Emergent Improvisation is a unique process for understanding structures in all principles of organization applied across disciplines.

Emergent Improvisation relates the act of structuring to natural, complex systems and time-based artistic practice.

Emergent Improvisation uses research, education, and performance to understand the act of structuring in nature and art.

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Emergent Improvisation
c/o Susan Sgorbati
Bennington College

One College Drive
Bennington, VT 05201


Artists' Information

Susan Sgorbatiimage

Susan Sgorbati has been involved in the field of dance for over thirty years as a chore- ographer, 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 coa- lesced into an on-going research into the relationship between dance and music improvisation and the science of complex sys- tems, which she named Emergent Improvisation (EI). Her initial meetings, a decade Susan Sgorbatiago, with eminent scientists in the field of complexity, Dr. Bruce Weber, Dr. Gerald Edelman, and Dr. Stuart Kauffman, inspired the direc- tion and naming of her work and she sustains dynamic on-going dialogues with each of them and others.

These interactions have taken many forms: co-teaching and co-authoring a paper with Dr. Weber; winter residencies (2004 to 2006) at The Neurosciences Institute in La Jolla, California under the tutelage of Dr. Edelman, where her Emergent Improvisation Project (EIP) performance was heralded by The San Diego Union- Tribune as one of the “Top 10 Performances of 2006;” presentation of collaborative research with Dr. Kauffman at a symposium spon- sored by The National Endowment for the Arts and The National Science Foundation in Washington, D.C., 2010, and participation in Dr. Kauffman’s complexity-focused interdisciplinary Crazy Salon at the University of Vermont.

Sgorbati has presented her EI research at the 6th International Conference on Complex Systems [hosted by the New England Complex Systems Institute] and the Conference on Emergence hosted by the Star Island Institute for Science in the Age of Religion.

Her writing has been published in Contact Quarterly dance journal, Nouvelles de Danse (Belgium), and the anthology Idea in Action (Berlin: Spector Books, 2012).

Her dance work has been presented at many venues and festivals in New York City and New England. In 2006, Sgorbati received a National Performance Network Creation Fund Grant to develop and tour original performance work (Emergent Improvisation Project). In 2011, she was granted a Creative Research Residency at the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to explore
her new research on “emergent structuring.” She is currently col- laborating with filmmaker Elliot Caplan on Convergence: The Emergent Improvisation Film.

Parallel to her dance career, Sgorbati is a professional mediator with extensive training and expertise in both multi-party and environmental dispute resolution for which she has received numerous honors and awards. Since 1999 she has mediated cases for the Vermont Human Rights Commission and holds The Barbara and Lewis Jones Chair for Social Activism at Bennington College where she is currently Curriculum Coordinator for the new Center for The Advancement of Public Action. Sgorbati began imple- menting the communication structures of Emergent Improvisation in her conflict resolution practice on a recent trip to the Middle East and is in the process of writing about it.

Susan Sgorbati
Susan Sgorbati and Katie Martin [in front].
Photo by Cynthia Locklin.

EIP continues to forge new connections both nationally and internationally with organizations and institutions devoted to inter- disciplinary research, education, cultural development, and unique platforms for performance. (www.emergentimprovisation.org)

Katie Martin is a dance artist and recipient of the national Jacob K. Javits Fellowship in Dance, working within the overlapping spheres of choreography, performance, education, and movement research. She has presented and performed her choreographic work throughout New York City and nationally, including Joyce SoHo, Dance Theater Workshop (now New York Live Arts), Danspace Project at St. Mark’s Church, Symphony Space, The Neurosciences Institute, New England Complex Systems Institute, Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, and the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC), among others. Katie has also danced in the works of such artists as Mark Dendy, Ann Carlson, Keith Thompson, Dana Reitz, Susan Rethorst, Meg Wolfe, Cathy Nicoli, David Dorfman, and with Susan Sgorbati’s Emergent Improvisation Project and has collaborated and performed with such musicians as Bill Nace, Jake Meginsky, Tatsuya Nakatani, and Chris Cooper.

