Dance, dance… otherwise we are lost – Pina Bausch

I’ve been sitting in this meeting for a long time now. Our client has just finished describing a complex problem and is looking toward me with great anticipation. Clearly she is waiting for a pearl to appear in all its completed perfection. If only I could deliver, instead I have a long list of questions whose answers generally lead to another long list of questions, each answer revealing another level of potential complexity to be considered, and my head begins to spin. Great, thanks I say, this has been very helpful and I’d like to go away now and think about all this for a bit.

If it’s a long enough meeting at some point I’ll walk down the hall and find a restroom. This may seem trivial but it’s actually the key.

I need to move to think.

It’s often during that brief stroll that a solution begins to take shape. I can walk back into the meeting and at a minimum return with a starting point.

I’m a kinesthic learner, I assimilate and synthesize in motion. It’s big muscle movements but it’s also drawing, and pushing pixels. I feel things out as they begin to take shape and organize. I travel around a problem space, explore, stumble down blind alleys and then backtrack on a path toward solutions.

I’ve had diverse types of movement training in my life and it’s allowed me to develop physical discipline along with a trusted non-verbal knowledge. It’s also left me curious as to how dance and choreography might support experience design. Observing the current landscape accelerate toward more embodied technologies I recognize we need a process to map complex trajectories into a combined physical/emotional/digital space.

In the UX community we rely on wireframes but I wonder if it’s enough. Dance practice uses a form documentation, Labanotation, which outlines the part of the body, its direction, and the intensity and duration of a movement to document choreography. I can see UX practitioners needing a language similar to this that overlays wireframes to describe a richer set of human/computer interactions.

Dance also has the profound power to invoke empathy in the audience. We feel intensely the momentum, arc and flight of the performer mirrored in our own bodies as we observe.  We know their emotional experience through this relationship.  It seems like the perfect moment to integrate this form of physical communication into our practices toward the end of more embodied and expressive experiences.

Ok, time to move.

LabWriter Software

Pina – the film