Dancing with the space: Creating a somatic landscape (TEDx talk)

In May 2018, I was honoured to be invited to give a TEDx talk on my research regarding the common threads between dance and architecture. This post picks upon a few points of my talk, focusing on some ideas that could inspire architects to explore their body's role in the design process.

Movement & us

We move every single moment, every day. As we move, we leave behind intangible traces which create the spaces our bodies used to inhabit. This is a process which happens continuously as we navigate this world; we are walking around the city avoiding obstacles or other bodies, bypassing them, following other people’s paths. I believe we are all “architects of our movement”, creators of some sort of collective choreography, from the simplest and seemingly insignificant moment.

Today, I invite you to observe and become aware of the numerous ephemeral architectural pieces that are being created every day; the bodily landscapes which are formed by all those bodies moving around the city at the same time.

The space of the body

On one hand, space is defined by the dimensions of height, depth, and width within which all things exist and move. But that is just one interpretation of this notion. The immaterial world is "built" using bodies as "structural" material. Our bodies have geometrical substance and form; they are the place in which we dwell from the very first moment we exist in this world. Thus the body does not only exist in space; it contains it. The forms that our bodies take are temporary refuges that once housed our feelings, experiences, memories, and sensations.

The perception of the four-dimensional world begins with the experience of our body which is thus essential for understanding the notion of space. Space, looking through this lens, consists of relationships and links. These are relationships between different parts of your body, relationships between different bodies, links with the environment, and so on; a continuous nexus of information in four dimensions.

Our personal space: Laban's kinesphere

Let us now explore the definition of personal space taken from Choreology: the term "kinesphere" was devised by the great choreographer and dance theorist Rudolf Laban in 1966. "Personal space" or kinesphere is the volume occupied a body in extension, which when viewed in all directions by the central axis of the body can be perceived as a sphere of motion, as a kind of an "aura".

Laban provided us with many tools for decoding the space-body relationship through geometry. In addition to the kinesphere, he analyzed movement in terms of intensity, speed and direction, making use of the geometrical solid known as “icosahedron”, the combination of a cube and a sphere. As long as a body is concerned with the quality of their movement, they must be aware of the architectural form that emerges from their body in action. Laban, through his work, defined movement as "pulsating architecture."

A unique movement journey

Anything we discover in relation to ourselves and life, we do so through movement. We move consciously or unconsciously. Through the movement of our body, we constantly re-define our relationship with others, our body's condition and our place in the world. Movement is an ongoing change and space is the place where these changes occur. As time goes by linearly, no movement we have made can be repeated and that is why it is important, in its uniqueness.

So, when you have finished reading this post, I encourage you to notice the traces that your movements leave in space, creating immaterial spaces that sheltered your body for a moment, until you "build" new ones. Your movement is an invitation for action and interaction; dancing with the body, dancing with the space.

Here is the link to my TEDx talk - Dancing with Space: Creating a somatic landscape

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