Originally from Hilton Head Island, South Carolina where she trained and performed for 10 years under the auspices of American Ballet Theater principal ballerina Karena Brock Carlyle, Katie went on to receive a BA with a concentration in Dance at Bennington College, followed by MFA in Dance at Smith College as both a Teaching Fellow and Gretchen Moran Fellow. She is currently based in Northampton, Massachusetts and continues to present and perform her work throughout New York City and nationally. She also teaches dance widely, working as a guest artist and dance faculty at colleges and dance institutions throughout New England and beyond.

Katie has worked with the Emergent Improvisation Project since its inception in 2004. She is honored to continue the collaboration with Susan Sgorbati, Elliot Caplan, and fellow artists and, through an experimental and expansive lens, engage with multiple structuring systems for making, performing, and experiencing dance. Katie got her undergraduate degree at Bennington College

Emily Climer
Emily Climer is currently pursuing an MFA in choreography at the University of Iowa. Prior to moving to Iowa City, Emily worked for two years on the literacy team of Student Achievement Partners, a nonprofit of educators and researchers who design actions to improve student achievement in the U.S. She is deeply interested in applications of the mediation, communication, and adaptive structuring processes she has learned through her dance making to work within social systems. Most recently, Emily collaborated on a publication released by Contact Editions about Emergent Improvisation, an approach to dance improvisation developed by Susan Sgorbati. The cultivation and exposure of ensemble communication processes in improvised forms—and the challenge of building those layers of meaning in set choreographic forms—is central to Emily’s work as a dancer and composer. Emily got her undergraduate degree at Bennington College.


Marie Lynn Haas

Marie Lynn (Blocker) Haas
is a founding member and director of Embrace Autism in Singapore. She is also a Son-Rise Program® volunteer in home- based programs for children with Autism. Her passion for this work emerged during the development of the Emergent Improvisation Recall Form and her subsequent correspondence with neuroscientist Marco Iacoboni (Mirroring People: The Science of Empathy and How We Connect to Others). Marie is interested in how modes of non-verbal communication can foster empathy and interaction in social contexts outside the realm of dance, particularly in therapeutic practices for children with Autism or related developmental difficulties. Her work with these children serves equally as the platform for her latest explorations in the dance studio.

Photographers: Terry Gannon, Jake Meginsky, Paul Kyle, and Cynthia Locklin.

Videographer: Colin Brant

Film and Video: Elliot Caplan

Drawings: Marie Lynn Haas and Emily Climer

Website designer: Nate Jasper

Susan would like to thank Nate Jasper for his work on the website, Colin Brant for his EI education videos, photographers Jake Meginsky, Paul Kyle, Cynthia Locklin and Terry Gannon. Susan also thanks all of the different groups of EI over the years from the first group of Jonathan Kinzel, Paul Matteson, Maureen Ellenhorn, Hope Clark and Lionel Popkin, to the second group of Keith Thompson, Lionel Popkin, Jaamil Olawale Kosoko, Carson Efird, Katie Martin, Cori Olinghouse, Zornitsa Stoyonova and Nicole Daunic, to the third group of Cori Olinghouse, Joe Poulson, Zornitsa Stoyonova, Lydia Chrisman, Nicole Daunic, Emily Climer, Marie Lynn Haas, Nikolaus Tsocanos and Katie Martin to the last several groups: Marie Lynn Haas, Emily Climer, Finn Murphy, Nikolaus Tsocanos, Joe Poulson, Theo Koppel, Lydia Chrisman, Katie Martin, Leah Morrison, Tony Orrico, Eva Schmidt, Emma Villavechhia, Kaya Lovestrand and Kenny Olguin, several of whom were my students at Bennington College.

Special thanks to Katie Martin and Jake Meginsky who were instrumental in developing the concept of EI and to Emily Climer and Marie Lynn Haas who are my partners in crime, who assisted in the research and writing of our EI chapbook, and who are committed to this work, and to Elliot Caplan, film maker and collaborator, who has worked on this concept with Susan for the past seven years and will continue to produce work for many more years to come.

Dancers who appear in Photos on this website: Emily Climer, Katie Martin, Jaamil Olawale Kosoko, Zornitsa Stoyonova, Carson Efird, Keith Thompson, Nicole Daunic, Marie Lynn Haas, Lydia Chrisman, Lydia Chrisman, Corina Dalzell and Susan Sgorbati.


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