Marcmomus

Non-human Choreography

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A recent article in Time about the premier Russian weapons Expo in Moscow mentioned a "noteworthy attraction: a ballet of twirling smoke-belching tanks staged by a choreographer from the Bolshoi". The incongruity caught my eye, as it was meant to. Apparently it is a regular feature of this inhuman arms bazaar. A number of clips are on YouTube.

I am aware of Stravinsky's Circus Polka: For a Young Elephant, which Balachine choreographed for 50 elephants in pink tutus, and 50 ballerinas including his wife Vera Zorina. What other non-human choreographic works have been produced? I am not interested in solo variations (pet dogs on their hindlegs) and require at least a coordinated pas de deux, and preferably a work involving a full corps.

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Good question, Marcmomus. In a ballet context, offhand I think only of Ashton's dancing chickens, and they weren't actual chickens.

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Perhaps Kschesinskaya's goat was trained to do something onstage in Esmeralda...? I recall reading in "Imperial Dancer" that it was a very well behaved, trainable animal.

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Fantastic video, Lynette. I love his serenity.

Your pick is much better than my own search through videos of (ho hum) dressage. Though I did find this old clip. I suppose the partner is not, technically, a non-human. Nevertheless it's worth it to see Nureyev's agitation in dealing with his partner -- quite different from the way the Philippe Priasso dances so harmoniously with his lovely and apparently much-adored back hoe.

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It's possible to interpret your question in a couple of different ways -- we can look at choreography made by humans for non-human performers controlled by humans, or choreography made by humans for non-human performers working independently. Your example of the tanks would be one of the first type, I think.

Your source is correct, the munitions industry frequently arranges demonstrations of their products that include a kind of 'synchronized swimming' where they tout the maneuverability of their vehicles with fairly complex (and often dangerous) choreography. The Blue Angels, a precision flying team, tours the country on behalf of their sponsors, the U.S. Navy, performing in all kinds of public events. They appear every summer in Seattle and I've seen their program develop over the years -- it is quite elaborate and, in its own way, very beautiful. But probably the most interesting example of this kind of human-controlled dance that I've seen was in a school bus drivers rodeo several years ago -- a huge parking lot full of yellow buses crossing and circling in a 20th version of a court ballet.

You can look to the circus for examples of animals performing independently, or to working animals.

of sheepherding made the rounds of the net a couple years ago, but it seems to fit in this category. I think you might find even more interesting material in the world of robotics. I'll try to find a couple of film clips, but the automated assembly lines in Detroit, that have extracted specific movement from human functions and combined them based on mechanical ergonomics, make great theater.

But we can also find examples of actual non-human choreography, that is, movement that was 'created' or 'assembled' by animals. The standard example is the dance bees do to tell their hive-mates where to find nectar, but there are many other situations where animals use movement -- in work, in play, in training their young -- that can be seen as intentional choreography.

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