susan Sgorbati's process of merging with a science called Emergence, which in itself, and perhaps by its own nature, is still emerging. Both of these fields have been incidentally emerging for a scant forty years.

Susan, I asked, when reading the manuscript, Can you explain this Emergence to me in your own words? Without repeating the syntax of the scientists who've offered you this template? Oh yes, she said. And began again, using the same words. Patterns, self-organization, open-ended environment, chaos, order, complexity, constraints, form, structure, selection, adaptation, endless possibilities. Part of any self-respecting improviser's core vocabulary, surely.

Ten years earlier, I'd had a conversation with Susan about the moment. She was speaking of her deepening curiosity about what she was observing in the dance studio with her improvising students. She wondered, What is the force driving the recurrence of seemingly spontaneously arising forms of action and relationships in one group of dancers after another? And then, What is the state of attention necessary to pick up on unspoken instructions that make a group action out of a bunch of individuals moving about "freely" in a space? For those of us whose bodies are our medium, where the inside form and the outside form keep a constant patter, these are themselves recurring questions. I nodded.

As you will discover in these pages, Susan went on to embody a science that mirrored her dance's desire. And so far has made it concrete, so one could interrogate the science through the improvisational dancing and experience the dancing through the science. And vice versa.

What balances the limitations of a dance pedagogy on paper with the valuable ambiguity of human artistic process are the astonishingly frank exchanges between Susan and the eminent scientists who've engaged with her and her students in the dance studio and elsewhere. As in the rest of the book, form and content speak to one another.