The Recall Form
Image by Adityajit Singh Kang
Social psychology studies have demonstrated that imitation and mimicry are pervasive, automatic, and facilitate empathy.
The Recall Form is a duet improvisation practice developed by Marie Lynn Haas and Emily Climer. The form is influenced by scientific theories related to mirror neurons in the brain. These neurons, which activate both when we observe the actions of others and perform or do those actions ourselves, are believed to provide the capacity to empathize and understand the intentions of others. The capacities for empathy and non-verbal communication are central to building an improvisation ensemble’s ability for self-organization and collective choice-making.
The Recall Form unfolds in four stages:
The Duet Exchange
One dancer begins by performing a series of three or four movements she has created while the other observes. The other then instantly recalls what she has seen and adds a few new movements while the first observes. They continue to take turns adding new movements, observing one another, and recalling the accumulated material until they’ve established a phrase that encompasses elements of each individual’s offering, but is new to both.
The two dancers execute their new phrase at the same time. Unison in this case does not require the dancers to achieve the same timing, quality, shape, but allows them to acknowledge and experience the new material by performing it together. This prepares them to transition into the next phase.
The dancers simultaneously begin to develop the newly created vocabulary for themselves, co-existing in the space as they expand and hone the core of their material. Each investigates the qualities, rhythms, emotions, and subtexts of the movement. During this phase, they can intermittently come to stillness and observe their partner. As new movements and patterns begin to emerge in their awareness, the dancers shift to explore compositional and relational possibilities of the material to the space and each other. When they feel they’ve accumulated enough shared experience, they arrive at stillness and exit the space.
Using their shared vocabulary, the two reenter to construct an improvised composition that reflects and responds to the experience they’ve accumulated. Their memories shape how the composition will unfold. Their responses can involve spontaneous reactions or follow an unfolding opinion, image, or new idea. The dancers maintain a willingness to engage with, repeat, support, and explore their partner’s movement choices and ideas. This encourages a deep sense of listening and a shared sense of responsibility for what emerges.