Case study: Sylvia Rijmer

Sylvia Rijmer is our third invited choreographer. The encounter with Sylvia and the BlackBox team was immediate and extremely spontaneous: the impulse coming from both sides, as if by serendipity, and with the same intensity. A strong will to collaborate was the trigger for this particularly experimental study, both artistic and laboratorial. Important to this particular project has been the curiosity to reveal Sylvia Rijmer’s analytical choreographic process and the recognition of the value of sharing, which has multiplied the positive effects of a truly interdisciplinary and transmodal research within a collaborative study where brain, body and movement were the focus.

This case study has resulted from the convergence between Sylvia’s drive to formalise her compositional and choreographic methodologies and our scientific drive to frame, analyse and make tangible an artistic process where we aim at revealing the patterns which influence the decision-making processes underlying the creation of a dance piece.

In a first phase its main aim was to design a behavioural task to analyse the factors and patterns which influence the decision-making process of a contemporary choreographer during the creation of a short performative piece with 4 dancers (April-May 2018). In a second phase (September-October 2018) we have invited Sylvia to ask and prompt the dancers to “illustrate” some of her main pre-choreographic concepts, namely Dodging and Scanning and their sub-categories as defined by her.

Sylvia has then, in her own words, “set up an analytical investigation to structure her empirical knowledge framed around cognitive attention and movement habitual patterns within an artistic dance practice poised to question and challenge the negotiation of “choice” in dance. Specifically, she has generated tools for compositional (Dodging) and typological (Scanning) movement possibilities, and (partly) superimposed them on a re-enacted map of Cornelius Cardew’s Treatise Score”, which the dancers were invited to interpret.

For our last experiment, we have asked Sylvia to choose two different choreographic concepts (score X and scrore Y) to be used in her compositional process: one which would be very familiar to her from previous works and another which should be totally new to her and the dancers. At the end of the process, all the dancers would have worked with both scores. Other constraints were also suggested and enthusiastically accepted by the choreographer, such as the use of bio-medical sensors on her body and the limitation of the studio space in order to allow the video capture for motion tracking in 3D.

We have developed and provided alternative ways of seeing Sylvia’s choreographic process, both in the making of and in the form of a choreographic excerpt. We have done so by using methodologies from discourse analysis and gesture studies at first, in order to subsequently offer alternative perspectives on a dance creation process using new media: 3D point clouds, virtual reality, stereoscopic and high-speed photography, and animated infographics.


Project Outline

The Four Phases of the Case Study with Sylvia Rijmer

Click on the image to access the 4 different phases of this project. Once there, click on each Phase to access their respective contents.


Performance Studies & Information Visualisation

A VR Dance Study with Sylvia Rijmer – Body Logic in Virtual Reality

A VR Dance Study with Sylvia Rijmer – Body Logic in Virtual Reality

From September to October 2018, the BlackBox team invited choreographer Sylvia Rijmer and three professional dancers to work together in order to "illustrate" concepts and elements of her Body Logic Method, creating a Virtual Reality visualisation of Cornelius Cardew's score "Treatise" (1967) in Unity 3D. More

Multimodal Communication & Cognition

“I see something and I like it”: the choreographer’s decision

“I see something and I like it”: the choreographer’s decision

Dance-making is a multi-layered phenomenon that involves the interaction between cultural, social, technological and biological forces. From the perspective of the brain, creating a dance piece is a complex cognitive task: generating new movement units, remembering sequences of movement phrases, or choosing between movement phrases that are to be improved or not. More

Computer Vision & Motion Tracking

Dance in Virtual Reality

Dance in Virtual Reality

“Dance in Virtual reality – deconstructing choreographic objects through expanded media". This video screening simulates the individual experience of navigating through the different levels of our VR installation with the VIVE headset on. It has been captured to allow viewers to enjoy a similar experience to the one they would have live if wearing the head-mounted device. More


Sylvia is an independent artist, dance maker, researcher and teacher, based in Lisbon, Portugal. Deeply interested in the capacity of human cognition to translate movement into more creative and efficient currents of organisational flow and sequential connectivity, she encourages collaborative, interdisciplinary and multimodal processes, to build a dynamic and interactive mode of learning, understanding and application within dance making. Using invented and re- processed improvisational tools, her ongoing research is to find a body logic within a performative platform which makes sense to both dancer and spectator, introducing the negotiation of choice as an active and practical tool within dance making, teaching and thinking. More

Sylvia Rijmer

She studied at the The Juilliard School (USA), Elmhurst Ballet School (U.K), Het Nationale Ballet Academie Theaterschool (NL), , and Ballet Sumber Cipta (ID), and holds degrees and certificates from the Royal Academy of Dancing (U.K), and the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing (U.K).

She danced professionally at Ballet Gulbenkian (PT), Tokárt (PT), Stageworks Rui Horta (PT), Ana Roethlisberger Co. (CH), Marcel Leemann Physical Dance Theatre (CH), Bern Ballet (CH), Cie. DRIFT (CH) and Stadttheater Giessen (DE), amongst others. She danced in original creations by Örjan Andersson, Stijn Célis, Foofwa D’Immobilité, Jacopo Godani, Rui Lopes Graça, Rui Horta, Gilles Jobin, André Mesquita, Hervé Robbe, Phillipe Saire, Didy Veldman, and Lila York, to name a few. She also danced works by Mauro Bigonzetti, Marie Chouinard, Nils Christe, Jiří Kylián, José Limón, Ohad Naharin, David Parsons, Paul Taylor, Pierre Wyss and Lila York, and worked on a solo creation under the guidance of Ivo Dimchev. She has created group and solo works in Switzerland, Portugal, and Spain, within collaborative processes between dancers, visual artists, computer scientists, musical composers, neuro-scientists and neuro-linguists.

As a rehearsal assistant she has worked closely with Portuguese choreographer, Olga Roriz on three original creations; Sagração da Primavera, Terra and Orfeu e Euridíce, for Companhia Olga Roriz (PT), and The National Ballet Company (PT), and Balé Teatro Guaíra (BZ).

As a researcher, she is currently collaborating as a guest choreographer with the scientific BlackBox team at FSCH-UNL in Lisbon. Her work is framed around cognitive attention and habitual movement patterns in dance. Using collaborative, trans-disciplinary and multimodal dialogue, she questions cognitive deliberation within her choreographic process.

Sylvia was awareded the Phillip Morriz Prize at the 1994 International Theatreschool Festival (NL), and was nominated Outstanding Young Dance Nominee by Swiss dance critic Lilo Weber in 2001. She is the recipient of a BFA in dance, (The Juilliard School, USA), a M.A in Dance Teaching (Superior Dance School/IPL, PT), and is due to defend her Specialist Title in Dance in 2019 (IPL, PT).