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Emergent Forms Film 2.jpg
Emergent Forms Film 1.jpg



Emergent Forms is a collaboration between filmmaker Elliot Caplan and choreographer Susan Sgorbati. The film offers a glimpse into the practice and performance of Emergent Improvisation, a dance practice that draws its structuring principles from patterns in the natural world. In linking the creative work of art-making (movement, sound, film) to the emergent processes evident in nature, there is basis for a rich and textured inquiry into how systems come together, transform and reassemble to create powerful instruments of communication, meaning and exchange. As a film, Emergent Forms weaves together studio footage and interviews with Gerald Edelman and Stuart Kauffman—offering a reflection on the deep interconnections between art and science at the heart of the practice.


Filmmaker, producer/director Elliot Caplan served as the filmmaker-in-residence for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. His work in documentary, art filmmaking, and performance with choreographer Cunningham, composer John Cage, video artist Nam June Paik and filmmaker Bruce Baillie is internationally recognized.  Caplan’s films and videos are in museum and film collections throughout the world. Caplan received an Emmy Award for “Outstanding Cultural and Historical Programming” for his work on the PBS Network. He is the recipient of numerous grants and awards. Film and video retrospectives have been presented in Portugal, Holland, Japan and the United States. He has taught courses, lectured and been in residence at colleges and universities in the United States and abroad including co-direction with Michael Kidd and Stanley Donen of the Dance/Film/Video Workshop at the Sundance Institute. In 1996, Caplan founded Picture Start Films to facilitate his artistic work.

Susan Sgorbati has been involved in the field of dance for over thirty years as a choreographer, artistic director, dancer, and teacher. Since 1983, she has been on the Dance Faculty at Bennington College in Vermont where she has co-taught numerous interdisciplinary courses with biologists, musicians, visual artists, and anthropologists. Her focus on dance improvisation for performance coalesced into an on-going research into the relationship between dance and music improvisation and the science of complex systems, which she named Emergent Improvisation (EI). Her initial meetings, a decade ago, with eminent scientists in the field of complexity, Dr. Bruce Weber, Dr. Gerald Edelman, and Dr. Stuart Kauffman, inspired the direction and naming of her work and she sustains dynamic on-going dialogues with each of them and others. The Emergent Improvisation Project continues to forge new connections both nationally and internationally with organizations and institutions devoted to interdisciplinary research, education, cultural development, and unique platforms for performance.

photographs by Donald DuBois

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